Month: April, 2013

It’s Your Fault!

By Peter Eng

 

 

 

8The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Genesis 21:8-13 (NIV)


It happened this morning during my not-so-early run.

A car made a turn and stopped across the pedestrian-crossing. To make matters worse, there was a second car behind him. The morning rush hour traffic was heavy as usual, and that second car, now stuck out where the driver would rather not be – in the yellow box junction. This left the pedestrians the unpleasant task of weaving behind the first car and in front of the second. So what was that second driver to do when there is space for him to go? He should get out of the yellow box or he would be blocking traffic, but the pedestrians now with the right-of-way would be walking in front of his car. Then, it happened.

The second car blasted long and angry honks at whoever was in front of him, for him to move. At some point, he decided that it was the fault of the car in front of him that he was stuck in the yellow box. But he would not have been in this situation had he not made the turn when he was not supposed to. But it is always the other person’s fault, isn’t it?

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Aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing

America took in the Tsarneav brothers, the Boston Marathon bombers. This generous country showered them with kindness when they left their war-ravaged Chechnya. America gave them a home, many freedoms, and placed them on welfare to assist them. At some point, they were radicalized and decided to bomb the people who showed them kindness and generosity. When the bombing took place, their father insisted they are framed by America. Never mind the reality of their follow-up shooting of an MIT Campus police officer, the additional bombs they had in their possession that they tossed at the police pursuing them, and the inevitable video recordings from cameras on the police cruisers, the shoot-out with the police, the Russian warning to America about the elder son, etc. Their father is still saying it is America’s fault. Their mother is also saying her sons are innocent. It is like they were shooting paint balls. The bombing was fake, and the death and injuries were made up. It’s America’s fault.

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Yasukuni: shrine to more than 1000 Japanese war criminals

The current Prime Minister of Japan, Abe visited the Japanese war shrine that honors the Japanese war criminals as national heroes, when he was the leader of the opposition. To this day, Japan claims that during WW2, they liberated Manchuria, China, Malaya, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, etc. To this day, they deny their blood guilt of the Nanking massacre, the massacres in Philippines, Singapore and elsewhere. Their school text books tell the lies of Japan’s glorious liberation of Asia from the western colonial powers. They were not at fault. We owe them a debt of gratitude for liberating us from the colonial powers.

It doesn’t matter whether that person is a Singaporean, a Chechnyan, or Japanese. Our tendency is to believe it is the other person’s fault, no matter how impossible that proposition really is.

It brings me to the sobering reality of repentance. Jesus said that when he leaves, he will send the Holy Spirit to be with us. “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

The natural man is not inclined to see his own sin. It takes that radical work of the Holy Spirit in our life before we can see our own sin. When we repented of our sin, even if it were just an intellectual assent without the tears of heartfelt repentance or the joy of true forgiveness, “unless the Father who sent Me draws him,” we would never have come. “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). It starts with our repentance and it ends with our resurrection. It starts with the acknowledgement of sin, and it ends with the defeat of sin – in our resurrection.

What a wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord!

Last night, while sending off an old friend at the airport, I had the privilege of conversing with a very knowledgeable church elder about Reformed Theology. And one of the points we touched on briefly was “total depravity.”It is the theology that we are totally incapable of coming to God unless the Holy Spirit of God draws us to himself. I like to believe that this truth is commonly accepted by Christians. But I am less certain about how deeply we understand our own inability to see our sins clearly and come to God in repentance. In our natural state, any issue tends to be the other person’s fault.

Let us drink deeply of God’s grace in opening our eyes to see our own fault. It is only in seeing our own fault that we can repent, and receive the greatest gift – even eternal life – our resurrection.

The prince of this world is the prince of darkness, the father of lies. He has cast his spiritual darkness over all mankind. And we see this darkness every day when we see people just incapable of seeing their own faults. Our spiritual warfare is not against the blind, but against blindness, and against the one who caused this blindness. Think of a doctor who makes it his life mission to fight blindness. He does not hate blind people. The opposite is true. He loves blind people so he fights blindness.

