Monday, November 19, 2018

The day I was baptized in the Holy Spirit

The Almighty Lord Jesus accepted me as a disciple on 21 April 2013, the day when I completely repented from Satan and all rebellion against Almighty God, and when I gave thanks that I could become a disciple of Christ Jesus. I know this, because I experienced an amazing thing that day (like pure radiating energy that suddenly began radiating onto me and into my body) and because from that day on, I have been a walking confirmation of 1 John 3, “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God”.

Before 21 April 2013, I was a fornicator, a drunkard, a person involved in rages, abusiveness, selfish schemes, falsehood, cowardice, murder, covetousness, envy, idolatry, uncleanness, licentiousness, theft, sorcery, heresies, revelries, a practicer of carnal works that drag a human being into Hellfire (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3-5, Galatians 5:19-21, Revelation 21:8, 22:15).

But after 21 April 2013? Have I committed any of the carnal works the Holy Bible names? Not one. I’ve been tempted a few times, but now another thing happens. Somehow my mind is awakened to the terror of committing a carnal work, the shame it brings to Christ, the Holy Spirit, and my Father in the Heavens, and the punishments and torments that I will suffer if I commit that carnal work: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).

The day of my baptism in the Holy Spirit was like how I am kept from carnal works ever since: amazing things happened to lead me to the right confession at the right time in the right place.

(1) For the first time in my life, I had returned from a Sunday church service feeling low. I had always come home feeling elated, hopeful, joyful. This Sunday: shocked and saddened and despondent, after experiencing the coldness of two seminary friends at the church coffee, and lacking much hope in that church fellowship after seeing its dry, formulaic preaching and singing for several weeks.

(2) But I had an inspiration: I could go to an international Bible fellowship, held in the cafeteria of a Pentacostal church, that a believer had taken me some years beforehand. It would be easy, because my neighbours downstairs from me attended that fellowship. And so I went and asked them to bring me along. They said yes.

(3) When I walked into the cafeteria, before the meeting had begun, suddenly I gave a confession in my heart, without planning to do so. “The whole Bible is written by God, and it convicts me as a sinner. I need a savior.”

I was 40 then. I had grown up in a culture of great skepticism to the testimony of the Bible: our homes, our schools, our churches, our politicians, our artists, our intellectuals, our scientists, walked in skepticism to the Bible, and so I did too. How God led me out of that wicked dark pit, is a story to tell! The 4 major steps were (a) I tried to keep Jesus’s words; (b) So I experienced miraculous coincidences, just like Jesus promises (John 14); (c) I read the Bible and saw its amazing, intelligent design); (d) I read John Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker—Has Science Buried God? that describes how Science does not contradict the Bible and how instead, Science witnesses to the Bible, and that atheist scientists are forced by the evidence they see in the Universe to accept that there is a divine creator as described in the Bible. Shortly after I finished reading Lennox’s book, at the end of 2012, and a few months before the day of my baptism, I had accepted that the Bible was almost certainly inspired in every respect by Almighty God.

(4) The preacher that day was focused on explaining to us the importance of being baptized in the Holy Spirit! She urged us to come forward and kneel and receive hands and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

(5) I risked my career as a minister in a church, by answering the call to be baptized that day. I had trained for nearly 4 years full-time, taking loans, to minister in a church that looks with great skepticism on the Bible and Holy Spirit baptism beyond the original first water-sprinkling baptism. Why did I risk it? After I began working as a trainee minister in that church, I developed a belief that I was no longer on my way to eternal life with God. So I was scared!

I didn’t feel anything happen when people laid their hands on me, and prayed for me to receive the Holy Spirit. I went back to my chair and began to pray. All I remember is talking to Jesus, saying thank You, thank You that I can be a disciple of Yours. This went on for many minutes. And then something did happen! Right there as I sat in that chair. The feeling was so unlike anything I had felt before, and it was so powerful, that I knew it was from God. My first reaction was joy, joy that God was not abandoning me! I was so relieved that I laughed for a moment out of joyful relief!

