March 2012


This is an extract of a recent sharing from a friend regarding the story of Lot

The story of Lot fleeing the destructions of the city of Sodom holds many lessons for Christians today. The reason is because our world is very similar to the city of Sodom. This is especially true in the last days. As Jesus once said this

Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” – Jesus (Lk 17:28-30)

In fact, the cities of Sodom is one of the most affluent cities of their time, full of activities  and sin. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is one of the more advance civilisation of their time, yet God judged them for their sin to let people understand the judgement of God. Jude once said

“as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” – Jude (Jude 8)

Indeed the similarities between our world and the city of Sodom seems so parallel

  1. It was a nation that do not fear God
  2. It is full of sin
  3. It is sexually immoral

Their sins had reach God in heaven, and so God came down to take a look at the city to see if their sins are really that bad.

There God remembered the prayers of Abraham and rescued the righteous Lot from the city. He knew that as a righteous man, the sin tormented Lot just as much as it affects God (2 Pet 2:7-8)

After the angels had brought Lot out of the city, God gave specific instructions to Lot about how he ought to save himself. These instructions are still very relevant to Christians today.

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”angels (Gen 19:17)

Lets examine it one by one

1. Escape for your life!

The first instructions of  God to Lot is to run for his life.  Not to linger in the city. Likewise, in the last days, God sent his angels calling out to his people who are still dwelling in Babylon

“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” – Elder John (Rev 18:4-5)

His chosen people are a people that dwell alone, not being part of this world (Num 23:9) Therefore very often Christians are in the world but not of the world.

Let us live in a manner that we are ready to leave the city of Sodom anytime.

2. Do not look behind you

While we are looking at the story of Lot, we find that Lots faith in the words of God pretty lacking. When God gave Lot a command to flee, he actually lingered in the city of Sodom. Gen 19:16)

Sometimes people may be wondering, why is it so hard for Lots to leave the city of Sodom? So far we can gather a few reasons

2.1 . Unable To Leave His Reputation And Career Behind

We know the Abraham and Lot started out as Shepherd boy, they spitted at Gen 12:8-12. From there you can see Lot is a character who cared a lot about material procession. In that instance, he choose the land of Zoar for his flock instead of allowing his uncle Abraham to choose the land.

Slowly Lot started to pitch his tents closer and closer to the city of Sodom. Slowly Lot moved and stay in the city of Sodom. He must have started to supply the people in the city of Sodom, and got himself more and more rich.

In ancient cultures, shepherd are lowly profession, so it is not difficult to imagine Lot feeling the pull to the wealth and prosperity in the city of Sodom. Finally he started to move into the city of Sodom.

By the time when the angels enters Sodom, Lot was sitting at the gate (Gen 19:1). This is a very significant thing, it is hard for us to imagine. In the ancient days, the city gate plays an important role in City Administration, whenever there is a trade dispute, or a case that needs to be judged, the matter will be taken to the elders who are sitting at the gate.

So to be seated at the gate, indicated that Lot is a man of repute in the city. He had a thriving business and he was also given the roles of the town official. Which is not surprising as Lot is a righteous man and he stands up among the people here.

Lot must have find it hard to leave behind his career and reputation as an elder in the city.

Sometimes, as Christians in the world, Some of us will have reputation, and careers that are of a high social status,  do we love our status more than God? As we are working hard in this world accumulative wealth, have we  esteem our citizenship in heaven?

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” –Paul (Php 3:20-21)

While we are busy establishing our careers, and gaining reputation, let us not forget that everything on earth will all pass away one day. So let us hold on to that everlasting hope in heaven.

2.2 . Unable To Leave His Friends And Relationship

In the city of Sodom, is  not just the place where Lot works, it is also the place where his family dwell. So it is natural that Lot has friends in the city, and as far as the bible records, he had 2 sons in law which had married his daughters. (Gen 19:7-8,14)

Sometimes in our walk of faith, our inter personal relationships may hinder our faith. We know of people who studied the truth and found it, but were unable to be christians because they cant bear to go against their family. There are some who are unwilling to leave their previous religion because of the ties they have with their old religion

Hence in our walk of faith, do we have relationships that may hinder our relationship with God? Let us consider what Jesus said

“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.” – Jesus (Lk 18:29-30)

2.3 . Lot Cannot Bear To Leave His Riches and Procession

All long, Lot had loved his riches and procession, which is why he choose the plains of Zoar for his flock. In fact I believe that Lot must have even more procession compared to the past.