I know I don’t love people nearly enough. I know there is a tendency in me to be annoyed by “unreasonable” people who cannot see their own faults. Yet I know that when I do not live by the Spirit of God, I am equally unreasonable. And God, out of his great patience, did not write me off, but drew me in. I know this is one area the Lord has been speaking to me this week. I need to see my own blindness and that will help me love those who cannot yet see.

By the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see and we repent. But I know this is a continuing grace, because every so often, I am the driver of that second car, the Tsarneav parent, or the Japanese who honor mass murders. The Christian is given the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit who teaches us from day to day where our fault lies. Not as a guilt trip that blames self for every wrong, but to see that even when I am right, I am rarely completely free of contributory factors.

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Haggai Part 1 & 2 — Francis Chan

First Things First – Haggai Part 1

Are You All In? – Haggai Part 2

XIN MSN, the LGBT Agenda, and the Pope

by Peter Eng

 

 

 

Romans 1:21-32 (NLT)

21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. …

24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.  … 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.


I depend on XIN MSN (Channel 5) for much of the international news I get because it is one of two English channels here in Singapore. What most people do not realize is that MSN (Microsoft Networks), the parent body of our local XIN MSN, is extremely left-wing. In fact, MSN is one channel I rarely watch when I am in the US because of their extreme bias. They are the advocates of all things anti-Christian, and their value system is against values that we hold dear.

A case in point is the Ellen Show, given to us five days a week on XIN MSN. The host, Ellen DeGeneres, is an openly practicing lesbian. Her public persona as a lesbian has been instrumental in changing the American conversation about homosexual marriage. When there was a small window of time that same-sex marriage was legal, Ellen DeGeneres married Portia Rossi to much media support and accolade.

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Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is instrumental in the gains of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender) advocates for homosexuality as legitimate. She was already well accepted before she openly declared herself a lesbian. She became the poster child of what it is like to be homosexual and yet normal. This is the image cultivated by MSN and XIN MSN. In comparison, we look at Dr Oz, also on XIN MSN. Dr Oz is a Muslim, but he is not an advocate of Islam. I would therefore hesitate to say that MSN is promoting a certain image of Islam (because Dr Oz did not use his position to influence people). If you were to look at the MSN programs, it becomes clear they are up to something. Singapore does not have the “Ed Show,” but it is part of the MSN programming and it illustrates an outrageous left-wing position. The aggregate of these programs on MSN point to a consistent trend: the agenda to promote the left-wing agenda.

Singapore’s gay-rights activism has a strong support in XIN MSN. The slide to depravity in public opinion about homosexuality is of concern. At the same time, homosexual bashing is the last thing we should do. While we accept that moral wrongs is a reality in life (e.g. prostitution), that reality does not change a wrong to a right, regardless of the legal status. Christians today engage in the legal fight to prevent the LGBT from becoming legally main stream. That struggle is secondary to winning the hearts and minds of the people. Allow me to use prostitution as a comparison again. Prostitution is legal in Singapore, but there is a public consensus that the legalization of prostitution does not make it morally right.

The issue we have with the LGBT agenda is their concerted effort to represent their sinful lifestyle to be a mere preference.

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Pope Francis when he was cardinal Jorge Bergolio
in an AIDS hospice (2001)

The left-wing media hated Pope Benedict XVI because he has conservative values. Regardless of what we may think of him as a person or of his theology, he deserves the right to be correctly represented. But the media said things about him that are just not true, things designed to make him look bad.

