The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 1

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

There are seven parts to this book and I hope to post my reflections on them a part at a time. This book was written to help people with fears, guilt, and addictions. Prince is convinced that the difference between those who were set free and those who were not, is simply right believing.

First a summary of the first part: Believe in God’s Love for You

What You Believe is Powerful (chapter 1):  Wrong beliefs keep you imprisoned but the truth sets you free. The truth that sets you free is the gospel of grace which when believed will uproot all your wrong beliefs.

The God Who Seeks the Shunned (chapter 2):  God is not after you for your mistakes and failings and sins. People will shun you like the village shunned the Samaritan woman, but Jesus would seek you out.  Uproot common misconceptions about God’s attitude towards those who fail him. Know and believe He abounds in mercy and love and your life will change.

“Jesus Loves Me This I Know” (chapter 3): God’s love for us is unconditional. He forgives us completely; He justifies the ungodly; and loves the sinner. It’s not about how much you love Him but about how much He loves you.

Joseph Prince’s book is very readable. I like the easy to read typo and spacing. The chapters are probably adaptations and edited versions of his sermons. They bear some characteristics of sermons. They speak directly to you in a conversational tone. Sometimes there is the occasional detour and the repetition of ideas in different words. It’s also inspirational and declaratory.

What resonates for me was the mention of how we often have mere head knowledge of the vastness of God’s love for us but when a crisis hits our lack of real belief and knowledge is betrayed by our great fears, anxiety and guilt. On reflection I realize these moments when we see a gap between what we believe about God and how we react or behave are opportunities for the Spirit to write on the tablets of our hearts His personal love letter. Through such experiences what we know in the head percolates to the heart.

From reviewing the first part, I can understand why he keeps preaching the rich theme of God’s grace over and over. For one there are always new people in the audience who need to hear it many times in different ways before it uproots their wrong concepts about God. Second, the whole Bible has a rich deep vein of inexhaustible grace to be mined and surfaced for the people to draw from. Third, faith is not built over a Sunday and often when we are facing a challenge we need to be reminded again and again to look to the God of grace and unconditional love.

Life expectancy and faith expectancy

He is the father of one of our church leaders.

His name is Andrew and he shared with a glint in his eye about what the Lord has been doing. He had gone on mission trips for years and had seen the Lord’s hand in miracles of healings and in salvation. He had gone with teams and other pastors and missionaries and had seen the word of the Lord spread in Pakistan. In the last few years, his attention shifted to Palawan in the Philippines. He couldn’t stop talking about the Lord. He went up the mountains to reach out to the people in the northern part of Palawan. He later went south to survey the needs there too. And he wants to go back there – alone if he has to. And he is 72 years old.

Life expectancy of Singaporeans is now about 85.

Sir Alex Ferguson, age 72, retired from managing Manchester United.

Jupp Heynckes, age 68, successfully coached Bayern Munich to the German treble, including the Champions League victory over the other finalist.

Lee Kuan Yew is nearly 90.

Andrew reminded me of Caleb of the Old Testament, who said to Joshua, ‘I am this day 85 years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…give me that mountain…” (Joshua 14:11ff). At 85, he was still appropriating the promises of God and the challenges of faith that God laid before him.

Financial experts may say most Singaporeans do not have enough saved up for retirement. I do not want to dispute that. But  I want to remember the experts who talked about the giants in Canaan, the high and mighty walls, and the veteran warriors guarding the cities. The experts all died in the wilderness. So I will keep my eyes on Jehovah-jireh, God my provider.

I am inspired by Andrew and Caleb and I want to grow old with my eyes on a faith project.

I met a talking snake

Talking_Snake_I met a talking snake as I trekked the Bukit Timah Hill.

With shaking head and cold eyes, the snake hissed:  Aren’t you surprised?

No, why should I be? I am a pastor and the Bible has stories of a talking snake and a talking donkey.  It has a rod that turned into a snake, and a virgin that gave birth to a child. Why would I be surprised?

