Monday, July 28, 2014

Israel-Hamas War, Flight Crashes, Four Blood Moons & End Times (Inevitability of Violence &War And Necessity of Death)



            Another Israel-Hamas conflict that could escalate into full-blown bloodshed; three flight crashes in a week – Malaysian Airlines MH17, Taiwanese GE222, and Air Algérie AH5017 that amounted to around 450 fatalities. Is the four blood moons prophecy coming true?

            The four blood moons prophecy (which had prophesied disaster upon Israel) did not persuade me to affirm Pastor Hagee and Pastor Blitz’s prophecies. This was stated in my earlier article.1 However, with conflicts and calamities abounding, do we need to rethink and affirm the four blood moons prophecy?

            Let’s consider Israel-Hamas conflict, especially the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.2 Wikipedia reports 3000+ rocket and mortar attacks in 2008. Subsequently there’s been a decrease in the attacks through 2009, 2010 and 2011 - 858, 365, and 680 respectively. But 2012 witnessed a huge increase - 234% & 2000+ attacks. Thus far 2014 has recorded 700+ attacks; a 1500% increase since last year.

            There’s been an enormous increase (2415++) in the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in the month of July 2014.3 The recent mid-June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens (suspected work of Hamas militants) witnessed escalation of violence in the Gaza strip with the deadliest military operation since the Gaza war of 2008-09 by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) code named “Operation Protective Edge.”4

            This is indeed a cause for alarm.

            However, the rocket attacks since 22nd July have relatively decreased. This could primarily be due to ceasefire agreement and the extraordinary offensive of the IDF.5

            Statistics cannot facilitate accurate forecasting, but they could reveal a probable future. If 2008 and 2012 elapsed without larger conflicts, then we could anticipate a similar 2014. Therefore, if 2014 and 2015 would slip away as 2008 and 2012, then the four blood moons prophecy would remain unfulfilled.

            Furthermore, only the insane would hope and pray for a bloodier conflict anywhere in the world, let alone Israel and Palestine. None in their right mind would pray for war and violence.

            If our prayer and hope is for peace to reign in the Middle East, then we are praying against the four blood moon prophecy. If peace were to reign in the Middle East, specifically in Israel and Palestine, then four blood moons prophecy would remain unfulfilled.

            Yet the fourth blood moon will be on 28th September 2015. So, nothing definitive can be said about the fulfillment or the nonfulfillment of the prophecy.

            Three plane crashes in a week is agonizing to fathom. Is this a sign of an imminent doomsday (end of the world)?

            151, 600 people die every day6 – some peacefully and some not so. The 450+ deaths due to three plane crashes this week seems insignificant in comparison to the number of deaths in a day.

            An average person fears death and considers death as a great evil. The great Greek philosopher Plato, who lived much before the Lord Jesus, ridiculed mankind’s fear of death, “No one knows whether death may not be the greatest of all blessings for a man, yet men fear it as if they knew that it is the greatest of evils.7

            Christians fearing death flaunt an impoverished insight into the Bible’s teachings. The most famous Psalm 23 urges its believers not to fear death, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me…” (Psalm 23: 4, NASB). Having been seated at the heavenly realms already (Ephesians 2: 6), the believers of Christ should eagerly await their death, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”(Philippians 3: 20-21, NIV).

            Christians condemning death demonstrate their acute paucity of Biblical knowledge. Violence should be abhorred; not death. Everyone dies at the precise time ordained by God. No one will ever die before their time. This is the entailment of God’s sovereignty and justice.

            Moreover, because God is sovereign, loving, good and just, no one would miss out on their salvation because of death. A just God ensures fair opportunities for every person to either accept or reject Christ. Christians should understand this truth. Failure to understand this truth would lead a Christian into a faulty and a more damaging outlook of life.

            Death materializes variously – at the hospital bed, plane crash, fatality in a war or a violent situation, or a peaceful death in the presence of the loved ones etc.. Whatever the case may be, death is inevitable and necessary for mankind.

            But that’s not it.

            As long as this world exists evil will exist, and as long as evil exists violence and gory deaths will exist. Violence, hence, is not merely the work of evil, but also necessary for the elimination of evil.

            Let’s now draw a distinction between aggression and defense. The initiator of gratuitous or unjustified hostility is the evil aggressor. The one who guards against assault is the defender. The world needs not a gratuitous aggressor. A morally conscientious entity would seldom be the unjustified aggressor. The evil entity would always be the gratuitous aggressor.

            However, the realization of an opportune time to eliminate evil is the state in which a morally conscientious entity becomes a justified aggressor (Romans 13: 4 Cf. Proverbs 25: 26; 1 Timothy 5: 8). Elimination of evil favors the world. The Bible proclaims a permanent elimination of evil when the Lord returns in all HIS glory to judge the world.

            As much as death is a necessity, violence is inevitable when evil should be eliminated. Violence includes gory scenes. As much as we do not desire violence, and as much as we hate it, and as much as we speak against it, let us be assured of the prevalence of violence as long as evil exists. Violence is inevitable to eliminate evil.

            We could argue endlessly about the goodness or the evilness of Israel or Hamas, but the fact remains that one is good and the other evil. God alone knows perfectly as to who is good and evil.

            Being right or wrong in our opinion or judgment is insignificant unless we possess an active and substantial role to usher peace. But the existence of evil entails violence and war. Let’s be prepared for this eventuality.

            The aspect of violence and war becomes complicated in perceptions. Violence and war are the entailments of perceptions. Let’s consider Hamas-Israel conflict.

            Israel and Hamas perceive themselves as virtuous. Moreover, Israel perceives Hamas as the agent of destruction and Hamas requires Israel’s eviction from what it considers as a forcible occupation of Palestine. In this context, both parties focus on eliminating their evil enemy, and hence they justify violence and war.

            But the fact remains that both cannot be right at the same time. Either Hamas or Israel is right, certainly not both. How then would good sense prevail in Israel and Hamas?