Pope Francis (Cardinal Bergoglio) is loved by the media because he has consistently led a simple life, and a proven record of identifying with the poor. He even took on the name “Francis,” after Francis of Assisi, the stoutest advocate for Christian simplicity. All these are good attributes, and we are glad for his rejection of opulence following the simplicity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One aspect of the self-deprecation of Pope Francis which media noticed is his preference to be called the “Bishop of Rome” rather than “Pope.” This is important to Christians because the claim as Pope over all Christians is never accepted by non-Catholics. Historically, there were bishops over different territories, and Rome, like other cities, had a bishop. When other cities fell to the invading Muslims who then decimated the Christian population, their status diminished. Rome was also sacked but the “barbarians” who invaded Rome converted to Christianity. The prestige of the Bishop of Rome continued to rise. When Constantinople (Istanbul today) fell to the Muslims, the Eastern Church lost prestige, and the claims coming out of Rome that the Bishop of Rome represents all Christians took on greater force.

It is quite clear that Pope Francis, even if he wants, is not able to shed the title of pope. But his preference to be considered the Bishop of Rome is a return to correctness. He does not speak for me, as a non-Catholic, and when he styles himself as the Bishop of Rome, it is a recognition of his true historical position. It is one that diminishes the papacy, but a correct one.

The media love-fest with Pope Francis will last as long he does not infringe on values that liberals hold dear. My guess is that he will offend them eventually because he opposes the values of LGBT, and they will begin to undermine him. As long as the attacks are based on reality rather than lies, they are fair. And I see the stirrings of underhanded attacks.

The reporting of Reuters (27 March, 2013), is reproduced by MSN. The first story is about Jorge Bergoglio as a 19 year old. They recount his sister’s story that when he was 19, he had said he wanted to study medicine and the family made room for him to do so. But they found religious rather than medicine related books, and it is claimed that he replied, “It’s medicine for the soul.” The point of the article is that Pope Francis is a political pope. It is suggesting that we have an unscrupulous pope who will say things that sound good to the hearers when he has something else in mind.

Perhaps that is what he is. But the evidence to support such a charge is extrapolated from an event when he was a teenager and that from a third party. This is unworthy, agenda-filled reporting.

Next the article attacked him because he called homosexual marriage “the work of the devil.” MSN is quick to come to the defense of the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and depict this view as though it were strange. I affirm the evil of homosexual marriage as do the majority of people in the world. The liberals are the minority who control the media and talk as though they represent the consensus.

Singapore is infected by XIN MSN with the wrong type of inclusivism. Jesus is the most inclusive person in history and teaches inclusivism unmatched by any. He says to “love your enemy.” That is true inclusivism. Jesus’ teaching is blind to ethnicity, to wealth, to social class, to ability, to disabilities, etc. And just in case Christians misunderstand what Jesus is saying, let us now affirm that he does not call us to hate the LGBT, but to love them and offer them forgiveness of sin. All who respond to the offer of forgiveness of sin receive it – including the LGBT. We oppose the LGBT agenda to turn wrong into right, but our goal is not to destroy the people. Instead, we proclaim the good news of how God can change their lives. We must hold out a message of love and hope in Christ, but we also affirm that there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is destruction – such as the way of LGBT.

What is the point of this article? It is a warning. I wish to warn Christians in Singapore about how the extreme left-wing media (MSN and its affiliates), try to poison our minds with unjust reporting. 

We all have positions. For me as an evangelical Christian, I like Pope Francis to the extent he rolls back false teachings within Catholicism and returns to truth found in the Bible. The liberal media has the right to approve or disapprove Pope Francis (or anyone) on the basis of whether that person fits their liberal values. What I object to is the false reporting such as by Reuters, and carried by MSN. Of course, I also reject the agenda of MSN and wish to warn my Christian friends about the left-wing media.

When people rely on falsehood or speculation to convince you, you should be immediately alerted to these people as dishonest, and should take a very cautious position when listening to them.

Are there conservative Christians guilty of such bias or falsehood? Of course! When conservative Christians do not speak the truth so they can get their point across, they do our position a great disservice. Their lies will be discovered and our position discredited, or at least diminished. There is truth in the Evangelical faith and the use of false evidence or argument makes the truth look weak.

