Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WE ARE LIVING IN A SICK WORLD


The rise of Boko Haram, ISIS, Al Shabaz, dictators and extremists of all kinds, including shootings in schools all over the USA have made this world a sicker place to live. Violence is now not only confined to movies and television shows but acted out everywhere and often in front of young children. Many have taken religion as a front to kill, maim, sexually assault, oppress and subdue. Jesus predicted this will happen, two thousand years ago and we live to see more of it today than ever before. 

....the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God (John 16:2).

Then there is narcissism all over the world where people just couldn't care less about all that is happening around them. "What's in it for Me?" is their battle cry!

In the last days...People will be lovers of themselves.... (2 Timothy 3:1-2).

Is this the beginning of the end where the world will get worse culminating to God's final wrath? Or is God telling us that the greatest opportunity for the Gospel is now?

What can followers of Jesus do?

1. Do not add doom to the gloom.

Do not go around sulking and whining about the condition of the world. The world is broken and can never get back to its original position until Christ comes again. It will not help at all to add fire to the already raging bush fire. Your world does not need one more problem but a solution, any solution - however small.

2. Pray and lay everything in God's Hand.

Psalm 73 speaks of a leader who was about to backslide over sinners gaining greater notoriety without repercussions at all from God. Then he went into God's presence, his eyes were opened to see the final destruction of evil wicked men. 

"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written:"It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).

God sees the biggest picture from above while we see things with our little puny cluttered earthly minds. God answers prayers and will release all our sincere tear-filled, heart-broken prayers for justice, when the time is right. (Revelation 5:8; 8:4-5).

3. Alter the authoritative figure's mindset with God's wisdom.

Convince one person at a time of the need for Jesus, particularly authoritative figures which hold the final word in a family, a department, a company, a constituency or even a province or state. Pray for God to change these hearts. The greatest example of an authoritative turn-around guy in history is Paul in the Bible. He went from persecuting the church to being the greatest missionary and church planter for Jesus Christ!

In my many experiences of sharing the Gospel, many held back their confession of Christ because they were afraid of some authoritative figures at home, male or female. On the brighter side, I also encountered whole family saved due to the salvation of an authoritative figure.

4. Be patience with the 'patients' of God.

I must confess I did ask God to do 'zappy' things to these 'sick' people. And often God reminded me that I was also a 'sicko' once. Although the degree is different, sin is still sin. God's grace of salvation had reached and touched me and I am forever grateful. Imagine the unimaginable sufferings that will befall these sinners if they do not repent and respond to the Gospel of God. That's why God's patience can out-stretched all of us. He sees the intense darkness for the godless in the future while we want everything to end, send all 'sickos' to hell and close the case.

5. Do a good deed to people in need.

Action-oriented servings are much better than perfectly-crafted sermons. The Bible is filled with teachings of daily life examples, doing on-the-ground works and reaching the grassroots by deeds. Jesus taught His disciples through personally involved in people's lives, loving, caring and healing them. Many times He was moved with deep compassion and on one occasion, He cried. Jesus did not only preach, he also healed and not only He healed and went away, He changed lives! He believed in the future of all those He saved! For God so loved the world (that includes extremists of all kinds) that He gave His one and only Son... (John 3:16).

6. Love the Unlovable.

Hate the sin and not the sinner. The spew of hatred fuels greater hate. Never in my life will I be able to understand the victims and their families who are deeply affected by all the senseless violence. Perhaps it is more comfortable to hate than to do otherwise, I don't know. But hate is never the answer. Bear with me as I offer my two cents' opinion. In my little suffering and pain, I usually use the Gethsemane prayer principle, "I disliked it. I even hated it. But God, let Your will be done."

The greatest example I believe that left an indelible mark on Jesus' disciples was forgiving the unforgivable, those who ridiculed and mocked Him, those who lashed at Him and spitted on Him and those who crucified Him. He taught it first at the Sermon on the Mount and He did it for all to see. Today, only true followers of Christ love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable.

And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that....But love your enemies, do good to them...Then you reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:33-37).

Yes, we are living in a sick world. Yet the remedy is with the true followers of Christ and that remedy is the God-given Good News! It is like a cure for cancer in a cancerous world!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

PASSION: THE BRIGHT LIGHT OF GLORY BY LOUIE GIGLIO



This book is written by a team of leading preachers and Christian voices, all involved in Passion Conference for college students. The book traced the trail of Passion Movement which based on this very verse in Isaiah 26:8, "Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." 