            It’s only through Christ crucified and the cross. It’s at the cross where the Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed his life to save mankind of their sins. Therefore, either Israel or Hamas should necessarily sacrifice their desire and earnestly work towards peace. This is the voluntary or autonomous or a free-willed solution.

            Regrettably, both Israel and Hamas reject Christ. So Christ as a voluntary solution to terminate this conflict may not be a valid proposition. This is reality.          

            The other rational solution is to force one or both parties to submit. But with the world polarized as it is now, this too seems farfetched.

            What then should we do? We could pray for those in pain that they would experience the satisfying, comforting and encouraging blessings of the Lord Almighty during their pain and need. We could pray that God would, in ways that only HE could, put an end to this conflict.

            Outside of prayer, we could materially and financially bless the needy. But the dilemma is that we may never know who the recipients would be, whether those suffering or those perpetrating evil.

            We are living in the last days. The Bible teaches that wars between nations are inevitable in the last days (Matthew 24: 6b). When the Bible teaches wars are inevitable, there would be wars, whether we pray for or against them. This is an existential reality we should learn to live in.

            We will wail with everyone who is in pain, especially gruesome pain. This is reality. But a world without war and violence will not be a reality.

            Habakkuk pleaded with God about God’s apparent inactivity when wickedness, strife and oppression were rampant in Judah. When God assured him of the eventual destruction of evil, Habakkuk rested in God’s sovereign will and waited for God’s perfect and pleasing will to be done. As Habakkuk hoped and patiently waited on God, may we hope and patiently wait on God to deliver everyone from evil:

“Fig trees may not grow figs,
    and there may be no grapes on the vines.
There may be no olives growing
    and no food growing in the fields.
There may be no sheep in the pens
    and no cattle in the barns.

But I will still be glad in the Lord;
    I will rejoice in God my Savior.
The Lord God is my strength.
    He makes me like a deer that does not stumble
    so I can walk on the steep mountains.” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19, NCV)

            Come Lord Jesus, come soon and deliver us from evil. Amen.

Endnotes:      
1 My earlier article on four blood moons: http://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in/2014/03/four-blood-moons-in-2014-15-christs.html

2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel

3 There were 181 rocket and mortar attacks on Israel from January to June, 2014. But there were 2415++ rocket and mortar attacks on Israel in July. This data is as of 26th July 2014. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_rocket_attacks_on_Israel,_2014)

4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict

5 The extraordinary offensive of the IDF has rendered fatalities of 1000 and injuries to 6000 Palestinians. “According to OCHA, as of 26 July 2014 in the Gaza Strip, over 200,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 165,548 are taking shelter in 92 UNRWA schools. 1.2 million people have no access or very limited access to water or sanitation, 120 schools and 18 health facilities have been damaged, 3,333 housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged rendering them uninhabitable, 3,380 housing units have been damaged but are still inhabitable and 80% of people only receive 4 hours of electricity per day.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict)

6 http://www.ecology.com/birth-death-rates/


7 Written by Plato in his work “Apology,” (universally known as Plato’s ‘Apology’ of Socrates), p27. 


Monday, July 21, 2014

Could A Genuine Born-Again Christian Be Demon Possessed? (A Glance Into Spiritual Warfare)



                  A theist or a religionist affirms the existence of the demonic. A Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a leading researcher in Extra Sensory Perception (ESP), Dean Radin, deems the demonic as the ‘projection of the unconscious.’ The naturalist rejects the existence of the demonic, as he denies God’s existence.

            This blog is not a venture to defend the existence of the demonic, instead the Bible is totally trusted. Since the Bible affirms the presence of the demonic, we trust their presence as well.

            My title presupposes the existence of two categories of Christians – the nominal and the genuine. Very minimally, the nominal Christian has virtually no relationship with the Triune God, whereas the genuine Christian trusts, loves, hopes in the Triune God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.

            My title implies that the nominal Christian is available for demon possession. The nominal Christian, by virtue of his stark ignorance of the Lord, is perennially available to a demonic occupancy. However, the moot point or the debatable question is whether a genuine Christian, who has an organic relationship with the living God, be demon possessed.

            What is demon possession? The technical term is to “have a demon” (Matthew 11: 18; Luke 7: 33; John 7: 20 et al.) or “be demonized,” suggesting a demonic influence. The Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5: 1-20) was unable to exercise his will and was under the total control of the evil spirit. This is an extreme instance of demon possession, where the human will (independency of the human will) is under the domination of the evil spirit.

            If by demon possession we mean that the genuine Christian is unable to exercise his or her will to love and obey God, then we should understand from the Bible that such a demon possession is contrary to the Biblical teaching (Colossians 1: 13; 1 John 4: 4 et al.). Therefore it’s a straightforward conclusion that a genuine Christian cannot be possessed by a demon to the extent where he loses the employment of his will to love and obey God.

            But we are not done yet, because the question of temptations looms large over us. Does temptation imply demon possession? Who tempts us and how are we tempted?

            Of this we are sure that God does not tempt anyone (James 1: 13). We are also sure that temptation causes sin, and sin is an assault on God. So we infer that Satan opposes God ought and tempts mankind. God allows for that temptation to occur in our lives (Cf. Matthew 4: 1).

            It was the Spirit of God who led the Son of God to be tempted by the devil. Therefore, we conclude that devil, whose chief occupation is to oppose God and HIS people, tempts people towards sinning.

            Temptation does not imply demon possession. Temptation is analogous to bait (read sin) that’s dangling right in front of our eyes, and man decides to bite the bait. In this instance, Satan does the dangling, and man does the biting [willfully]. While Satan causes man to sin, it’s the man who sins.

            Since man sins willingly, we infer that the sinful man need not necessarily be possessed by a demon, but he merely could be under a demonic influence. It’s also imperative to note that sins need not always necessarily be a result of demonic influence.