We all make honest mistakes. We tend to be less rigorous when we examine a position we like, and more rigorous when we examine a view we do not like. Consequently, we can misrepresent our evidence or the evidence of our ideological opponents. We need to make room for such errors in others and ask others to make room for us when we commit such errors. They are inevitable. This is why conversation or even debate will expose weaknesses on both sides. Eventually, falsehood will be revealed and truth affirmed.

Singaporeans are savvy people, but we have limited media exposure. On this account, I like to point out to you that XIN MSN is an agenda-heavy network intent of promoting the LGBT and other left-wing agenda.

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God’s Restoration Returns Me to Joy – Psalm 126

By Peter Eng

 

 

 

A Song of Ascents.

Psalm 126 

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.

4 Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

(NASB)


Hallelujah! The dry spell has ended! God has restored the sinner! In this case, it is the nation of the Jewish people who sinned. They brought the calamity on themselves, but the Lord in his great mercy has forgiven them and restored them as a nation. Without Yahweh, they would not be a nation, called out of Egypt. But when they possessed the land, they immediately went their own way. Their rejection of Yahweh as God required God to show them the great evil of their idolatry.

They were not simply Jews, but they were “the captive ones of Zion.” They belong to Zion, but the captivity of their hearts to the idols of prosperity (in the worship of Baal, etc.) caused them to lose everything. God’s blessings were not enough for them, so they have to learn what life is like when separated from the blessing of the land God gave them.

Cast in Christian terms, they were like Christians who refuse to find joy in God’s blessings and become envious of what others have. They then pursued money, sex and power like the rest of the world, and chose idols rather than Jesus.

When we do that, we become alienated from God. We are like those who want to belong to the kingdom of God where there is freedom from sin, and sell ourselves to the devil because of the pleasures of this world.

The just course of action for God is to reject us for good. But God in his great mercy and forbearance towards us restores us. What joy!

The immoral woman crept up to Jesus while he was dining at the home of a Pharisee. She poured out perfume at his feet, kissed them and wiped them with her hair. She knew she was not worthy to be a daughter of Zion. But she came humbly to seek forgiveness. And Jesus explained, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47).

The psalmist felt like he was in a dream. It’s so good, it was too good to be true. “Then our mouth was filled with laughter / And our tongue with joyful shouting.” They could now return to the Promised Land, the Kingdom where Yahweh rules.

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Wall built by the Olim under the leadership of Nehemiah

There was, however, a sobering thought. The Olim (Hebrew term of those who immigrate back to Israel) were ecstatic. But they were fully aware of another reality. There were hard times ahead. They repossessed the land, but it had become barren. We have a powerful image in “the streams of the South.” The South (Negev) is a dry area crossed by wadi (Arabic) or nahal (Hebrew). These are mainly dry river beds except for the occasional rain. The denuded land cannot hold water, and the rain runs off into these river beds. The water becomes a torrent that washes away land and fails to nourish it. When nobody owns the land, herders will graze their livestock on the land and denude the land of vegetation. This turns the entire area into a moonscape, quite unsuitable for agriculture.

The psalmist asks God to restore them from their captivity to the land. And may the scattered (diaspora) return as the torrential rain that fills the riverbeds in the South. However, they were looking to farm the land and use it, not abuse it. The water from the rain would be a destructive force because of the abuse of the land. But God’s people will restore the land, preserve the water, plant crops, and will enjoy rich harvests.

The Olim will sow in tears, but they will reap in joy. This is just a poetic way of saying that they will face very tough beginnings with the abused land. They would have land back, but it had be rejuvenated. The starting will be extremely tough, but they will be rewarded.

Divine approval was seen in the return from exile. They were not to read the challenges of rejuvenating the land and rebuilding the city to be evidence of God’s displeasure. God does not magically remove the challenges of life because we are in his will. We will see him leading us, but we will need to labor on with tears as we address the challenges one at a time. He will give us the wherewithal to see us through. There can be tough times even when we are obedient to God.