I don’t remember much more about that day. But I remember that for the next several days, I was a man on a mission, cleaning out my home of anything that could be offensive to God (like a Buddhist book, or books skeptical about the Bible from seminary courses). Hour after hour, I purified my home.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Christian testimony

I struggled with anxiety-depression and addictions, alongside the many trials of being a "child of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3), for circa 40 years, even as I read the Bible and worshipped at churches (which did not properly honour God's Word). Then in 2013 I faced up to the truth: the Holy Bible was right, I was wrong. Thanks to the testimonies of many courageous people, I had come to believe that the entire Bible is God's Word, and that I could entrust my rescue to Christ Jesus. 

Encouraged by a preacher who with her husband had established a church in Kibera, Kenya, I prayed for baptism in the Holy Spirit, and people laid hands on me. Like the Holy Bible and Bob Dylan say: a great deed of power took place. I know that, and can witness to that truthfully, not only because of what happened in that moment, when I experienced something like the power of a very strong sun radiating into me, if only for a few seconds. It's also a sure witness because 4 years later, I see that I haven't been the same person since. I have experienced liberation from slavery to sin, just as the Holy Bible testifies:

"But gratitude be to the God,
because you were slaves of the sin,
yet you obeyed from heart unto that
to which you were delivered—
that form of teaching. Then, having
been liberated from the sin, you were
enslaved to the righteousness." 
(Romans 6:17-18)

The Holy Bible is true. God does rescue people through Christ Jesus. I know this because I have the same experience as countless other Christians: when I put ALL my trust in Jesus, I was set free from many kinds of slavery (to sins, wrath, addictions, etc.). But I had to walk free, choose freedom. For example, I continued to use filthy language, because I hadn't read in the New Testament the commandment not to.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Holy Bible is perfect, but all people stumble (even in what they say)

Several years ago, in early 2012, I began researching how Israelites, Jews and Christians preserved memories. What is the primary example of this for Christians? Christ Jesus of Nazareth instructed His disciples to celebrate their meals together in a memorial to Jesus, with the two witnesses of bread commemorating Jesus's broken body and wine commemorating Jesus's spilt blood.

The research work led to the progressive realization that these communities followed memory traditions and very strict witness rules, which together explain the form of the Holy Scriptures. 

The two main rules for testimony were (1) No false testimony, and (2) Multiple corroborating witnesses required. Even Jesus of Nazareth is described as following these testimony rules. If He followed them, it is highly likely that His disciples did too. And that gives us a key for understanding a range of difficulties with the New Testament texts. 

In one and the same book, The Acts of the Apostles, an incident is reported in two conflicting ways. What is the best explanation for this? One explanation is that the book is assembled from different original texts: it doesn't have one author. If that were so, why wouldn't the editor(s) edit away the conflict between the two reports of St. Paul's encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9 & 22)? If instead a single human author wrote Acts, and he followed the two rules of testimony that Christ Jesus did, we have an excellent explanation of why he preserved the conflicting testimonies:

(1) When Luke himself needed to record the history of St. Paul's conversion, he wrote it in Acts 9, in his own voice. 

(2) When Luke recorded the history of St. Paul's later speech in Jerusalem, he wrote it in Acts 22, and followed what St. Paul said.

(3) It is entirely acceptable and predictable that even St. Paul could have stumbled in his own words about a detail of the events on the road to Damascus (e.g. mixing up whether his travelling companions did not hear the voice or did not see the light; compare 9:7 with 22:9). This is because Holy Scripture itself tells us, when reasoning about why very few should be Christian teachers, that "we all stumble" in many ways, or a lot (James 3:1-2).

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The collision of theology with God

Humility, and tremendous caution and honesty when making truth claims, are necessary in all sciences, and yet most of all in theology, whose subject both is entirely unique and warns credibly that He is willing and able to limit, severely, the scope of theology's knowledge. When theologians start talking as authorities, disaster is usually not far off. Evidence of this is plentiful: one can look first of all at the record of theological councils (which have tended to create schisms, rifts, between people otherwise inclined to fraternity) and university theology (whose onset coincides with the age of a continuous avalanche of schisms). If one is willing to look, more controversially, at the personal life histories of people influenced by theologians, far more heart-rending evidence appears readily. This is because theologians have as a rule 

(a) ignored the warnings of the Old Testament and the New Testament that universal human understanding of these texts is blocked; 

(b) ignored the OT and NT warnings that human understanding of these texts is granted divinely as a consequence of human obedience;

(c) therefore engaged in scientific / theological discourse without the necessary limitation (that only people who are actively working to obey God could possibly have sufficient comprehension);

(d) therefore made theological claims that are not just untrue, but easily deceive because they travel with the accoutrements of credibility. 