God gave the instructions, to the family of Lot because God knows that he will tend to look back.  There are simply so many things that they have in the city.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – John (1 Jn 2:15)

3. Do Not Stay Anywhere in the Plain

This is one interesting command from God, in every calamity, we are often taught to go out to the open, where it is safe. I remember whenever they conducted fire drill at my old workplace , we are often told to evacuate the office and to find a open space where no falling objects could hit us.

Yet in this case, Gods command is contrary to normal human logic. Perhaps God is trying to shield them as he is going to send fire and brimstone down from heaven.

But Paul once mentioned about the end of the days

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” – Paul (1 Thess 5:1-4)

So just when everyone thinks that it is safe, that is when sudden destruction will come to them.

Therefore God left this instruction for Lot and his family.

 

4. Escape To The Mountains

Gods instructions to Lot and his family is to flee to the mountains, in the bible, there are a few mountains that are of interest to us Christians.  This mountain is non other than Mount Zion just as Prophet Joel once said

“And it shall come to pass
  That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
  Shall be saved.
  For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
  As the Lord has said,
  Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.” – Joel (Joel 2:32)

Mount Zion is non other than Jerusalem when the temple of God is, in the past, whenever the people needs to be in the presence of GOd they enter this mountain. There the spirit of the Lord dwells with the people 

The Zion of the modern day is non other than the church of the living God, where the holy spirit dwells, just like what the Author of Hebrews says

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly   Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” – Author of Hebrews (Heb 12:22-24 )

So Gods final instructions to man was to flee to the safety of the mountains. Will we heed that call?

5. The Aftermath

In fact, although Lot is a righteous man, his faith was not that strong, while God left him 4 important instruction, he is seen to be striking a deal with God, instead of fleeing to the mountains he fled to a town called Zoar.

In fact the family of Lot did not take heed of the commands of God, Lots wife took the pleasure of disobeying God and turn into the pillar of salt.

Finally, his daughters were corrupted by the practice they see in the city of Sodom and they committed incest with their father.

God was fair to save the family of Lot, but we can see that although God has given specific instructions to help preserve Lot and his family. Generally the family of Lot suffered greatly from their lack of faith.

The bible attested to the righteousness of Lot (2 Pet 2:6-8) , as well as the failure of Lot. Let us as modern Christians  learn from the experienced of Lot, and let us keep the four commands of God in  our hearts. That it will save us from the impending judgement of God

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As shared on our First Post, we will be looking at the following characters

1. King Saul (1 Sam 15, 1618)
2. Judas Iscariot (Jn 12,13, Matt 26,27)
3. Ananias And Sapphira (Acts 5)

Today we would be looking at Ananias and Sapphirra, the couple that was described  in the book of Acts 5:1-11

Their story is short and easy to understand, but there are a few facts that we need to understand

Why Did The Early Christians Sell Their Lands?

It is generally believed that when Christianity first started,  in that upper room in Jerusalem at Acts 2, the early believers believe that the Lord is coming in a matter of years as their memories of Jesus when he is taken up to heaven is so fresh. So therefore, the church in Jerusalem then was a community church where everyone stayed and lived together, breaking of bread end having fellowship together daily.

Faithfully waiting for the end to come. This could be seen in the Acts many times (Acts 2:40-47, Acts 4:32-37)

At that time, it is common for members who had land and processions to sell them off and to distribute them to the church members in need. In Acts 4:36-36, tells us of a Levite name Joses (Barnabas) he also sold his land and brought the money to the apostles.

It is interesting as Levites do not have land in Israel, their allocated land is actually within the cities of refuges In those days, Christians who are willing to do this were highly respected by the members (Num 35:1-5)

However, as Barnabas is from Cyprus, it makes me wonder whether did he own the land in Cyprus or not.  Perhaps he did and he went back home just to sell it or he could have really had a land in Israel where he sold it.

But nonetheless, his offering was so great that God has recorded it in the bible for us to learn. I guess that this act of love may have been so great and won many praises from the members within the church.

The Sins Of Ananias and Sapphirra

We have to take note that the selling of properties and giving to the church is a voluntary acts, not by compulsion.  There is no commands from the apostles for the members to donate all their money to the church.

We have spoken that the act of the donation of all the money attracts attention of all the members of the church.