            Galatians 5: 19-21 catalogs the acts of the sinful nature or flesh. Let us briefly consider “hatred.” We do not need Satan to entice us into hatred. If a person hurts us, then the default response of anyone, Christian included, is hatred for that person. We could argue similarly for any act of the sinful nature listed in Galatians 5. Significantly, let us remember that these are the acts of the sinful nature or flesh, certainly not the evil spirit.

            Thus far, the following is clear:

            (1) A genuine Christian cannot be demon possessed.

            (2) God does not tempt anyone, but Satan tempts everyone and causes them to sin against God.

            (3) Temptation does not imply demon possession.

            Is demonic attack an instance of demon possession or demonic influence? Demonic attack is not an instance of demonic possession. For instance, Job and the Apostle Paul were attacked by Satan and not possessed by Satan.

            The Bible is sufficiently clear about the demonic attack on genuine Christians. The Bible teaches that being a genuine Christian does not entail a perfect protection from the demonic. Genuine Christians are likely to be attacked by the devil (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 7; Ephesians 6: 12 et al.). This is biblical.

            Can the Christian overcome the devil? Of course! This is a no-brainer. But the bigger question is if the Christian knows how to overcome the devil.

            For many years of my early Christian life, I had not known the power of the Holy Spirit that’s intrinsic in every genuine born-again Christian. It was after I immersed myself into the Bible into reading and studying the living Word of God that I understood the power of the Holy Spirit and the victories that can be ours when we use that power rightfully to our advantage to crush the devil.

            It’s casually taught that a Christian can rebuke the evil spirit / demon in the name of Jesus and command it to leave. But this is easier said than done.

            Christ’s disciples understood the need for a greater strength when they encountered an evil spirit that they could not cast out (Matthew 17: 21; Mark 9: 29). Christ taught them that they could only cast out such spirits if they were in a greater relationship with the Triune God. The greater relationship is possible when the disciple prays continually i.e. he is 24x7 (always) connected with God.

            Make no mistake; the work of Christ on the cross is the ultimate basis for our authority over demons. Satan was decisively defeated when Christ won the victory on the cross. This is the foundation for every believer who intends to cast out demons through rebuke in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

            When Christ was tempted by Satan, HE quoted the Scripture to rebuke Satan. We are to do likewise (Cf. Ephesians 6: 17). Christians should memorize or integrate these Scripture verses to overcome Satan: Matthew 4: 10, 12: 28-29; Luke 10: 17-19; 2 Corinthians 10: 3-4; Colossians 2: 15; Hebrews 2: 14; James 4: 7; 1 Peter 5: 8-9; 1 John 3: 8, 4:4, 5:18. 

            Satan is always overcome by constant prayer and by the Word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit – the offensive weapon in spiritual warfare. Satan flees when believers rebuke him as they pray in the Holy Spirit using the Word of God and in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

            Finally, what about those Christians who preach false doctrines? Are they demon possessed or under demonic influence?

            Any Christian who denies Christ’s Lordship and professes that the Lord Jesus Christ did not come in flesh to redeem the world of its sin and power is under a demonic influence (1 John 4: 2-3; Cf. 1 Corinthians 12: 3). Any Christian who claims to be speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit but denies the necessity of Christ in any form or manner could also be demonically influenced (2 Corinthians 11: 13-15).

            Those branding themselves as Christians and denying the necessity of Christ for salvation of mankind are not genuine Christians.

            Having said this, it’s also imperative to note that not all false doctrines can be termed as demonically inspired. For instance, a Christian who teaches that water baptism is necessary for salvation need not necessarily be demonically inspired. Similar instance could be a teaching that every pie of a Christian’s sacrificial giving should go to the local church and not to any other entity as how wonderfully Christian they may be.

            Last but not the least; let’s not attribute every problem in a genuine Christian’s life to a demon. This relegates the Christian’s ‘walk in righteousness’ to futility, hence it’s remarkably unbiblical.  


            To conclude, a genuine Christian cannot be demon possessed. He could be under demonic influence. Demonic influence can be resisted and overcome by praying in the Holy Spirit using the Word of God in the name of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Cf. Ephesians 6: 10 - 18). Therefore, let us walk by the Spirit to be victorious over Satan always (Galatians 5: 16). Amen.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Brazil’s Humiliating Defeat In World Cup 2014 And Life Lessons Learnt


            Football is considered to be a religion in the South American countries. Brazil, a five time winner of the world cup, was a hot favorite to win this year’s edition. After Neymar’s debilitating injury and Captain Thiago Silva’s suspension, not many expected Brazil to defeat a powerful German team in the semifinals.

            But hardly anyone expected Brazil to lose by seven goals to Germany. This defeat is not only abnormal but exceedingly humiliating. A run of the mill defeat would have been a one, two or even a three goal loss. But a seven goal defeat was incredibly shameful.  

            Brazil’s humiliating defeat teaches us valuable life lessons, which I submit for your consideration.

Topsy-Turvy Life

            You may remember the brutal murder of Columbian footballer Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga for scoring an own goal that led to his team’s elimination from the 1994 world cup. Even death need not be a surprise to these high profile players who carry their nation’s expectations and hopes on their rather frail human shoulders.

            One day the Brazilians were the hot favorites, high flying, and adored by many. The next day they crash-landed because of their humiliating loss.

            This is life; one day we may be on top of the world – peaceful, successful, praiseworthy, and sought after. The next day when something goes terribly wrong in our life, we crash-land badly.

            Peace then becomes a rare commodity. Success abandons us. People who sang our praises will gossip and abuse us. Friends will compete to cease their friendship with us. That one loss, that one setback, albeit outside human control, will drive a thousand nails into our coffin. A life that was once so bright and prosperous turns dark and gloomy.

            This is life. How then do we live this topsy-turvy life without losing our sanity and more importantly, our faith in God? 

Thankful Life


            A stunning image after Brazil’s devastating loss was the on-field prayers of David Luiz and Luis Gustavo. Should we wonder what motivated their prayers immediately after the horrifying loss?