I was thrilled to read Giglio's unwaning passion for Passion in the book. I could see his passion translated to those he worked with and more so, to the millions of youth who excitedly came for the conference each year. All who wrote in this book shared in his excitement and cooperatively served their best to the theme of the verse above.

Louie Giglio and team have never wandered off the tangent of the audience of One, Jesus Christ! Throughout the book, the LORD is being glorified, pleased, shouted forth, boasted of and supremely desired in all their hearts! I give this book 5 stars!

Thank you Thomas Nelson Publishers for giving me this free E-book for the purpose of this review.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

NELSON'S ANNUAL PREACHER'S SOURCEBOOK, VOL. 3 by Dr. O. S. HAWKINS


This book has a wide variety of sermons to choose from and great ideas to ponder upon. As a preacher myself, it is a book that adds to my understanding about the passage of Scripture given there. I don’t follow them but it allows me to better grasp some topics presented. Somehow I was not really excited about this book because of several reasons. Firstly, a preacher needs to hear from God and not extract from other preachers. Secondly, following it may damper the creativity of a preacher. Lastly, the audience in each congregation is different and sometimes a sermon may work well in one but totally disastrous in another. So, for me, I am just okay with this book. 

I give this book three stars. Thank you, Thomas Nelson's Publishers for giving me this free e-book for the purpose of the review.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

THE CHURCH AT ITS BEST - THE FIRST GREAT COMMISSION CHURCH


Church at Antioch as described in Acts 11:19-29 and 13:1-3, was at that time, a church at its best during the initial years after Christ’s resurrection! It was truly a great Commission church! 

The church started on Pentecost after the Holy Spirit moved greatly at Peter’s sermon. Three thousands were converted on that day at Jerusalem (Acts 2). It comprised of all Jewish believers. They were fulfilling what Jesus said by going to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Since the Christians were all Jewish converts, there were two problems - one external and the other, internal. The external problem was that the believers were looked upon as traitors to Moses’ Laws. This gave the religious authority the reason for persecuting the disciples of Christ. They were sure the Romans would side them as the majority to win over their favours. Meanwhile the internal problem had to deal with cliques of  all things Jewish. This would eventually lead to inwardness of the Church at Jerusalem, thus curtailing the expansion of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Then came the stoning of Stephen to death and igniting widespread persecution on the believers. This led to the migration of believers to other cities across the region except the apostles and some leaders who stayed at Jerusalem. Some Jewish believers went to Antioch, the first city outside of Israel! These did not go there only to escape imprisonment and torture but they shared the Gospel! Thus, the first Great Commission Church - began. The first multi-racial, multi-cultural church. 

There are few ingredients that make the Antioch church the first Great Commission church and leave a benchmark for any church today.

1. It was a witnessing Church  (Acts 11:19-21).

The church was started not by a famous preacher or a great church strategist. There were no big names like Paul, Peter or Barnabas in its initial months. It all began when some unnamed and unsung believers believed in the call of the Great Commission. They were persecuted yet they did not give up! They were not ashamed of the gospel for they believed it was the power of God unto salvation! They shared not only to the own native race, but also to the Gentiles. Their passion rested upon Jesus’ very words, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

If we are not witnessing to the lost and not winning them to Christ, then the church loses its purpose of existence. Church becomes a club and Christianity becomes a religion with 'dos' and 'donts'!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news...(Isaiah 52:7). This prophecy concerns the future of Israel under captivity to the Babylonians. It'll last for 70 years. When that judgment is over, God will send a messenger of goodnews that Israel is no longer bound. They are free to go. This messenger will be passionate about the message and will run across treacherous terrains to deliver the goodnews. Those in exiles who long to return see the messenger's beautiful feet! The feet of the runner of hope is beautiful! 

Do we have the passion to run with the Gospel message telling the lost that they are set free by the cross of Christ?

2. It was a Discipling Church (Acts 11:22-26).

When Barnabas arrived in Antioch, he saw something that probably never entered his mind before. The Gentiles were expressing their adoration and worship for Jesus Christ the same way that the Jewish believers did! This caused him to be overflowed with joy seeing what Jesus Christ had commanded come to pass. He immediately began to disciple the growing church. He knew he needed to disciple these believers for even greater days ahead! He couldn’t do this alone and so he recruited Saul. Saul had been in Tarsus for four years now, preaching and teaching in the churches throughout the region, and growing in the grace of God. Together, they taught and discipled the new believers in Christ! 

