Category: Faith


Heaven stories | Ask Pastor Time

Some people say they have died, seen heaven or even God himself for a few seconds or minutes and come back to life after. Can we believe such statements?

As a young boy, I lost my grandfather whom I was very close to, and only until recently, never was sure that he became a Christian and whether he was in heaven or not (praise God, my aunty recently confirmed that he did accept Christ before his passing, and that at the hospital, after he passed, I (aged 4) pointed out the window and said that I saw him going up to heaven). As a young man, I was also fascinated by a Robin Williams movie, “What Dreams May Come,” which was about someone dying and going to heaven (of course, from a non-Christian and very imaginative, almost-Buddhist like concept of nirvana, enlightenment).

Recently, there was a movie based on a book “Heaven is for Real,” about a pastor’s three-year-old son who, after a near-death experience (NDE), started to share accounts of visiting heaven and meeting God. The book has crossed sales of more than a few million. However, several Christians have been critical of its contents and claims. One scholar, Hank Hanegraaff, has written an excellent piece on this. Here’s a summary.

  1. NDEs are predictably contextualized by the backgrounds and belief systems of those who experience them.
  2. The subjective recollections of NDErs are wildly divergent and mutually contradictory.
  3. There is a substantive difference between clinical death and biological death.
  4. There is a clear and present danger in turning to NDErs rather than the Bible respecting those things that allegedly will happen in the future.
  5. While Christ does not tell us the time of His second appearing, some NDErs are more than happy to!
  6. Among the biblical writers who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.21), not one dared say that like their Lord they could speak authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge.
  7. In Acts 14, Luke chronicles the near-death experience of Paul. While it may have been useful to concoct a miraculous resurrection from the dead in the narrative, Luke does no such thing.
  8. Some NDErs are greatly biased by the subjective specter of hyperliteralism.
  9. Psychological factors, including fantasy proneness, may play a part in some NDEs.
  10. Finally, there is the very real issue of apostolic authority. In point of fact, with the death of the apostles, there can be no new revelations.

Read the full article here.

In summary, there are things that God has revealed about heaven in the Bible, and there are things not revealed. Ultimately, we have to trust and rely on God’s unchanging and unfailing word, that is sufficient for life and salvation. The other issue is about predicting or claiming to know when Christ will return again.

In Matt. 24.36-51, Jesus Himself says

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man … Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come … So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant … It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Jesus reminds us not to be overfixated on knowing about the afterlife, future or speculate about His 2nd coming. Rather, we are to remain watchful, ready and faithful. May God grant us the strength and wisdom to live lives worthy of Him and His gospel whilst we are here on earth. For those who have lost loved ones, may God’s grace be sufficient, and His comfort surround us, with the hope and confidence of one day being reunited with God in heaven.

#askpastortime

Holy oil blessings | Ask Pastor Time

Recently, there were pictures and a video of a local megachurch pastor praying over bottles of oil and blessing them, with the purpose of distributing, selling them to his church members. This is not the first time this occurred; a quick search shows a similar video in November last year.

One of my church youth committee members asked, “Legit’ or not?” Is this real, and is the oil really blessed, anointed with power from God?

This reminds me of one of the issues that Martin Luther had against the RC church prior to the Protestant Reformation. Bottles of holy water believed to be blessed by the Pope were being sold to commoners in villages, as a result of an abuse of the local clergy/church and no access to God’s word and biblical truths/teachings.

Acts 8.9-24 records an incident regarding Simon the sorcerer who practiced magic arts and was called “the Great Power of God”. After he believed and was baptized, he observed the apostles laying hands and blessing others with the Holy Spirit, and offered money to have the same authority.

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! … Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.
Acts 8:20‭, ‬22 NASB

http://bible.com/100/act.8.20-22.NASB

Peter reminded that we cannot obtain God’s power through material gain, and that we all need the forgiveness of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, as the basis of salvation.