            The bible teaches us to be thankful in all circumstances. Job’s fascinating response to his wife teaches us the foundation for being thankful, “…Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 2: 10, NASB). Do we not know that God’s not a magic potion for our success?

            When we realize that God is not a magic potion for our worldly success, then we will certainly live our lives in constant gratitude. It’s a grievous error to think that success and adulation should always fill our Christian life. The Bible does not teach anything even remotely close to this.

            Notably, the Bible teaches us to be thankful to God always - in joy and pain (1 Thessalonians 5: 18). The Bible also teaches us to be intentional in our thankfulness to God (Colossians 4: 2).

            How do we condition ourselves to be constantly thankful?

Godly Life

            Conditioning ourselves to be constantly thankful is to live a godly life. But how do we live a godly life?

            Could God have prevented Brazil’s slaughter by Germany? The sovereign God could have certainly prevented the slaughter, but HE did not. God’s in absolute control over everything that happens in this universe, world cup soccer included. But God chose not to prevent Brazil’s slaughter. Why? We may never know and we need not know the precise reason.

            Man cannot evaluate God based on worldly successes and failures. An average man’s life may contain more failures than successes. Permit me to elaborate from within the sporting paradigm.

            Brazil’s five world cup wins is more than any other team. But when we recollect Brazil’s five wins, do we realize Brazil’s fifteen losses in world cup competitions, since 1930?    

            Brazil lost in fifteen (15) and won in five (5) world cup competitions. Germany lost sixteen (16) and won four (4), Argentina lost eighteen (18) and won two (2), England lost nineteen (19) and won one (1). Every single soccer team has experienced more failures than success. This is a fact.

            Spain won the 2010 world cup. Until then, Spain had failed in every world cup competition.

            This is life. We suffer multiple failures, and this holds true with successful people as well. Failures do not overwhelmingly discourage successful people.   

            Westminster Shorter Catechism accurately interprets the Bible to state that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy HIM forever. Men may forsake each other during failures, but God never leaves or forsakes anyone anytime. It is during failure that man can experience God’s grace sufficiently (2 Corinthians 12: 9). 

            A Christian focuses on God always, more so during failures. When he focuses on God, he thinks and sees everything in God’s perspective. When he fails to understand the reason for his failure and suffering, he humbles himself in God’s presence, and trusts in God’s goodness, justice and love. He entrusts his failure into God’s gracious presence to receive peace, power and the wisdom to endure and overcome his failure.

            Godly life is lived in constant and unchanging love, trust and hope on God and HIM alone, at all times, so to glorify HIM.

Perfectly Imperfect Life

            As I begin this section of the essay, Brazil has lost the game for the third place by three goals to Holland. Thiago Silva’s defensive lapse led to the first goal. In the previous game against Germany, David Luiz’s defensive lapse led to the first goal.

            Perfection is humanly impossible. It would have been perfect for David Luiz to have defended Muller, so to have prevented the first goal that led to a cascade of goals. But Luiz didn’t, and the rest is history.

            Perfection in every situation is humanly impossible. Humans are essentially imperfect. God alone is perfect. David Luiz may have played many perfect games, but in the most significant game, he failed; he was imperfect.

            But he didn’t fail intentionally. Let’s discern this crucial detail.

            We cannot always be perfect in our lives. I am not alluding to our sinful nature. There are instances where we do not need to sin to be imperfect.

            David Luiz’s imperfect defense, due to a possible lapse in concentration, is a classic case in point. David Luiz did not sin; he didn’t play well enough in that particular situation. Thus he was unintentionally imperfect.

            We will be unintentionally imperfect too. These unintentional imperfections could lead us to fail. These unintentional imperfections need not be sinful.

            A common unintentional imperfection we suffer from is forgetfulness. In India, if we forget to pay our electricity bill, there would come a time when the electricity department would disconnect the power supply to our home.

            Sometimes these power outages could prove disastrous especially if we have to miss out on crucial appointments with reputed clients. Such lapses could cost our jobs and our lives would go south into utter darkness.

            But God is a God of grace and mercy. HE never fails to lead his disciple out of his failure. HE never fails to strengthen HIS disciple to endure the failure.

            We could overcome these unintentional imperfections. God’s grace entails this possibility.

            But the disciple should remain in Christ so to receive God’s guidance and strength, especially during moments of abject failures. Thus, the prayers of Gustavo and David Luiz makes much sense, for it is through prayer we receive strength and wisdom to endure and overcome failures.

Peace In A Ridiculed Life

            The world loves to ridicule those in pain. Due to their abject failure, we can confidently assume that the Brazilian players would receive hate taunts, visits, phone calls, emails, and tweets etc. in plenty.

            Living through ridicule is never easy for anyone. But it is possible to live through this ridicule. How?

            The Bible says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NASB).

            Once again, it’s wise to pray during failures, for when we pray to God, HIS peace fills our hearts and minds, and guards us in Christ Jesus - our Lord and Savior.

Hopeful Life

            Any team can win the 2018 world cup. The winner of 2018 could probably be a team that has never won the world cup. In other words, a team that has failed in this year’s edition could win the next world cup. This is a definite possibility.

            The qualifying competitions for the 2018 world cup in Russia would begin soon. All the teams, the past champions and the future-hopeful, would vie for the top honors. This too is life.

            Germans had not tasted world cup success in two decades. They were in a world cup drought since 1990. But they didn’t give up. They hoped, they trained, they played, and they played exceedingly well to be the most worthy world champions.  

            Do not give up. The Bible teaches that hope is inherent in faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”(Hebrews 11: 1, NASB, Emphasis mine).

            The Bible also teaches that God is a God of hope, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15: 13, NASB).

            So let us continue to discern God’s will for our life and not give up. Let us hope in God and by the grace and the power of God, HIS will will be done in our life.