The apostle Paul was obedient to Christ. But he suffered rejection by the brethren, the physical hardship of travel, of hunger and cold, of shipwreck and stoning, of beatings and imprisonments. If we judge our spiritual connection with God by how well we live, Paul must be considered a total failure given the hardships in his life.

The psalmist talks of one who went to and fro sowing and doing it in tears. Sowing is not a tearful task – ordinarily. And when the sowing is broadcasted, the going to and fro is much less that at harvest. What we have is a picture of sowing and re-sowing. The farmer sows but the seeds do not take for various reasons. He sows again, perhaps trying a different seed, or a different method to water the plants. He meets with partial success and sows again and again until he gets it right.

God does not suspend the laws of nature because we are obedient to him. He does not keep us from mistakes if our ignorance leads us to them. He does not auto-correct our mistakes. What he does is to give us the strength to overcome the challenges placed before us. And what we need to do is to enjoy walking in obedience to God.

There is another group of people not mentioned here, but they must have been very much in the mind of the psalmist. They were those who chose not to return to the land, but to remain in Babylon and Persia. If we compare the Olim when they had just returned, to those who remained behind, we can guess that the Olim did not fare as well. Perhaps some may even be tempted to question why they who return to the land to fulfill God’s declared will for them were struggling while their brothers who took the easy route were faring a lot better.

It was not wrong to remain in Babylon or Persia. But those who returned were fired with a higher ideal, committed to a closer obedience to God, aligned their hearts to God’s best for them in the kingdom. Yet they were worse off.

Some Christians ask why the Lord blesses the nominal, less committed Christian more than them. One error of such thinking is that they look at blessing only in material terms. There is great joy in obeying God and living out his plan for our life. The one who chooses to live for himself has a form of godliness, but has denied himself the power and joy found in one who is truly surrendered to God. At the same time, if we think this way, it shows we are not surrendered to God, we give the appearance of surrender only because we want God’s material blessing.

The psalmist does not end here. He tells us that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. And that is indeed true. In our day, we see Jews who returned to the land of their forefathers. The initial years were difficult, but they live in safety compared to their comfortable European Jews, who then suffered the wrath of Hitler or the pogroms of the Russians.

Things may look better for those who remain compared to the Olim. But they were thinking only in material terms. If they could foresee the sufferings of their children, they would have returned.

Jesus taught his disciples, “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33 own). While we must not measure God’s reward to us only in material terms, we see that God is not our debtor. What will we give him that he will not repay in great abundance?

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The Life that Fell Apart Returns to Joy – Psalm 125

By Peter Eng

 

 

 

Psalm 125, NASB

A Song of Ascents

1 “Those who trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous;
That the righteous may not put forth their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
And to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways,
The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.
Peace be upon Israel.


The Babylonians came. They destroyed the city, killed the warriors, and brought the flower of the land to Babylon. The Jews were no strangers to displacement. Their life fell apart when the Babylonians defeated them. They knew what it was like to lose everything and to restart life from scratch. This psalm describes the return to joy from this devastation.

We have no wish for such loss. But we have encountered lighter shades of that night. There can come a time in our life when God gives liberty to the wicked to pluck us out of our comfort zone. Even though some of our suffering may be due to our own sins or failure, the rod of God’s chastisement have done worse. In addition, some of the righteous in the land were swept up with the chastisement meant for the wayward.

A tidy life can fall apart in a flash. This psalm recalls an earlier desperate time of exile, and affirms those who trust in God are unmovable like Mount Zion. This seems such an ironic assertion in the face of what the Jews faced in their exile. And for many of us, our displacement makes it impossible to think of ourselves as unmovable in Christ.

Our life can be like Jesus’ warning to Peter, 31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22). Peter was going to be crushed and tossed into the air like wheat with chaff. He will not know earth from sky as he tumbles about in the air. He will desperately seek direction and not find it. After being tossed in the air, he will land on the sifting tray, he would think it is over, only to find himself tossed into the air once more—helpless, desperate for this ordeal to stop.

Such things happen to God’s people.

But not without God’s permission!