How can you avoid a run-around away from theological truth into the various rocky shoals? According to the OT and NT, the safe path is to fear God and obey God's commandments. Gentile Christians have the NT commandments to obey. Jews and Jewish Christians have both the OT and NT commandments to obey. 

Is it obvious what these commandments are, and how to obey them? Not for the rebellious-at-heart. Both the OT and NT clearly state that the rebellious-at-heart are not going to be able to understand God's Word. 

So, who translated your modern-language version of the Bible? People who are rebellious at heart, or people who put obedience to God first and foremost? If rebellious people have tried to translate the Bible, which has most certainly happened, they will produce abominable translations where for example the commandments will likely be impossible to follow. The common mistranslation of Matthew 5:28, where hearers are told that if anyone looks at a woman in order to lust after her has committed adultery, is perhaps the most common example of bad translation misleading readers to think they cannot actually obey the commandments of the NT. The logical and doable commandment here given in the Ancient Greek, recognized by scholars for more than 100 years, is that a person must not look at a married woman (someone else's wife) in order to lust after her (cf. the dictionary by Moulton & Milligan under the word γυνή, the Swedish 1917 translation, etc.).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

How can a so-called church display monstrous behaviour?

If a church is teaching people that they are Christian and inheritors of eternal life, although they do not imitate Christ and obey Christ's commandments, it will display monstrous character. 

17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. 18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2, AKJV)


AKJV: KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Life and love by Christ: Is that what 2 Timothy 1 says?

How should we understand the following Ancient Greek phrases found in 2 Timothy 1? One possibility that is rarely found in English translations is presented below:

epaggelían zo:ê:s tê:s en /X/ristô:i Ie:soû
 (verse 1)
a proclamation of life that is by Christ Jesus 

agápé:i tê:i en /X/ristô:i Ie:soû (verse 13)
love that is by Christ Jesus

In favour of this way of understanding these phrases are the following considerations:

(1) The eternal life that the gospel announces is always and forever by Christ Jesus, and not only in Christ Jesus (after the final judgement it is not life in Christ, as far as the New Testament says).

(2) Similarly, by the salvation that Christ Jesus provides, a human being can be filled with God's love (Romans 5). This love is not only in Christ Jesus, but is always and forever thanks to, that is to say by, Christ Jesus.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The New Testament shows the divide between the Cooperative Principle and the Competitive Principle of linguistic communication

Eiséltʰate dià tè:s stenês púle:s
Go in through the narrow gate,

hóti plateîa he: púle: kaì eurú/x/o:ros he: hodòs he:
because wide is the gate and roomy the way that

is leading away

eis tè:n apó:leian kaì polloí eisin
into the destruction, and many are

hoi eiser/x/ómenoi di' autê:s
the in-goers through it,

hóti stenè: he: púle: kaì tetʰlimméne:
because narrow is the gate and hard-pressured

he: hodòs he: apágousa
the way that is leading away

eis tè:n zo:è:n kaì olígoi eisìn
into the life, and few are

hoi heurìskontes auté:n
the finders of it.

     The Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:13-14 (CFB)

Eàn agapâté me
If you would love Me,

tàs entolàs tàs emàs
the commandments of Mine

keep / you will keep,

kagò: ero:tè:so: tòn patéra
and I will ask the Father

kaì állon parákle:ton dó:sei
and another helper He will grant

humîn hína metʰ' humôn
to you, so that with you,

eis tòn aiô:na ê:i
into the aeon, It will be,

tò pneûma tê:s ale:tʰeías hò
the Spirit of the truth, whom

ho kósmos ou dúnatai labeîn
the world cannot receive,

hóti ou tʰeo:reî autò
because it does not see It

oudè ginó:skei
nor recognise It.

humeîs ginó:skete autó hóti
You know It, because

par' humîn ménei kaì
beside you It abides and

en humîn éstai
in / among you It will be.

        The Lord Jesus Christ, John 14:15-17 (CFB)