Barnabas and Saul are so called functional leaders - they came for a need! Barnabas did not settle down in Antioch as the ‘POPE’. Saul did not set up an office to be the ‘BISHOP’. 

Do we need prophets today? Sure, if there is a need. Do we need teachers and pastors and evangelists? Of course, if there are needs for them. But more importantly, the church today needs disciplers! Every believer is not only to be followers of Christ but also to teach others to become followers of Christ! Making disciples of all nations, and in Greek, ‘nations’ means all people groups.

Antioch church could go either way. Either it could explode to a great revival or it may implode with racial issues! The church at Antioch was multiracial with a tinge of uneasiness. On one hand, the Jews with their own culture and practices and on the other, Gentiles with their own traditions. Also, in Jerusalem church itself, there were Jewish believers who were skeptical that the Gospel be preached to the Gentiles.

Making disciplers out of the church in Antioch was pivotal. It was a turning point in history of the church of Jesus Christ. It turned out to be the catalyst to fulfill Jesus’ commands to make disciples to the ends of the earth.

Is your church a discipling church? A church without strong disciples of Christ is easy target for Satan. If we do not disciple believers by God’s Word, then the world will disciple them. Satan is a great discipler of evil! 

The believers in Antioch were the first to call Christians It was a sarcastic remark by those on the outside the church who heard them always talking about Christ. In today’s context, these are Christ fanatics, the holy Joes! 

Remember they were disciples first, then called Christians! Today, we have many Christians who are not disciples of Christ! 

John Welsey (1703 - 1791) aptly put it, “My fear is not that our great movement, known as the methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. But my fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great. 

Later William Booth (1829 - 1912) warned, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without regenaration, politics without God and heaven without hell. 

3. It was a sharing Church (Acts 11:27-30).

The multiracial church at Antioch was practising what the Jerusalem church practiced - giving their best for the community of believers. In Antioch, it went one notch higher where the Gentiles were giving to the Jews in Judea! This was a goodwill that would go a long way in promoting peace between the Jewish and Gentile  It prompted Paul in his letter later to the Galatian Christians. 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

‘Konoinia’ in Greek for ‘fellowship’ literally means to have in common or to share. It was a breakthrough word for the early church where everyone helped each other. The Jerusalem church led the way for the Antioch church to follow. 

Is your church a sharing church? In other words, “Is it a loving church?” Today we are talking more on prosperity than on generosity. We come to church to take and not so much to give. Perhaps in this generation of so much lies and deceits, we are also much more careful to help one another. We are questioning and justifying everything. The Good Samaritan in the parable Jesus gave never asked when he chanced upon the badly injured guy, “Maybe he deserves it because of some sins in his life” or “Maybe someone else would come and help” or  “If I help, I may be accused of hurting him”.

4. It was a worshipping Church  (Acts 13:2-3). 

In Antioch church, the believers came corporately together before God in submitting to His Lordship. They surrendered themselves as instruments in the hands of the Master. The word ‘worshipping’ in NIV here literally means ministering to God. They were waiting before God to hear from Him and were ever ready to obey the Holy Spirit! Fasting and devotion to God speak of their seriousness of doing the will of God. With this attitude, God was ready to speak to them!

Is your church a worshipping church? Author Joshua Harris wrote a book entitled, “Stop dating the church” and he wrote how in our consumer-driven church market we’ve developed the practice of hopping from one church to the next, attending this church or that church based on how we feel on that particular Sunday morning. We have too many CEO Christians today. Christmas Easter Only. Not those who are seriously wanting to hear from God and ready to obey His commandments. Let us be a church that seriously yearn to hear from God and obey His voice!

5. It was a Sending Church (Acts 13:2-3)

Because of their readiness to hear God and to obey Him, they obediently sent off Barnabas and Saul when the Holy Spirit called! Mind you, these two were the best of the lot! Someone said, ‘The church is not an institution to be protected but a Movement to be expanded’. The real Church is like an army, ready and alert. They are always on the move to gain territories for Jesus! Jesus is our Lord and He is on a mission! And He is using the church for His mission and no gates of hell shall prevail against it!

Is your church a sending church? 