            I pray that God’s peace and hope would fill all those who earnestly seek it – the Brazilian soccer team, all the other teams that failed in this edition of the world cup, you, and me. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Neymar’s Out; Will God Help Brazil To Win 2014 FIFA World Cup Again?



            Neymar’s out; will Brazil be eliminated from the world cup? Prayers from players and fans alike will plead for a miraculous Brazilian win.

The world cup sequence is obvious. Fans hope their favorite team would win, and players hope for God’s help. It’s a common sight for players to display the sign of the cross or look heavenward while entering and during the game.

            “The walls of hospitals have heard more prayers than the walls of churches” is a quote that’s highly probable. And if I may add, the sporting arenas too have heard more prayers than the walls of churches, though not to the extent of the hospitals.

            The 2002 Brazilian world cup soccer team, after their world cup win, proudly displayed messages such as “Jesus loves you” and “I belong to Jesus.” The team knelt down and prayed in the soccer field.

            The Brazilian soccer team, and in particular Kaka and Lucio, repeated their public display of their love for the living God after their winning performance at the 2009 Confederations cup. FIFA then promptly reminded the Brazilian team of the regulations that awaited them in case of a future repeat of public religious affections.1



            If God helped the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win, then there is a good possibility that HE would help them to win again, isn’t it? But did God help the Brazilians win in 2002? Or does God enable players and team to win? If so, why?

            If we affirm God’s favorable presence in the 2002 Brazilian soccer team’s win, then we should contemplate God’s absence in the failure of the Brazilian soccer teams of 2006 and 2010 world cups. Although avowed Christians, Kaka and Lucio, played in the 2006 and 2010 world cups, the Brazilians failed to win. So the assumption of God helping the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win seems off the mark to begin with. Or is it?

            Let’s get something important out of our way. If God helped the 2002 Brazilian soccer team to win, then did HE help them because they were the only true Christians? In other words, are we to believe that the other teams did not have genuine Christians in them? I would confidently imagine the presence of at least one genuine Christian in the other soccer teams of the 2002 world cup.

The Bible states that God is impartial (Romans 2: 11). If God is impartial, then HE does not play favorites between two genuine Christian players.  

            If God ordained the 2002 Brazilian team to win, then it’s not because of the truthfulness of the Christian(s) in the Brazilian soccer team, but because of God’s greater purpose. Therefore, for some reason the true Christians in the soccer teams did not always win the world cup.

            So much so, in any sport, there is no assurance that true Christians would win always. Why?

            If God ensures wins for true Christians always, then mankind would throng to believe in God only to obtain success (win). Mankind would not approach God for who HE is. God, then, would be a magic potion for success.

            But the Bible mandates mankind to love God more than their own life (Cf. Luke 10: 27). So we could plausibly infer that God does not ensure the Christians to win always. In any case, man winning a worldly glory is always secondary or may I say trivial, in God’s sight (Cf. Matthew 6: 33).  

            Therefore, we can reasonably infer that it’s not God’s primary motive to ensure that true Christians always win.

            We return to the question at hand, which is, would God enable players and teams to win? Because God is sovereign, HE is involved in everything that happens in the universe - world cup soccer included. I mean, for any righteous reason, if the sovereign God does not want a particular team or a person to win, then by no means would that team or that player can win.

            Although a player may or may not believe in God, he cannot win without God’s enablement. Man lives because of God’s enabling presence and power. So from this perspective, we infer that the winners win because of God’s enabling power.

            God gifts man, each one according to HIS will. Cristiano Ronaldo’s earning in 2014 is pegged at $80 million and Lionel Messi’s at $64.7 million.2 These superstars wouldn’t have been superlatively successful without God’s enabling presence.

            But we should concede that only God knows the precise reason(s) for enabling Cristiano Ronaldo to earn more money than Adam Bedell of Columbus Crew who is guaranteed a mere $36, 504 in 2014.3

            Therefore, we may not know why God enabled Ronaldo to be a more successful soccer player than others. But we do know how God enabled him.

            Cristiano Ronaldo’s exceptional skills are the reason he earns more than others. These exceptional skills are God’s gift to Ronaldo. Because God gifts players, some more than the others, we affirm that God enables players and teams to win. 

            But are we sure that God gifts players their exceptional skills? Let’s again consider the Brazilian win of 2002. Many aspects that contributed to that win were out of man’s purview. For instance, had Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho contracted injuries before the finals, similar to the Neymar injury of the present, then they would not have played, and the team may have lost. But that Brazilian team won because all the crucial players were healthy.

            In other words, health is a prerequisite for the expression of skills. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho played because they were healthy. They remained healthy because they were free from accidents and ailments, hence they excelled.

            It’s God who gives man his health and protection. Hence we infer that God is intricately involved in man’s sustenance and success. Therefore, we cannot remove God out of the picture of the 2002 Brazilian world cup win. So God did help Brazilian soccer team to win. 

            Why did God help them to win? What could have been the greater purpose for God in allowing teams and persons to win games?

            If one argues that the purpose for which the 2002 Brazilian soccer team won the world cup was to glorify God in public, then why didn’t they win the world cup in the subsequent years?

            The Brazilian team won the 2002 world cup and 2009 confederations cup, and they promptly displayed their public allegiance to the living God after both their winning performances. So the question as to why they didn’t win the 2006 world cup gains importance. The Brazilians lost in the quarterfinals in 2006. 

            If glorifying God was the primary motive for the 2002 Brazilian triumph, then their losses in 2006 and 2010 seem rather inconsistent to that primary motive. Didn’t God want these players to glorify HIM during the world cups of 2006 and 2010?

            In other words, is God so dependent on man to glorify HIM? It’s true that man should glorify God always, but my question is would God be deprived of something if man fails to glorify God?

            God as a perfect being cannot be deprived of anything, for God’s perfection mandates self-sufficiency. Although man may disappoint God and fail to glorify HIM, God’s purposes and plans would never fail. Hence, God is not dependent on man to glorify HIM always.