In the spiritual realm to which we are not privy, Satan could demand in some way, that we are sifted. And when God gives the go-ahead, we experience our displacement. This psalm returns us to joy in the Lord. “Look at Mount Zion,” the psalmist says. “It’s going nowhere is it?” “When you trust in Yahweh, you are not going anywhere. You are staying right here where he is.” And standing on Mount Zion, he looks around and sees even higher mountains around Jerusalem. He uses this image to tell us that the Lord (Yahweh) surrounds his people.

When we are tossed about, displaced by events beyond our control, we must recall a reality larger than our situation. For Simon Peter, it was larger reality that Satan had to ask permission to sift him. For Job, it was the larger reality that all his life, God had placed a hedge around him to keep Satan out (Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  Job 1:10.)

A larger reality is working around our turmoil. Even though Satan may sift us and confusion prevails, he does not control our life. His actions remain circumscribed by God’s sovereign control.

When the Jews were exiled to Babylon, those who trusted in the Lord did not move from Mount Zion (figuratively). While the scepter (rule) of the wicked descended on the land, it shall not rest there. It would be a passing moment. As the prophet Jeremiah had told them, it would be for seventy years. This was an entire generation or two, but that rule of the wicked over the land shall pass. We may want it to pass faster, and we may not like God’s timeline. But God is sovereign – and good.

He tells us our wind-tossed life is under his sovereign control. He has not abandoned us even though we may feel that way. The heart that finds confidence in the Lord is unmovable, like Mount Zion. As a song of ascent, the pilgrims to Jerusalem recount with wonder God’s fulfillment of his promise to restore them. Jerusalem has been restored and the temple rebuilt. The scepter of the wicked passed over the land, but did not rest on it.

Even the righteous need the promise of victory to stay true. If we are told, “Do everything right, and in the end, wrong shall triumph, and the wicked shall rule”, what ordinary person can find the fortitude to persevere?

We need to know the triumph of God to find our joy and not lose hope. We need the promise that when the wicked rule, God remains in control and that wicked rule will pass, “So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

When Jesus came with the Good News of the Kingdom, he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth. Our goal in life is not to leave the earth and be transported to heaven. Human destiny is here on earth. We are to ask God to realize his will “on earth as it is in heaven.” God will have the victory. We are not escaping a world where the devil has the victory and we escape to heaven through death. Satan does not have the last laugh. Jesus Christ our Lord defeated death by rising from the dead. And he will COME to earth to reclaim it for himself. He will rule the earth and we will reign with him. In the meantime, we declare and live out the Good News of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Too many Christians live as though there is no hope in life, and their only hope is in death. There is nothing further from the truth. The Good News of the Kingdom is that we will have victory over death in God’s kingdom. Even when we die, we will rise from the dead and defeat death. The way of the ungodly will perish, and the way of the righteous will prevail.

When it comes to hope, again too many of us give up on our world as though God is calling us to heaven to escape earth. He is not. He is calling us to victory here on earth. God’s will on earth will be as in heaven “So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

When we are surrounded by the prosperity of the wicked, we must remember that God wants to bless us with good gifts even in the midst of our turmoil. We come boldly before the throne of grace and ask, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good / And to those who are upright in their hearts.”

We find strength when we see the goodness of God in the midst of our struggles. God has not called us to stoically bear our pain while he remains silent. There may indeed be such times, but even in these times, we can call on him to “do good” for us, to show us his good hand and bless us with reprieve from our suffering. We come to the throne of grace to seek good from God.

Scripture teaches us, “No trial has overtaken you except what others also experienced. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tried beyond what you can bear. When you are tried, he will provide a way out so you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, own).

The right response in times of suffering is to call on God, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good / And to those who are upright in their hearts.” But some Jews gave up on God and “turn[ed] aside to their crooked way,” that is, the way of the Babylonians. These were the ones who said, “Since being righteous does not work for me, I will now turn to the dark side.”

