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Saturday, 17 October 2015

Lord, I Just Don't Have It!

Despite that too many people in this country play down the Bible, calling it a book of myths, fiction, or merely a collection of allegorical stories to boost morality, there is some advice which, to be honest, can be astonishingly accurate. It is considered important enough to be recorded twice: in Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11, and the wording is exactly the same in both cases - 
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Even if it is believed that the writers of the New Testament has wildly exaggerated their "miracles" Jesus said to have performed to add a bit of colour to what might otherwise been dull documentation, nothing could have brought out the truthfulness of the advice given than by watching Alan Sugar's The Apprentice, (the British version of The Apprentice USA, with Donald Trump.) What makes this business selection process such popular entertainment is the continual humbling of the eighteen candidates, each vying for the £250,000 investment prize to launch a new business. Each of these candidates - nine men and nine women - have enormous egos, and believing that they can make themselves multi-millionaires, even billionaires by investing the prize money to start a new enterprise which would attract customers galore. Their self confidence, arrogant "me first" attitude becomes a sitting duck for the most appalling ridicule, the butt of jokes, and ongoing teasing. One male candidate boasted that he is the modern Alexander the Great, out to conquer the world of business and enterprise. As things turned out, he was the first of the eighteen to be fired.

Apprentice candidates in the Boardroom

Yeah, right...

At the end of each episode, when the fired candidate walks solemnly out of the studio, the national population watches with glee, a degree of gloating in which lies the expression, serves him right. Not quite so high and mighty now - as melancholic music plays over the defeated candidate as he or she climbs into one of Sugar's limousines to be driven home. But none of this deters the fierce pride and competitiveness among those who return to the house. Instead, these remaining candidates looks to me to be the very backbone of Britain - London and the Home Counties in particular. This was aptly demonstrated a few years ago when the male team named itself Team Empire. Indeed to conquer the world of trade and enterprise, and to hold dominance.

This sort of oozing self-confidence has made me wonder if church leaders would vie to have such a candidate stand at the pulpit on a Sunday morning. There is something intrinsically alluring about having a fellow in a business suit delivering a preach - whether it's expounding the Bible, giving an exhortation, or merely testifying of his missionary accomplishment. For some reason or another, a chap who wears a suit to work depicts status, a good education, along with a mental and emotional capacity to hold down a profession carrying responsibilities - and is perceived by church leaders as the only kind of vessel from whom the Holy Spirit can minister to the listening congregation.  

The best teacher is experience itself. One example of this occurred in 1997, soon after returning home from a ten-week Round-the-World trip. As I stood at the front to testify about my travel experience, I made a mention about the Second Advent of Christ as King, suggesting that this may be soon in human history. After the service was over, I asked a friend why he stood up in defense of my speech. His answer was that he became flustered by the whispering among the seats behind. They were asking among themselves how could I possibly have any knowledge of eschatology if I was a mere labourer, who earned a living cleaning windows. Indeed, manual labour and higher education certainly don't mix! Or for that matter, a few years earlier when our Elders (not with us any more) refused to let me teach a class, in favour of someone who worked in an office. 

But does one with a higher education really make a better vessel for the Holy Spirit? As was the case of one graduate who I know reasonably well. Here was someone young enough to be my son, yet with a much higher level of education than myself and with a far more eloquent speech to match, delivering a preach about Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam. He opened with a statement that, according to his studies, around four thousand years separated the Flood from Creation. I thought, What? Where did he get that from?

After the service, upon my request, he explained that our use of Greek numerology was very different from that of the Hebrew language. Indeed, that is true. The numbers in Hebrew are represented by the letters of its alphabet. But than again, it looks to me that the ancient Greeks did not use numbers. Instead, the measure of quantity was written in words. One good example is found in Revelation 7:4 which in the Greek reads: Hekaton tesserakonta tessares chiliades - quite a mouthful really, just to say 144,000. But I think the point is missed here. Really, no matter how the quantity is expressed, 2+2, as far as I understand, will always be 4. The real issue lies in the number of years between the birth of Enoch's son - Methuselah - and the Flood itself. It is not that difficult to work out. Methuselah was born during the 65th year of Enoch's life. When Methuselah was 187 years, his son Lamech was born. After the birth of Lamech, the narrator then stated that Methuselah lived a further 782 years, making a total lifespan of  969 years.

When Lamech lived 182 years, he became the father of Noah. Lamech lived a further 595 years before he died, making his total lifespan of 777 years. The interesting case I find here that if Methuselah lived for 782 years after the birth of his son Lamech, then the father outlived his own son by five years. Now if the narration has any credibility, Noah was born 369 years into Methuselah's life. If Noah's grandfather lived to 969 years altogether, than on the day he died, Noah must have been 600 years old already. And according to Genesis 7:6, that was his age when the Flood came.