            If we term God as Almighty, then by virtue of HIS Almightiness, God cannot be dependent on man for anything, even for man to glorify HIM. So God need not necessarily have ordained a Brazilian win in 2002 for them to glorify HIM before the millions. There could be other reasons best known to God HIMSELF.

            Let’s consider this from another dimension. Does it take greater strength to glorify God after a win or a loss?

            Any Tom, Dick or Harry would be on a holistic high while winning, so all that the winner would need is strong infusion of courage to complement his conviction in God, to glorify God in public.

            On the contrary, the loser would be disappointed and would carry a huge burden and a plethora of questions about his ability, strategy, and future. So the loser would need a greater strength, faith, and courage to complement his conviction in God, to glorify HIM.

            Do remember that we are not discussing the matter of Brazilian win from the perspective of man’s eyes, but we are discussing this from God’s perspective. The question we have asked is why God ordains winners to win. I am thus far arguing that God does not ordain winners to win purely for man to glorify HIM in public.

            So should only winners glorify God and not losers? Does God desire that man glorify HIM when he loses?

            God cares equally about everyone – the winners and losers. God desires everyone to glorify HIM at all times – in success and failures. God desires that winners and losers glorify HIM. But it’s realistic that only an extraordinarily strong person can glorify God during failures.

            In fact, the Bible claims that God’s power is perfected in weakness. Perfected? Do we know what that means? God’s power is fulfilled or accomplished when man glorifies God in his weakness.

            So it does seem to me that God will not enable winners to win only to glorify HIM in public, for God delights more when losers glorify HIM, for that’s when God’s power is perfected.  

            Then why did God ordain the Brazilian win in 2002? The Bible says, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” (Romans 11: 34a, NIV). It’s not for us to know every reason behind God’s action always, unless God so reveals it to us. If God hasn’t revealed it to us, then we may as well be content with the fact that God in HIS love, wisdom and justice, ordains that which HE ordains.

            Finally, what did the Brazilian win of 2002 teach Christians? Do not worry about what may happen to us, but let’s be strong and prepared always to thank and glorify God, irrespective of wins or losses (1 Corinthians 10: 31 & Colossians 3: 17). Sportspeople and mankind in general are to glorify God always – be it in successes or failures.

            I summarize as follows:

            (1) Did God enable the 2002 Brazilian world cup win? Yes.

            (2) Did God ordain a Brazilian win because there were genuine Christians in that team? No.

            (3) Why did God ordain the 2002 Brazilian world cup win? Certainly not because that they were to glorify HIM before millions. In fact, God delights more when losers glorify HIM.

            Last but not the least; we do not know who would win the world cup this year. Even without Neymar, God can enable a Brazilian win. But Brazil may or may not win and it really does not matter in God’s perspective. Christianity is not about worldly success.


            But from our perspective, may the best team win and may God’s name be glorified during wins and losses. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Happens If A Christian Does Not Give Money To The Church?


                  Some Christians are put off by the force of Church’s appeal for money from their congregation. These Churches mandate or threaten or dangle the carrot of God’s blessing or HIS wrath as a motive for their congregation to give. But there are churches, possibly in the minority, who teach their congregation the principle of sacrificial giving and do not demand. 

            Nevertheless, is it mandatory for a Christian to give money to the church? If he does not give, then what happens to him?

            Two terminologies widely used in this context are: Tithe and Offering. “Tithe” is an Old Testament term and it means “tenth” in the Hebrew. It’s the one-tenth of a Christian’s income. The “offering” is over and above the tithe. It’s a specified or an unspecified freewill offering of a Christian.

            The Old Testament specifies God’s mandate to every believer to tithe (Malachi 3: 8-10). But God is spirit and so does not need our money for HIS sustenance. Hence the believer’s money offered to God was to be put into good use for God’s people (Numbers 18: 21-24; Deuteronomy 26: 12).

            Therefore, money collected from God’s people was given to God’s people in various needy situations. Everyone, believers of God and unbelievers, are God’s people (Cf. Matthew 5: 45; Luke 6: 35).

            The third chapter of Malachi specifies God’s curses upon those defaulting on their tithes. This and maybe a few more are exploited by many pastors and elders of the churches to forcibly extract money from their congregation.

            Is tithing applicable today? A contemporary teaching is that tithes are no longer mandatory. This teaching is correct if and only if the emphasis is on “giving” rather than “tithing.” While tithing mandated one-tenth, the concept of giving mandates everything, life included (Romans 12: 1).

            The Christian should not legalize his giving to a mere one-tenth to derive sublime satisfaction, but he should excel to exceed the one-tenth. The Macedonian churches were an epitome of giving; they gave beyond their ability (2 Corinthians 8: 3). This is sacrificial giving.  

            So a vital aspect of a Christian life is to give beyond our ability. The terminology (tithe or giving) is irrelevant. A Christian should not contain his giving to a mere one-tenth, for this betrays sacrificial giving, the greatest epitome of which is Christ HIMSELF, who gave HIS life for us. If we optimize our giving to a mere one-tenth, we betray Christ.  

            Christian giving is not about whether it’s mandatory or not, but it’s a gracious overflow motivated by gratitude to God, concern towards others and extreme joy - of a life dedicated to Christ and HIM alone. But a Christian should not give in expectation of God’s blessings.

            Would God bless those who do not give sacrificially?

            Two situations could be considered. First, when God blesses those who do not believe in HIM, who are we to think that God would not bless those Christians who do not give (Cf. Luke 6: 35)? Second, when God blesses the wicked to prosperity, who are we to think that God would not prosper those Christians who do not give to HIM (Cf. Psalm 73)?

            If we insist that the prosperity of the wicked is outside God’s powerful presence, then we negate God’s sovereignty. Alternatively, we should examine the prosperity of wicked people from within God’s sovereignty. The sovereign God either causes or permits events to occur.

            Therefore, God either causes or allows the blessing of the wicked for reasons best known to HIM but from within HIS attributes - loving kindness and justice. Hence there is a possibility of God’s blessings upon a Christian who does not give sacrificially.