These could not see that if they would trust in the Lord, they would remain unmovable. For these, “The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.” When the time of reckoning comes, these who claim they belong to God, but do not, will be counted with the enemies of God. God’s people and God’s kingdom will have peace. But God’s enemies and the kingdom of this age will be led away to judgment.

The Good News of the Kingdom is good news to God’s people. The Bible makes it clear that God’s kingdom is not a free-for-all. “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). God honors the choice of those who choose the kingdom of this age, and when Jesus returns they will not have a part in his kingdom.

In the midst of turmoil, we return to God’s joy as we return to God’s peace. This psalm ends with a blessing, “Peace be upon Israel.” Our confidence in God takes us through pain, uncertainty, and leads us to the path of peace in God. Let peace and joy be yours, my beloved, even all you who are called by the name of Christ, peace and mercy to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

(Unless indicated, Scripture quotes are from NASB.)

Notes on Mount Zion

Mount Zion (sometimes spelled Sion), is located within the city of Jerusalem, not a separate mountain as the name may suggest. It lies at the southwest corner of Jerusalem. Below is a map showing Mount Zion (and the area of an archeological dig).

To the south of Zion lies the Hinnom Valley. To the east lies the Tyropoeon Valley which drops to the City of David and then to the Kidron Valley. The Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley, is higher than Jerusalem.

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Bribery

By Peter Eng

 

 

 

“Should I give a bribe?” the young businessman starts to sweat as the customs officer is obviously looking for a reason to deny the passage of goods even though everything is aboveboard. “Should I give a bribe?” the speeding driver deliberates when he is pulled over by a cop who talks about how tough it is for him to raise his family on a policeman’s salary. “Should I give a bribe?” the missionary asked himself as the immigration officer toys with the visa stamp while he talks about how “You rich Christians should help poor people like us.”

Bribery in the Bible

There are more than 20 verses where the Bible talks about bribery. Most of them concern the taking of a bribe. Every instance of bribe taking is condemned in the Bible.[1] We have clear condemnation for accepting bribes in sayings such as: ‘‘Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8); and “A greedy man brings trouble to his family, / but he who hates bribes will live” (Proverbs 15:27).

There seems to be two exceptions to the rule: “A bribe is a charm to the one who gives it; / wherever he turns, he succeeds” (Proverbs 17:8); and “A gift given in secret soothes anger, / and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath” (Proverbs 21:14).

It is clear that the tenor of Scripture condemns the practice of taking bribes. Yet, these two verses seem tolerant of bribes. We can understand these verses and the subject at two levels: the interpretation of the specific texts, and the social-theological meaning of these injunctions.

Interpretation

Proverbs 21:14-15 reads: “A gift given in secret soothes anger, / and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath. When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous / but terror to evildoers.” From the start of the chapter, we find a juxtaposition of contrasts: The king’s heart is in God’s hand even though the king thinks he is directing it according to his own free will (21:1). A person thinks he is right, but God weighs the heart (21:2). The plans of the diligent lead to profit but haste leads to poverty (21:5); etc…

If we take Proverbs 21:14-15 as one unit rather than two different injunctions, it would mean a contrast in these two verses. Proverbs 21:14 speaks of how a gift that is given in secret soothes anger and pacifies great wrath. But when justice is done, the righteous rejoice and the evildoers are in terror. If we take Proverbs 21:15 as an adversative, as a “but,” rather than a new injunction, the act of bribery would be depicted as a judge who is indignant at the injustice done by the perpetrator, but a bribe given in secret removes that wrath and justice is perverted. However, when justice is done, the righteous rejoice and the evildoers [the giver(s) and receiver(s) of the bribe] will be in terror.

It is not possible to assert definitively that these two proverbs given without a connecting conjunction should be taken this way. But it is certainly possible given the pattern in the immediate context.

Proverbs 17:8 is more subtle. Among other literary features, proverbs are expressions of social realities and have to be applied appropriately. The classic example is Do not answer a fool according to his folly, / or you will be like him yourself” immediately followed by an opposite assertion, “Answer a fool according to his folly, / or he will be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:4-5). Proverbs concerns the wise application of truths in differing situations, and sometimes opposite principles must be applied to the same situation but on different people.