Snake:  But a talking snake is totally contrary to normal human experience. It is just totally unscientific and irrational. Doesn’t that bother you?

Pastor: Frankly it does unsettle me at times that there is a talking snake in the Bible. I mean, I’ve seen snakes in Penang, and in the Singapore zoo, and on TV but never a talking snake. However, this dissonance has never derailed my faith in Christ.

Snake: You should explore that dissonance and it should cause you to weigh the facts and throw the Bible with all its superstitions, scientific inaccuracies, and myths out of your life. Snakes don’t talk and trees don’t impart knowledge.

Pastor: Animals have been shown to be able to communicate among themselves. Some humans demonstrate an uncanny ability to communicate with animals, albeit at an elemental level.  Why then can’t you conceive that in a pre-Fall world, there could have been an amazing harmony and an incredibly higher level of communications among God’s creatures than is seen now. Though inconceivable now because of the Fall, couldn’t it have been different then?

Snake: Ridiculous! Utter nonsense. Sheer speculation.

Pastor: Well, it’s just a thought.  Perhaps you should be more open to seemingly impossible possibilities. After all, creation keeps us on tiptoe with strange and magical surprises in nature and in the invisible realm. That snake probably never talked again after tempting Eve. I have seen cases of evil spirits temporarily talking through its victims in a different voice and personality. You must be mocking me now!

Snake: Are you one of those Pentecostal snake-handlers or tongue-speaking charismatics who believe in all things supernatural?

Pastor: No I am not. However, I am a Pentecostal with a deep respect for snakes ….. and snake-handlers, and I do speak in tongues, certainly more than you. Yes the world of the supernatural and spiritual phenomena does not scare me. I view all these things that I do not fully understand with my finite mind, with a sense of hush and awe (and some wariness), as Moses did with the burning bush and Joseph with his dreams of angels.

Snake: You believe in all the miracles of the Bible.

Pastor: Of course, I do. Not just because I am a Pentecostal and brought up as one soaked in a tradition of belief in the supernatural gifts and in miracles, but also because the Bible speaks of these miracles and angels in a matter of fact way.  Call me naive if you will but I have heard so many modern day miracle stories myself and despite my natural tendency to doubt, I have become a believer.

Snake: Have you considered that the whole story of Adam and Eve, the talking snake and the tree that delivers knowledge is all a myth meant to teach religious truths about God? It’s just a literary device to teach readers that God is the creator, and he made humans to be like him and to be the top of the chain, and something wrong happened to cause the world to be as messed us as it is today.

Pastor: Well do you believe in the truths that the literary device seek to proclaim? Do you believe in God’s goodness and affirm that creation was good but evil came into the world and messed it all up? Do you believe that Jesus came to die and rise again to clear up the mess? If you do, you are closer to heaven than you may dare to think!  Have you heard of the 4 spiritual laws?

Snake: Don’t patronize me with your fixed formula of converting me. It won’t work. You should take a closer look at your faith – it has no substance, no factual base, insufficient evidence.

Pastor: Pardon me.  I don’t mean to be patronizing. My faith is based on the person of Jesus Christ. He lived in the Roman-occupied first century Israel. He was a carpenter-construction worker and a man whose birth, life, ministry was marked by the amazing, truth, miracles, love and remarkable perfection. He died and rose again from the dead and ascended to heaven. All these things were seen and witnessed by men close to him. My faith is based on the testimony of these witnesses. In addition, I have experienced his forgiveness and peace myself. I have a wonderful inner assurance that all this is real and true and somehow all the scientific and rational dissonance that bothers and troubles many others does not affect me at all. It just does not ruffle my faith at all. By the way, have you heard of Jesus?

The snake, weary from trying to convince me of the unreliability of the Bible, slithered away, hissing in frustration at this poor blinded Pentecostal pastor. The talking snake had to admit though, that it envied the fact that I seemed so persuaded and assured in my faith, and looked so happy for one so steeped in irrational beliefs and superstition.

The talking snake was almost persuaded to be a Christian.