            However, the Bible asserts that a cheerful and a sacrificial giver would be blessed abundantly by the Lord. These verses communicate this truth, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously...for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly…Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion…” (2 Corinthians 9: 6-11, NIV).

            God will abundantly bless (spiritually and/or materially) the sacrificial and a cheerful giver so that he continues to excel in the grace of sacrificial giving, which is always for the glory of God.

            But what would God do to a Christian who is unable to give sacrificially because of his meager income or excessive debt? Consider these two situations. First, a Christian could earn a measly income that he is literally hand to mouth or is unable to pay for his livelihood. Second, a Christian could have become bankrupt after a loss of all his life’s savings.

            If a Christian is living in sustained poverty and so is unable to give sacrificially, then his priorities and questions will be out of the ordinary. Tithes or giving will not be the primary concern of this person, rather the primary concern would be asking very difficult questions about God and anticipating a miraculous intervention from God to deliver him from his painful predicament.

            In both these instances and in similar situations, I am confident that God’s gracious blessings would not cease upon these Christians because of their failure to give sacrificially. In fact, the greater questions of these Christians could be:

            (1) “Where are God’s blessings in my life?”

            (2) “Why does God allow this great pain in my life?

            (3) “How and when would God deliver me from this painful situation?”    

            Would God curse those who do not give sacrificially?

            God in HIS perfect justice can curse anyone, if HE deems them fit to be cursed. In the context of the many verses such as Ephesians 1: 3, I understand that God would not curse someone for not giving sacrificially; instead HE will be patient and will teach them to give sacrificially. These verses summarize my position on this theme, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103: 8 – 10, NIV).

            The Bible does not teach that God will never be angry; instead God is slow to anger. The Bible also teaches that God’s people should give and learn to give sacrificially. So it should be our constant endeavor to give sacrificially.  

            Should a Christian give all his money to his church or can he give it to anyone doing God’s work? If we are a member of a local church, we are a part of the church family. The local church does have its share of expenses, and these expenses should be paid in full and promptly. Hence, it’s our responsibility to support our church financially. In other words, we cannot allow our church to suffer debts.

            Significantly, churches ought to be transparent with its financial records. Any church that does not declare its financial records to its congregation does not deserve money from anyone. Every member of the church possesses inherent rights to question the church authorities about the way the money is being handled.

            The church that does not declare its financial records to its congregation seems untrustworthy. So if I were a member of that church, I would only offer that which I think is due to them for their service to enhance my spirituality. This is synonymous to paying for the movie ticket to watch a movie.

            The church being a congregation of sinners is more often ruled by sinful authorities. These authorities often hold to selfish agendas and the church becomes a victim to Satan’s temptations when it overlooks the genuine needs of those in and outside the church. So if God brings missionaries or mission organizations into a Christian’s life, he should financially support these entities as well.

            What about a Christian who does not give to his church instead supports other deserving missionaries and mission organizations in Christendom? The money the Christian owns is not his, but God’s. It is God who should determine where HIS money should go.

            Therefore, a Christian should discern the will of the Lord in deciding the recipients of his sacrificial giving. If the Christian is confident that God wants him to divert his money to entities other than the local church, then so be it.

            Therefore, there’s nothing wrong in a Christian…

            (1) …giving sacrificially to his church.

            (2) …giving sacrificially to his church and to other deserving entities in God’s Kingdom.

            (3) …not giving anything to his church (if he’s got valid reasons) but diverts his sacrificial giving to other entities in God’s Kingdom, in accordance to God’s will.


            Finally, can the church force the Christian off his money? No. The church should teach their congregation the principle of sacrificial giving and should not demand. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

A Genuine Born-Again Christian Cannot Repent To Reunite With God If He Rejects And Denies Christ


           Can a genuine born-again Christian, who has once been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, and shared in the Holy Spirit, fall away from faith (reject the triune God / Christ)? And after his rejection of God, can he repent to be reunited with God forever?

            A genuine born-again Christian can fall away from faith. The question of the week from the Christian website “gotquestions.org” claims that a Christian cannot lose his salvation.1 The Calvinistic position “once saved always saved” is a partially agreeable position.

            Some Scripture passages affirming the Calvinistic position are: John 6:39-40, John 10:27-30, and Ephesians 1:13-14. These passages communicate truth, hence none can disagree. So a Christian need not lose his faith.

            These passages do not emphasize that a Christian cannot lose his faith, instead they emphasize that a Christian need not lose salvation as long as he believes in Christ.

            If a Christian cannot lose his salvation, then he is locked into his Christian faith. If he is locked into his Christian faith, then he is no longer free.

            But the Bible affirms freedom of the Christian through the affirmation of apostasy, which is to fall away from faith or to reject God / Christ. Hebrews 6:1-8, Hebrews 10:26-31, 2 Peter 2:20-22, James 5:19-20 are some verses affirming apostasy of a Christian. These verses teach that this Christian was genuine to begin with.

            If the Bible teaches that a genuine Christian can lose his faith in Christ, then a genuine Christian has the freedom to lose his salvation. Thus, it is incorrect to state that a genuine Christian cannot lose his salvation under any circumstances. But, a genuine Christian need not lose his salvation.

            The bigger question is whether an apostate or a fallen away Christian can repent and regain his salvation? The Bible teaches that God will forgive all but one sin. That one sin is the “unpardonable sin.” Several Scripture passages speak about the unpardonable sin – Matthew 12: 31-32; Mark 3: 29-30; Luke 12: 10; Hebrews 6: 4-6, 10: 26-27; 1 John 5: 16-17.2

            The nature of the unpardonable sin is as follows:

            (1) The person who commits the unpardonable sin has a clear knowledge of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in Christ.

            (2) This person willfully rejects Christ and HIS activities.

            (3) He insults the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ by attributing it to the work of Satan. 

