Wedding Photographer

Me? A wedding photographer? That’s right! Just for half a day haha! As a pastor and solemnizing officer for some 25 years, I’ve solemnized many marriages and right now, I don’t remember anymore just how many couples I’ve married. I was therefore surprised that about two weeks ago, I was requested by a young groom to be one of his two “official wedding photographers” haha! This is something really unique—at least for me. From solemnizing officer to wedding photographer!

P1110445Of course I was happy to take photos of  their wedding since I know these two young lovers for a good number of years now. They also know I love photography and so maybe that’s the reason why they asked for my help. Thankfully, my camera lasted for the whole duration of the afternoon affair. I was really concerned because my camera battery is now old and weak. I will definitely be buying a new battery soon. I was able to re-charge the battery for some 30 minutes in the middle of the event and that helped.

P1110635Unknown to the couple, I also had another handicap because all I have is a built-in flash which is part of the camera. It does work well but it does drain the camera battery faster. I will definitely be buying a good quality external flash soon to address this problem. Anyway, despite the limitations, I was able to cover the whole event. Things worked out quite well. It was a happy event.

I hope to give the couple 1) copies of the photos I took placed in one folder in JPEG format. I won’t be printing it though at this time (making hard copies) and make an album—just the JPEG photos. I also plan to give them  two slide show presentations in two formats: 2) one in PDF format and, 3) another one in MP4 video format—all placed in one USB drive. That will be my gift to this young couple. Hope they will like it.

Is God Powerless to Save after Death?

Robin WilliamsThe world was shocked and grieved over the sudden death of famous actor and comedian Robin Williams and from what we’ve heard, it would seem like he committed suicide. Really sad and tragic. I haven’t really checked his background that much but from the little that I know about him, he seemed like a nice and good person.

Now it’s interesting that some are saying that those who commit suicide just like what Robin Williams did have committed an unpardonable sin and that there’s no longer any hope of salvation for them. They’re lost and gone forever in hell. Really? Is this true?  It would be good to know the answer.

Is There Hope After Death?

What about Judas who betrayed Jesus and hanged himself after realizing his mistake? Is he lost and doomed forever in hell? Is there hope for him?

I also read a pastor’s Facebook status update saying that he is grieved over the loss of 300 lives on board the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet that was shot down by a rocket in Ukraine. He hopes that the innocent victims received Jesus before they died. Otherwise, the implication is that if they didn’t then they’re lost forever in hell. Really? Is this true?

Are those who died in this lifetime without having received Jesus Christ lost and gone forever—with finality? What about those who haven’t heard about Christ yet through no fault of their own? Are they doomed in hell forever? Is this really God’s kind of justice and mercy? Is this just and fair at all?

A Second Look at John 3:16

John 3:16 is a very familiar and famous verse memorized and quoted by many. Here Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Let’s analyze what Jesus is saying in this verse.

First of all, Jesus shows how much God loves the whole world by giving his one and only Son as an atoning sacrifice not just for the sins of a selected few but for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2). God demonstrated his love for all of mankind by giving Christ to die for all of us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

Secondly, let’s notice the word, perish as used in this passage. Jesus said that those who believe will not perish. I’m sure you will agree with me that the apostles Peter, James, John and Paul all believed in Jesus Christ and therefore we can be sure that they will not perish as Jesus had said so. But we all know that all of them died already more or less 2,000 years ago! Does this mean then that they had all perished already? Did Jesus tell a lie?

Did you get my point? Let me explain. We will all die right? No exceptions—and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). But here’s the good news from Jesus himself! We may die in this lifetime but if we believe in Christ then we will not perish—that is, we will not die a spiritual death. Instead, we will have eternal life (better translated as “the life of the age to come”) as promised! This is really good news!

The Greek word for perish is apoletai and it refers to a spiritual death and not a physical one. We will all die physically for sure but we don’t have to die spiritually—that is, if we believe. That is the message of Jesus Christ.

Death Not a Hindrance

The Bible does not say that physical death in this lifetime is a hindrance for God to save anyone. That is an assumption held by many. God can save anyone in his own good time. It is not impossible for God to save those who haven’t heard his name yet since the time of Adam up to Christ’s second coming. I’m sure he is a just Judge who will not condemn those who haven’t heard about Christ yet through no fault of their own! I’m sure God will make a just provision for all to be saved. He is just and fair.

In his own good time, according to his own plan and purpose , God can save any person before or after death. God is not limited by death. He is Sovereign and he is the Judge.

Here’s a quote from the late Dr. Ray Anderson, a theologian at the Fuller Theological Seminary:

Ray Anderson“In my book The Gospel According to Judas, my first book on Judas, I thought there is a way to get at this. If Judas is chosen by Jesus after a whole night of prayer (which we assume he prayed to make sure he made the right decision), and yet Judas, one of the 12, ends up betraying him and then in his own remorse, said, I have killed an innocent man, I have done something wrong, and in remorse he went out and killed himself. Many people say, well, that’s it. Suicide is the unforgivable sin and therefore that’s the end. But you see, what the gospel tells us is that, this Jesus who chose Judas, was betrayed by Judas, he’s the final judge. He is the one who will determine the final verdict.”