Since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, God has left us with 2 spiritual resources, namely the Holy Spirit and the Bible, God’s word. We can have direct access to God through repentance and faith, and as the early Reformers affirmed, there should only be 5 solas (from Latin, sola, lit. “alone”):

  • Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone)
  • Sola fide (by faith alone)
  • Sola gratia (by grace alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ alone)
  • Soli Deo gratia (glory to God alone)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_solae

Praise God for His Word and Spirit, and that we do not need and should not pursue anything less than God Himself. Physical, human objects have no power in and of themselves, and we should be wise and discerning not to be tempted or stumbled to focus on such “idols” or superstitions, that might end up replacing God as the center of our lives.

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Choose life

​Choose life … The LORD is your life. Choose to live for Christ!
Deut. 30.15-20 NASB

Strength & courage

What do you find yourself often praying for each day? What do you often need yet find lacking in your life? Do you ever ask God for strength? Do you need courage in your present situation? In difficult times in our life, do we find ourselves often crippled or plagued by fear and discouragement? Do we succumb to temptation in our moments of weaknesses?

God’s word reminds us, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isa. 40:30, 31) How do we hope in the Lord? By focusing on the promises in His Word, as well as remembering what He has done for us and for the world.

What are the energy-sappers in your day-to-day routines? Sometimes it could be difficult people, or trials and troubles, or perhaps a seemingly impossible situation. The Lord Himself has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6, 8). Take heart, knowing that God is with you in your situation, and that He goes before you, journeying with and strengthening you every step of the way.

I have always found it interesting that courage and encouragement go hand in hand. In today’s passage (Josh. 1:1-9), God reminds Joshua not to be afraid nor be discouraged, but to be strong and courageous. May God and His Word continue to grant you courage to face the day, uncertain as it may be, because God’s Spirit is within us, filling us and empowering us for whatever lies ahead.

The psalmist writes, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear … Be still, and know that I am God … The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Ps. 46:1-2, 10-11) May we find our true rest and help in God our rock, and echo the word of the hymn, “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow … Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

Visions and dreams

Daniel 2 records one of many dreams mentioned in the Bible. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which he used to test all his wise men, asking them to tell him his dream and interpret it, or else all the wise men in Babylon were to be put to death. The patriach Joseph was sold into slavery because he shared his dream of his family bowing down to him in worship. In Acts 10, Peter has a great vision of God instructing him to kill and eat all kinds of animals prohibited in Jewish dietary laws, ushering in the sharing of the gospel to Gentiles as part of God’s sovereign plan of salvation.

In history, there have been famous dreams as well, one being Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I have a dream” in Washington 53 years ago, calling for an end to racism in the United States, in the height of the American civil rights movement. It has also been recorded in many of Albert Einstein’s biographies that his famous theory of relativity was formulated through a series of dreams he had. Closer to home, it was primarily through the dream of one of our founding fathers, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and the vision of a modern, successful and independent Singapore, that propelled the birthing and development of the nation we call home for the past 50+ years.

Do you have a vision or dream from the Lord? Here we are not talking about prophetic visions in the same vein as recorded in the Book of Daniel, nor modern entanglements and abuses of prophetic or sign-gift ministries, primarily marked by the rise of charismatic church movements around the globe. Through our lives as Christians, dare we ask God to grant us a clear vision for our lives and families, for our church and ministries, even for our nation and perhaps the world? Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no revelation (vision in KJV), the people cast off restraint (or perish); but blessed is he who keeps the law.”

In your daily reflection and meditation on God’s Word, does God continue to speak to you and direct your paths according to His ways and purposes? Do we serve the Lord in various ministries out of clear God-given convictions, knowing what God wants us to do, and where He is leading us? Do we go about our daily lives with a sense of practicing God’s presence and being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and guidance? May our faithfulness and obedience to His Word lead to God’s name being lifted high and exalted, as in the case of the king after Daniel interpreted his dream with God’s help, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” (Dan. 2:47)

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