The real sin of Ananias and Sapphire is not about the fact that they did not offer 100%, God has given them the free will to offer up whatever amount they wanted.

In order to understand their sin, let us look at what Peter said to Ananias.

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?  While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”- Peter (Acts 4:3-4)

Can you imagine how shocked the church will be, when they saw this new guy called Ananias who was doing the big sacrifice and all he got a rebuke from Peter.

Ananias allowed a the devil to fill his heart. He wanted to deceive the Holy Spirit. He thinks God is unaware of his deceitfulness, So he planned with his wife Sapphirra to keep a portion of the proceed but yet “market it as the full price” (Acts 5:1-2)

His Wife Sapphira was aware of it, and kept quiet and decided to cooperate with her husband to deceive the Holy Spirit.

This is a grave sin before God as Jesus once said

“Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter;  but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” – Jesus (Mk 3:28-29)

It is precisely the sin that Ananias and Sapphira committed.

The Judgement From God

As Ananias is the main perpetrator of the sin, God judged him the moment he brought the gifts at the feet of the Apostle Peter.  He died on the spot, and the people carried him out.

Great fear fell upon the church.

Three hours later, Sapphira his wife entered the church, that is when God decided to give her a chance to repent, Peter asked

“Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”  – Peter (Acts 5: 8 )

Unfortunately, her answer was yes, which is then God executed his judgement on Sapphira.

I am sure the members of the church must have been sad when they heard Sapphira lie. And so from the incident God taught the church never to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.

Being Truthful In The Church

Before Paul Penned down the famous words “ Nor Give Place To The Devil”

“Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another” – Paul (Eph 4:25)

Christians are suppose to be children of God, and not children of the devil. Lets take a look at what Jesus says

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Being the children of God let us not emulate the devil who is the liar and the father of Lies, for if we are deceitful we would have leave a foothold for the devil to work.

Offering Completely

Although as I have said that Ananias is not required to have offered up everything, but it would have been a offering delightful to the Lord. if he indeed offered up all the proceeds willingly and happily.

This brings us back to the story of Cain and Abel. Cain brought God an offering of the fruit for the ground. but God did not accept Cain’s offering.

Among the text for the word that describe the offering of Cain is ליהוה

(Minichah, which had a root meaning of “”Apportion” ) seems to suggest that Cain was only offering a portion of his fruits.

When God refused his offering, he was downcast and God said to Cain

“Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” – YHWH (Gen 4:6-7)

If we learnt to offer to God with our best and to offer it completely, God is ever willing to accept the offering.  God gave Cain a warning that sin is lying at his door and he wants Cain to rule over it.

But on the contrary, Cain allowed his jealousy to grow, giving place to the devil and finally, when the sin is fully conceived,  he brought forth death, where he killed Abel with the stone.

This lead to Cain losing his relationship from God.

At the end of the day

We have studied so many example of negative examples of people giving place for the devil to work.

Let us learn to listen to the voice of God,  let us take heed of Pauls warning not to give place for the devil.

For giving place to the devil will cost us our walk with God, so that we would be disqualified from the ultimate prize that we want to get, which is eternal life with God.

As a conclusion, let us read that short simple warning from Paul once again,

“nor give place to the devil.” – Paul (Eph 4:27 )

Today at a sharing , there is a friend who shared a mini sermon regarding blessings, in general his points are as follows

1. Jesus came to this world to give us a more abundant life. (Jn 10:10)
        a. A more abundant life is not just riches
        b. It is blessing of all sorts

2. In order to get a more abundant life, there are 2 aspects that was discussed
        a. Putting God first
               i. He quoted Haggai 1:1-11 saying that Israelites do not put God first
               ii. Hence they do not have their blessing (Hag 1:6)

        b. Obedience to Gods word (Tithing as an Example)
               i. Blessings can turn into curse (Mal 2:1) if one disobey God
               ii. Tithing is a way to get Gods blessing (Mal 3:10-11 )
                       a. God will rebuke the “devourer” if you do.

The principles shared are not exactly wrong, God do bless the people who offered offerings and followed his teachings. But then to stop at blessings will make our faith appears shallow, as our relationship with God deepens we follows the teachings of God and offers to him out of a heart of love for the Lord.

Personally I find that a few points being misinterpreted,  and thus requires further clarifications.

1. Abundant Life Refers to Eternal life

Jesus  in Jn 10:7-21, indicated that he is the door of the sheep and if anyone enters through that door, he will be save.

