Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thank God! Our God changes His mind

         I know this title, "Thank God! Our God changes His mind "  is going to shock some in the Christian community and especially among my friends. Whenever I hear people say that our God is unchanging out of context, it bothered me a bit as it is inconsistent with the Word of God. Some say, "you are not changing the mind of God with your prayers." In other words, what they are saying is that our God is like a frozen-rock; he doesn't move, doesn't change, doesn't show compassion, doesn't answer your prayers, because he cannot change. Although they may not say in the same words, yet it conveys that message. If God is not going to change his mind, then why pray? If a person is sick and ready to die, and if God is not going to change, why pray to a God who does not change based on your prayer. In one breath, they say, "God is not going to change based on your prayer," and in the next, they say, "Fast and pray that God will (change his mind and) heal my loved one."

People usually take the following verse out of context to say God will never change his mind. "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19). The context here is important. Israel's enemy, Balak, king of Moab, is bribing the disobedient prophet Balaam to put a curse on God's people. In the first Oracle from God, Balaam spoke, "How can I curse whom God has not cursed?" (Numbers 23:8). God desires to bless Israel and not to curse them. But Balak repeatedly tried through Balaam to put a curse on Israel. Balak tried to bribe Balaam to put a curse on Israel. Balak knew how God blessed Israel with all the victories he gave against their enemies. God is not going to change his mind to curse Israel because of the bribes. In that context, God said to Balak through Balaam, "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" (Numbers 23:19). See also, Numbers23:19, Isaiah 46:9-11, 1 Samuel 15:29, Ezekiel 24:14. If you read the word of God out of context, you can come up with whatever you want. Another principle, one should understand is that God's Word does not contradict itself. I can understand the reason for their position, and I agree with them to some extent, but it is only a half-truth. I thank God for he is unchanging as a promise-keeping, trust-worthy, compassionate, impartial, righteous, merciful, and just God. A part of being compassionate, kind, and merciful is to change one's mind. If one's heart (mind) is hardened to hear the pleas for help, it is not compassion.

 When God changes his mind, it does not mean his character and his attributes were changed. When God changes his mind, it does not mean he is not sovereign, omniscient, or omnipotent. It also does not mean he learned something new that he didn't know before. I agree,  Our God knows everything. Psalmist writes, "For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether" (Psalms 139:4).  I fully agree with God's foreknowledge. In fact, He knows every bit of our life. "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them" (Psalms 139:16).  It would be hard for us to explain God's foreknowledge, which we do not have. But from our standpoint (without the foreknowledge), God did change his mind (of course he knows all that before hand because of foreknowledge) in the case of Moses, Hezekiah, and Ninevites. It only means he is compassionate, loving, and merciful. God's core attributes will not change. When God says as in Malachai 3:6, "For I the Lord do not change...", it means that his attitude towards sin and judgment has not changed. Read the previous verses for the context. "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3:5). Again the context is important.

 The unconditional covenants or promises of God will never change. Then there are conditional statements that are contingent on the behavior of the people. In some places, God says, if you do this, I am going to bless you. If you disobey, I am going to punish you. In some cases, God does not have to be explicit in saying the conditional statement. Sometimes the context implies that there is a conditional statement. What is the point of Jonah preaching to Ninevites if they are going to die in 40 days? 

 Ninevites changed the mind of God

"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you....Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:2-4). Then when the people of Nineveh repented, God spared them from the disaster.  "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (Jonah 3:10). Jonah was not happy that God changed his mind. He complained to God, "for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (Jonah 4:2).

 Moses Changed the mind of God

Let's look at this pericope from  Exodus. "And the Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation." Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God ... (Exodus 32:9-11). "So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people" (Exodus 32:14). God was angry with the people of Israel for their sins. It is righteous anger. Yet, God showed mercy when Moses pleaded with God, and "the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people."  I do not think any of us will say God is unjust for changing his mind not to harm Israelites.

 Hezekiah Changed the mind of God

"Thus says the Lord: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.'" (2 Kings 20:1). When Hezekiah prayed to God to heal him, God changed his mind. In fact, God asked the prophet Isaiah to make a "U-turn" and go back to tell Hezekiah that he changed his mind.  "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of David your Father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord (2 Kings 20:5).