Thankfully, Jesus who died for all of our sins is the same person who will be the Judge (whom I know is loving, merciful and just) at judgment day. He is just and fair and if a man has not accepted him during this lifetime because nobody told him about Christ, I don’t think it is a problem or hindrance for Jesus to save him.

Jesus is the Loving and Merciful Judge

At the end, Jesus is the just Judge and he is loving and merciful and he died for all. So I dare not “close the book” and say with finality that those who died not having received Christ are forever lost. Let Jesus be the Judge of that! Jesus is the Judge! And the end when these people meet Christ for the first time, do you think they will reject Christ? Or will they quickly accept him? Think about it.

Jesus’ good news is really good news much better than other gospels being preached today. Thanks be to God that at the end, Jesus is the Judge! And that changes everything! I know that he loves me so much and he so loves the whole world! And that’s really, really good news! A cause for rejoicing!

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Our Union with Christ

ProdigalSonWhen the Word became flesh, the greatest miracle happened some 2,000 years ago. God became flesh. This is Christ’s incarnation and it changed everything. Theologians call this as the hypostatic union — that is, the union of humanity and divinity in the one person (hypostasis) of Jesus Christ. This event implicated and involved humanity. We have been included into God’s life and love. He reconciled us to himself. He assumed all of humanity unto himself.

By becoming one of us and one with us through his incarnation, all humanity is now forever united or in union with our Lord Jesus Christ — through his hypostatic union.

While we were still sinners—even before we repented of and asked for forgiveness of our sins, Christ already died and paid for all of humanity’s sins—past, present and future. He assumed all of our sins and died for it (Romans 5:8). He did not even ask for our permission whether we would like to be included or not. Out of his great love, he just did it and died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14). This is Christ’s crucifixion. Both the incarnation and the crucifixion involved Christ’s atonement for all. As our High Priest and representative, he atoned for all of our sins on our behalf once for all (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26). Thus we are now “at one” with God through him. We now have atonement or reconciliation with him (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We now have union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Already Reconciled

This is an accomplished fact which many are unaware of or haven’t really fully realized yet. We need to think deeply and meditate on the implications of what Paul is saying in Romans 5:8. This is already true. It did not become true because of or as a result of our help, our good works, our consent or our belief. Belief doesn’t make it true or make it happen. It is not “potentially true” if we believe. It is already true!

Since the fact that we are now in union with Christ is already true (not if it is true), what about these passages in Isaiah 59:2 and other similar passages like in John 5:24 that seem to show that we are separated (not in union) with Christ now? Well, both Isaiah 59:2 and John 5:24 are also true but we have to understand it in light of who Jesus Christ is and who we are in him. It does not disagree with what is already true in Jesus Christ for us. We need to see the overall context of Scripture—”the whole counsel of God” found in the Bible.

We have to understand that in the first place, God has never abandoned us nor separated himself from us. God has always loved us. It is us—our own doing—that is causing the “separation” due to our sins. But really, if you think about it more deeply, has God really separated himself from us in such a way that he is no longer reachable? When Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, was God no longer available? Of course not. God is always available all the time for us. He is God with us and one of us.

We only think that we are separated from God. Our sins have clouded our vision and we think God no longer loves us. Sin does make us feel guilty so we hide ourselves from God. But God has always been there for us. It is only in our minds. As Paul explained to the Colossians, he said, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21).

Only in Your Minds

That is only in our thinking—in our minds (Col. 1:21). The truth and present reality is that God—in His mind, from His point of view—has already forgiven us and he died for us while we were still sinners! (Rom. 5:8). God has reconciled us back to himself. We are not separated from him. In so far as God is concerned, we have already been forgiven and in union with Christ through his hypostatic union. Separation is only in our minds. But in so far as God is concerned, he was, is and has always been there for us. He never abandoned us since the Garden of Eden.

holding handsThe truth of the matter is that St. Paul said, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” Even in “hell” (or whatever you may call this place) God will be there (Rev. 14:10).

The only difference is that we humans think we are still separated from him because of our sins. That’s not who God is! He loves us similar to the father in the parable of the lost son who patiently and eagerly waited for the lost son’s return. That is what we need to repent of, change our mind about. Let us all repent (change our minds—Greek, metanoia) and believe that we have always been loved, never abandoned and now in union with him through Christ—not separated at all!

Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension changed everything. We are now in union with Christ. At the resurrection, we await for that future time when the final fulfillment of our union with Christ will have been fully accomplished—complete at-one-ment with Christ forever! What a great hope we have in Jesus!

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