We know that mankind has lost their relationship with God, and they live a life of hopelessness and alienation from God. So they are dead spiritually. Jesus is here to save the soul of the people, so that they can once again receive that life that was dead in the eyes of God.

Therefore, the abundant life here refers to the life of being free from sin and having the status of the son of God once again.

2. The Times Of The Book Haggai

My friend said that the Israelites then were too busy with their own lives after they return from captivity in Babylon and they were not putting God as the centre of their lives.

Which is why they dwell in Panelled houses while the temple of God lies in ruin.

Personally I feel that it is not a fair comment. For let us read what happened to the exiles who return from captivity, from an eye witness account. From the book of Ezra the Priest.

Just a quick summary of Ezra,

Ez 1 : Talks about the order from Cyrus for the Jews to return to Jerusalem to build the temple

Ez 2: Tells us the list of the exiles who return with Zerubbabel.

Ez 3: The exiles started their worship, and started work rebuilding temple on second momths

Ez 4: Opposition to the work started, they wrote a letter to halt the restoration

This is what Ezra said

“Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” – Ezra The Priest (Ez 4:23-24)

Therefore to say that they were too busy with their lives and not putting God first into their lives, its really unfair, in fact the first things done by the Exiles is to restore worship and to build the temple.

Perhaps they had grown afraid and discouraged so they remarked “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” (Haggai 1:2)

This problems is only resolved after God spoke to the people through Haggai the prophet as remarked by Ezra later

“Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak] rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them” -Ezra The Priest (Ez 5:1-2)

It is fair to say that the Jews had lost heart to build the temple in face of all the oppositions. In fact after the temple was rebuild, the Jews still suffered greatly, as describe in the book of Nehemiah

“The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” – Hanani (Neh 1:3)

In fact, after repenting and turning back and putting God first, physically their lives are still full of difficulties.

The message of Haggai is to encourage the Jews to finish the work of the temple and to give them a promise that their new temple will be more glorious than the old. (Haggai 2:9)

3. Tithing And Blessings

3.1 Purpose Of Tithing

Tithing is a special type of system where people of GOd gave 1/10 of what they have to God. The first person who tithes was Abraham after he finished the battle between the 4 kings and the 5 kings (Gen 14:20)

It is found in the laws of Moses on 4 parts
1. Lev 27:30-32 : It belongs to God but can be redeemed
2. Num 18:21-32 : They are Gods portion to the Levites and priest (to be taken by them)
3. Deut 14:22-29 : Moses Summarised how Tithing works
4. Deut 26:12-13 : They are given to Priest as well as to help the poor

The book of Malachi is a rebuke from God to the people whom failed to keep this law, hence God challenged them to do it and see how he will bless them (Mal 3:10-11 )

This law was still kept by the Pharisees till Jesus time

3.2 Tithing In The New Testament

 There were some comments that Tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament Actually when JEsus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees, he did say that they should emphasis on the more important aspect of the Law while not forgetting the simple rules like tithing

““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” – Jesus (Matt  23:23

Of course, in both the Old and new testament, God is never that particular about what he receives, though he demanded the OT people to pay tithes so as to help the priest maintain their livelihood.

In fact, whatever we can offer to God is only what he had already given us, and we should offer with a willing heart.

3.3 The Heart Of Offerings 

To Illustrate the attitude in offering, I guess I will just quote a few verses for our reference , spoken by the saints of Old

“But who am I, and who are my people,
  That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
  For all things come from You,
  And of Your own we have given You.” – David (1 Chron 29:14)

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
  And bow myself before the High God?
  Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
  With calves a year old?
   Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
  Ten thousand rivers of oil?
  Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
  The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

   He has shown you, O man, what is good;
  And what does the Lord require of you
  But to do justly,
  To love mercy,
  And to walk humbly with your God?” -  Micah (Mic 6:6-8)

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
  As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
  And to heed than the fat of rams.
   For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
  And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Samuel (1 Sam 15:22-23)

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly
  will also reap sparingly, and he who sows
  bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let 
  each one give as he purposes in his heart,
  not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – Paul (2 Cor 9:6-7)

Let us learn to offer to God in all circumstances, and doing it out of love of God. While it is not wrong for us to hope and anticipate blessing, but let us learn to have the right heart and the right attitude when it comes to offering to God.

Let us learn to do it to God purely out of the love of God.