Proverbs 17:8 expresses the reality of bribery in many cultures. In some cultures, bribery is the way of life and its evil is so entrenched that life becomes impossible unless one pays bribes. The text does not openly approve the giving of bribes, but it does suggest a concession that believers sometimes have no choice but to offer a bribe.

The social-theological point is that while the accepting of bribes is always prohibited, the giving of bribes is not openly condemned. There is some suggestion that in certain contexts, it can be tolerated.

The crux of the issue is what constitutes choice. Before that question is addressed, one needs to ask if there is any gap between the ideal and the concession. The logical ideal does not support the giving of bribes. Since the Bible says the taking of bribe is unethical, the giving of bribes which makes the taking of bribes possible, cannot be considered righteous conduct. In addition, we have a clear instance in the New Testament of a refusal to give a bribe. Paul was imprisoned and Felix the governor wanted a bribe from Paul before he would set him free (Acts 24:26). Paul refused to give the bribe and so remained in prison and was eventually sent to Rome for trial. It would be easy for Paul to say he had no choice but to give a bribe, but Paul did not make that choice.

When do we have no choice except to give a bribe? Strictly speaking, there is always a choice. Paul made the choice not to give a bribe, but to remain in prison and to risk execution. But some would say they have no choice but to give a bribe because it affects their business profits. What does this mean for Christians today?

It appears to me that the biblical ideal is quite clear. A believer must not accept bribes. A believer should not offer bribes. But we bear in mind that the giver of bribes is usually the powerless or the victim. It is inconceivable that a person wants to give a bribe if he does not need to do so to achieve his objective. The bribe giver is a victim turned perpetrator. His moral culpability remains, but his role as victim deserves special consideration.

The believer who gives the bribe should not think that is the norm. He should diligently seek the Lord’s wisdom of how he can extricate himself from this unhealthy transaction. The stronger believer must not be judgmental but be supportive. It is not the duty of the stronger Christian to condemn or to lay guilt on the weaker Christian. He should recognize that his brother is at a different point in his spiritual growth. It is God who causes the growth and the increase. We do not determine where another person’s spiritual level should be. The Christian community should be firm in rejecting the taking of bribes. But let us embrace the weaker brother who is stuck in the quagmire of giving bribes. He is not someone in an ideal situation, but someone who needs our support to become stronger so he is no longer a victim-perpetrator.

Conclusion

The Word of God does not give any provision for the taking of bribes. Bribes are received to change the course of events which would naturally go in a certain direction. Receiver of the bribe is in some position of authority and can choose to decide for or against the giver. By the giving of the bribe, the course of justice is perverted.

However, there are times when the person in authority refuses to act in the interest of justice, and want a bribe before he will execute justice. The biblical example for us in the action of Paul is to stand firm and refuse to give the bribe. However, there seems to be a concession to the weaker brother who chooses to give the bribe. This is a form of extortion, and the giver is a victim of the one in power. We need to be gentle to such people. They need our encouragement and not our condemnation. They are not promoting injustice, they are trying to secure justice in a fallen world, and their method falls short of the ideal. God has a concession for them in their weaknesses and we ought to do no less.


[1] In the OT, the word regularly translated as “bribe” (SHoĤaD) is used more than 40 times in more than 20 verses. It refers primarily to personal bribes (Ex 23:8; Dt 10:17; 16:19; 27:25; 1 Sa 12:3; Jb 6:22; 15:34; Ps 15:5; Pr 6:35; 17:23; etc.). It is used secondarily for a gift or national payment to buy peace from an impending invasion (1 Kgs 15:19; 2 Kgs 16:8; Isa 45:13; Eze 16:33). The sense with which this word is used is clearly negative. There are other words used for bribe in the OT, but their uses remain consistent to the negative connotations associated with the practice of receiving a bribe.


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