            So if a person denies the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ, then the Bible teaches that God would not forgive this man. In other words, this person’s heart will be permanently veiled to receive Christ again (Cf. 2 Corinthians 3: 14).

            This person will see but will not see; he will hear but will not hear. Understanding and perception will fail him because of the callousness of his heart. He is beyond forgiveness and healing. This person has lost his salvation once and for all.

            It is also evident that a genuine Christian cannot unintentionally or in a state of momentary blindness reject Christ. The passage in Hebrews states that apostasy occurs deliberately.

            Although apostasy occurs deliberately, can there be a situation where the apostate Christian does not reject Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit?

            Imagine a situation where a genuine Christian loses something / someone he has cherished much - his parents, spouse, children, friends or even property in some cases. Unable to comprehend this situation, he feels lost and as if God let him down badly. So he chooses to disbelieve in God.

            Even in a state of disbelief or suspended belief, he does not insult Christ and the Holy Spirit in any manner whatsoever. Sadness and disbelief remain in him, but anger and hatred for God remains out. When anger and hatred for God remains out of the apostate Christian’s life, he could refrain from attacking or denigrating Christ. This is a safe position.

            When an apostate Christian does not denigrate Christ and the Holy Spirit, he is in a safe position. Picture a situation where a Pharisee heard Christ’s miraculous works and chose to disbelieve in Christ as the promised Messiah.

            This Pharisee did not think or state that Christ’s healing is the work of demons. Although he did not believe in Christ, he did not invoke Satan to substitute Satan for Christ. Though this Pharisee remained an unbeliever, he chose not to denigrate Christ.

            Therefore, if an apostate Christian does not denigrate or blaspheme Christ and the Holy Spirit, he remains safe, and thus has an option to repent and reunite with God. So it seems to me that an apostate Christian who retains a healthy reverence for the triune God, even as an unbeliever, could possibly repent and be united with the Triune God.

            If a genuine Christian can lose his faith in Christ, another question storms to the forefront. Can a genuine Christian possess eternal security or the utmost confidence that he will remain with the Lord forever and ever? In other words, what about the Scripture passages that assures eternal security for a Christian?

            “Remain in me, as I also remain in you…If you remain in me and my words remain in you…” (John 15: 4a, 7), to remain in Christ is the only recourse for the Christian. If a Christian remains in Christ, he will be safe unto eternity. Despite that, the Christian should also believe at all times that the triune God lives in him. To know and believe the presence of the living God in oneself is vital for our salvation.  

            Therefore, if a Christian remains in Christ and understands the presence of God in him, he will possess eternal security and utmost confidence that none can steal him away from God’s presence. Christ always remains in those who believe in HIM. So the believer should fulfill his part by remaining and believing in Christ always – be it in good or bad situations.

            But what dissuades a Christian away from Christ? The answer is, doubt. Lack of understanding of the Bible, adversity, misplaced priorities (e.g. wealth) and pride are good institutions for the proliferation of doubt in a genuine Christian.

            In other words, this Christian dreadfully allows the tangible material benefits to irreparably damage his spiritual union with the living God.

            Then again, the apostasy or falling away of the genuine Christian is due to his failure to remain and believe in Christ. Doubt snakes in as temptation, but when the Christian believes the doubt instead of believing in Christ, he begins to lose faith in Christ.

            When a genuine Christian does not desire and allow the Holy Spirit’s illumination of HIS Word and does not dedicate enough time and effort to understand the Bible, he would fall away at the earliest instance.

            Adversities, large and small, are grand persuaders of apostasy. The devil dangles doubt over the Christian’s life during moments of adversity. The Christian falls when he doubts God or assumes that God has neglected him, which is not a truth for a believer. 

            Misplaced priorities are another agent of doubt in a Christian life. The Christian’s priorities are misplaced when Christ is replaced by other priorities from the core of his life. This is a consequence of not remaining in Christ.            

            When a genuine Christian, in pride, fails to resist the devil, he refuses to listen to God. For instance, the devil may fuel his pride through his extraordinary knowledge. This person then would exalt his knowledge over God. He considers himself cleverer than God.

            Proverbs 1: 7 pertinently describes this person, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Ironically, his exceptional knowledge renders him a fool in the presence of the Almighty God, so much so he refuses God’s wisdom and instruction, which could at times sound simple and foolish, but in reality, not so.

            Is man’s freedom more powerful than God’s sovereignty? Never! Man’s freedom operates within the overarching sovereignty of God. God allows man to choose or reject HIM.

            Can God overpower man? Can God work HIS way in a disobedient man so to fulfill HIS desires? Yes. Jonah’s life is a case in point. Therefore, God remains sovereign always.

            In conclusion, these are the thoughts communicated in this short essay:

            (1) A genuine born-again Christian can reject the Triune God. When he rejects God, he loses his salvation.  

            (2) If those who have rejected Christ continue in their state of rejection, then they will not repent to reunite with God.

            (3) If those who have rejected Christ actively deny Christ, then they have committed the unpardonable sin, and hence cannot repent.

            (4) Those who have rejected Christ but do not deny HIM instead maintain a healthy reverence for Christ could possibly repent to reunite with God.

            (5) Once saved is always saved, provided the believer chooses not to reject Christ.

            (6) Man’s freedom operates within God’s overarching sovereignty.

            (7) God’s sovereignty emphasizes that HE can fulfill HIS plans in a disobedient believer or an unbeliever’s life.

            Last but not the least, Christ will judge everyone. Judgment is Christ’s activity; no one else partakes in judgment. The intent of this essay is not to judge anyone, but merely communicate my thoughts on this subject. Amen.  

Endnotes:

1 http://www.gotquestions.org/questweek.html or http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-lose-salvation.html


2 1 John 5: 16-17 – There is a considerable debate as to whether the death mentioned in this verse has a temporal or eternal connotation. Another similar passage is John 15. Even without these passages, the Scripture teaches that there is an unpardonable sin, which merits an eternal damnation.