God is not learning anything new. God is not saying, oops! I am sorry, I made a mistake.  When he changes his mind, he is not lying. When he changes his mind, it is to show compassion and mercy. In all these instances and many more in the Bible, God changed his mind.  God the Father did not change his mind when Jesus prayed to take away the cup from him.  "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

This article is to provide a better understanding of the attributes of God as he changes his mind to show compassion, mercy, and goodwill if we ask in his will.  God will not change his mind if what we are asking is not the best for us. Of course, as a finite being, I cannot fully understand an infinite God. My desire is to give you hope in the Lord to pray like Hezekiah, Moses, and the Ninevites.


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Monday, July 27, 2020

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord..?

Imagine you are planning to build a building. The taller you want the building, the deeper and stronger you want to make the foundation. You want to use the right materials in the right proportions to form the foundation.  Otherwise, you know, whatever you build on it will not be able to sustain it. Lately, California, Japan, and other places where the risk of earthquakes are high, the buildings are designed to move less and withstand in case of an earthquake. The foundation is critical to hold the building in case of an earthquake, hurricane, or other disasters.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is like a foundation. You need your faith to be strong to withstand all that the enemy throws at you in your life. This reminds me of the beautiful hymn, "How firm a foundation..."

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?


Obedience to the Word of God is like a firm foundation.  Jesus said, "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it" (Matthew 7:24-27).

If you are a person who hears God's Word and does not act upon it, you are building your house on the sand.  When life's calamities come upon you, is your foundation going to withstand?  I do not know what kind of storms you are facing, financial hardship, loss of a job, sickness, etc. In stressful situations, cling to the cross of Christ where there is hope.

 The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ is the sure foundation. "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:11-14).

In summary, the firm foundation, a foundation that can withstand,  is Jesus Christ and obedience to His Word.

 Let me close with another favorite hymn:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.       

             On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;

All other ground is sinking sand,

  All other ground is sinking sand.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

What is hell like? [Everyone should know]

Many people do not want to talk about hell. Some people ignore it as folklore as if it will go away. But the reality is that hell is as real as heaven. The Bible describes hell as an eternal place of torment, “prepared for the devil and his angels.” It describes hell as a place where the fire will never be quenched. John the Baptist declares, “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12).  Isaiah gives a similar description of hell. “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh” (Isaiah 66:24). Jeremiah writes, circumcise your hearts, “…lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds” (Jeremiah 4:4).

Jesus describes it as a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). What does it mean that “their worm does not die?” I believe these worms are maggots that usually feed on dead tissue (some on live tissue). When describing the fate of the King of Babylon (Antichrist), Isaiah writes, “Your might and power were buried with you.  The sound of the harp in your palace has ceased.  Now maggots are your sheet, and worms your blanket”  (Isaiah 14:11).

Jesus also taught about hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. He will answer those who rejected His salvation saying, “...I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:27-28). The hell is also a place of torment. Jesus described the agony of the rich man, “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame’ ( Luke 16:24).

This torment in hell is not for an hour, not for a day, not for a year, not for a hundred years, but forever and ever. It is a place of no return. Some people take comfort in an imaginary purgatory. The Bible does not mention such a temporary place. Abraham said to the rich man, “...besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26).

The body is merely the physical house in which we live. The apostle Paul calls it a tent. At death, we move out of this tent. The real you is the spirit inside this tent. The important thing is what happens to the spirit after it has left the body. Where is it going? The lake of fire was made for the Devil and his angels. You choose your final destination.

In Summary, the hell is a place of torment where the spirit of a person infested with maggots,  surrounded by unquenchable fire, desiring to cool his tongue with a drop of water and will be weeping and gnashing his teeth without any hope in isolation.  You must make the decision in this life where you will spend eternity after your death. You do not get a second chance after death.

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you may ask how can I get saved.  The Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved...” (Acts 16:31). In fact, no one knows what happens tomorrow. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Dear friend, if you do not believe in the existence of hell, you are calling Jesus Christ a liar. Just for the sake of reasoning, look at the implications; if you do not believe in hell, and if hell is real, you will go there. Think again! This article is by no means to scare anybody. With a great burden in my heart for souls, I am writing this to warn of the danger.  If you are a saved person, will you share this message with someone who does not know Jesus as their personal savior or does not believe in hell?

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