The real punch to all this is the actual meaning of the name Methuselah. It literally means When I die, the waters will come. This seems to me that while his father Enoch was alive, God himself instructed him to name his son with a prophetic name. There remains the question of the period between Creation and the Flood. Just add all the numbers of the father's years when each son was born. And including the age of 600 years of Noah's life, this brings the total of 1,656 years separating the Flood from Creation.

Am I very pedantic? Why am I so engrossed with such detail? As I myself admitted to the graduate. This is not to show how clever I am, for it does not take a rocket scientist just to add up a few numbers. Rather it shows how factual the Bible really is, and its ancient writers had a far more advanced mathematical knowhow than many of us wish to give credit for. What I have read in the past, during the days of Abraham, children attending school at ancient Ur were learning about the square root, the cubic root, geometry and other mathematical wonders. Transport such a child through time to the present, and I would not be at all surprised if he would make a successful graduate at Oxford. Such a little fact as this puts paid to any idea that modern grads of the present are any way academically superior!

For everybody who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. The trouble with the Western world, including Britain and its church leaders, is that those who have exalted themselves would be exalted even more. Great institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities, two of the finest centres for education in the UK, if not the world, provides a constant pool of candidates ready to take on the mantle of full time church leadership. It does not matter whether the graduate is a true believer or not. If he had passed his exams for a doctorate, then the churches would be more than keen to thrust him into leadership.

Am I pursuing church leadership? By no means, as I have never testified of the Holy Spirit leading me in such a direction. But I have exhorted others in home groups for quite a number of occasions. To be realistic, church leadership is not for me at all. Rather, what I really need is for the Holy Spirit to fill my soul with agape love for others. And it is here that I fail, along with everybody else. There are a few believers who has taken a dislike to me. Not many, just a few, and a few too many. One example is when a request a friendship connection on Facebook with another believer, and in response he blocks my request rather than simply say "No." This leads me to search my conscience, to see whether I might have created some issues with him. Nothing. My conscience is as clear as crystal.

I ponder whether I am even an embarrassment to these middle class believers. For example, my wife assures me that "I look gorgeous" - and I know for sure she means it wholeheartedly. But as I see it, both the mirror and camera disagrees. I also have a peculiar accent in speaking. Therefore I would shy away from hearing my own voice recorded on tape or video. This gives the impression that I'm a very slow learner, having a low I.Q, incredibly gullible, easily fooled, therefore making me an easy target for potential fraudsters. Furthermore, I am aware that I have mild autism, which impares my verbal communication skills, leaving other believers with difficulty in fellowshipping with me.

I have a need which I'm fully aware of. Not a need for a higher level of education, status, fame, or riches - but in need of God himself. The agape love of God, and such divine love flowing out to others. Not at all easy when I don't think highly of myself. But the need is there. The Lord God - Majestic, Almighty, my Rock and my Fortress. Indeed, in my flesh I shall see God. With my eyes, my own eyes, and not with the eyes of another, I will see Him stand upon the mount. I think this is true humbleness - recognising my own emptiness and seeing how much I need the Lord for everything, including salvation, and then giving credit to him for all the strengths I do have. The same as Abraham referring to himself as dust and ashes, David seeing himself as a flea, and Isaiah crying out, "I am undone".

And how much I long to see this same train of thinking and believing sitting in the hearts of everyone, especially in the household of God. If everyone becomes aware of this need, then all criticism, rejection and judgement would melt away. It's called, standing under the shadow of the Cross. I am in desperate need of it, along with everyone in my fellowship, and in all churches worldwide.

If that was to happen, I can guarantee that the BBC's The Apprentice would vanish like a dream does when the sleeper suddenly wakes up.  


  1. Dear Frank,
    It is so true that man focuses on the things of least importance -- fame, status, riches. Man scrambles for position, often at the expense of others, just to bolster his self-esteem, when the truth is that we are all despicable sinners deserving eternity in hell. Praise God for His agape love, sacrificing His Son so that all who trust Him would instead spend eternity with Him in Heaven. May we be motivated by His agape love to treat others as we ourselves would be treated, and not look for reasons to exalt ourselves above others.
    Thanks as always for the excellent post. God bless,

  2. Frank,
    it is not what we as born again believers are in man's eyes that matters, for then we would be trying to please man. It is what we are in God's eyes, and it is Him who we aim to please.

    1 Corinthians ch. 1 vs.26 and 27 say:-

    'For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,'

    Matthew ch. 7 vs. 15 and 16a says:-

    'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.'

    Sounds like Alex loves you very much.

  3. Great post. Frank.

    Don't worry that some people oppose you. In Luke 6:26 Jesus warned, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Standing for what is right will always bring conflict with those who oppose it.