The Antioch church began with some unnamed believers and it turned up to be the first Great Commission Church. From Antioch, the apostle Paul started his missionary journeys, all the way Asia Minor and Rome, creating a wide regional Church later on. Thus Jesus’ commands to reach the ends of the earth was obeyed even though not all fulfilled during the Antioch days! However, the effects of that church in Antioch had gone global! It was a local church with a global mission!

Let us learn from the Antioch Church these five ingredients that make up of a Great Commission Church and shine forth Jesus for God’s glory! 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW OF MOSES


Doug gulped a mouthful of tablets as usual before he retired to bed. The scholarly old man just finished perusing the last documents of the new regulations of the society. Poor health and constant late nights had caused him to feel more lethargic as ever.

As he began to lie down to bed, his phone rang. “Yes!”

“Oh no! Prof., that idiot has done it again,” the other person on the line muttered.

“Calm down, Rex. What done it again?”

“Calvin has changed some rules in our society! He wanted to change what you have done over the last ten years!” Doug’s assistance hollered.

“What! Calvin again?”

The People-Choice-Awards Society was a powerful entity in the city, highly sponsored by the corporate world and sanctioned by the government itself. Doug with some prominent professors and business people had founded the society, giving out awards for life-changing works either through a person or a group. As years went by, there were added regulations to protect its awards until it was almost impossible for common people to participate. No one dared to criticize the Society because of its many high-standing patronages. Doug often boasted, “My rules are chiselled on stone.”

Calvin was a young successful businessman. He had done a great deal for society especially among the poor and was named caring entrepreneur of the year by a famous newspaper. Yet, he could not break in to Doug’s Society although he submitted his work many times. One day, he thought to change things within and was appointed into the board.

From inside, he could see all the unbending extra regulations, making it extremely difficult for anyone to win without help and intervention. The young entrepreneur looked up to the sky and decided to change things so that the original intention of the Society would be realised again.

After many years heading the outfit, Doug had proudly added new laws to secure his position in the Society and also to please the many opinions of various people.

“Calvin, do you care to explain why you have to change some regulations which we had set so meticulously by all of us?” Doug questioned his colleague.

“Yes! I think we need a clarification from you,” Rex insisted.

Calvin cleared his throat. “Listen to me, all my esteemed colleagues. I did not change the regulations at all. I simply simplify them for the sake of better following. Through the years, the laws have been too rigid and stiff. Furthermore, the added regulations made them more impenetrable. We need to guide the people who submitted their applications so that they could follow along with us,” he explained confidently.

It was Doug who roped in Calvin to the board. The plot was to have as many on his side as possible. The longer the energetic young man was in, the hotter he was to handle. In the end, Calvin managed to get more than half onto his side for the change. Doug was losing the popularity and the majority vote.

“But...it was agreed already our set of rules,” Doug argued.

“Do you have better ones?” One influential board member spoke.

“Doug, we have benefitted by your many years of service here. It’s time we need fresher ideas from the younger generation,” opined another.

The old man was smiling on the outside but gritted his guts. “I suggest we go for a vote on this,” he suggested, hoping against hope to win.

As the 10 board members began to vote, Calvin was praying for an overwhelming support. The votes were counted, 9 to 1. Doug took a long hard look at Rex, stood up and said, “I resign!”

The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:17-20 was a history changing time for Israel and for the rest of the world. The Law of Moses given by God at Mount Sinai had always been the supreme laws of the Land. Kings would make or break in regards to those laws. The whole nation rises or falls depending on them. God desires His people to follow His laws to shout His fame but sadly, they fail and fail Him miserably!

The laws of Moses first of all are good laws – scholars of the Bible argued that they are more humane than the laws of Israel’s many surrounding nations. When Jesus came upon the scene, He seemed like abolishing all those laws. Of course, the Pharisees and teachers, strict guardians of Moses’ laws, especially the Ten Commandments, were shoving and screaming at Jesus. They added many laws until they reached 613 commandments. (According to Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a, the negative commandments number 365, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year and the positive commandments number 248, a number ascribed to the number of bones and main organs in the human body) One can now see the impenetrable laws which evolve to become a trap for everyone. In fact, God wants the laws to be an ‘X-ray’ to show that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. A ‘wake-up’ call for all, that everyone needs a Saviour!

The Son of God managed to stir up all kinds of emotions among the people when He made some seemingly new alterations to laws that they were taught carefully to obey since young. When we look a little closer at Scriptures, Jesus Christ neither abolishes nor changes the laws of Moses. In fact, He upgrades them even further. The people of Israel used to obey from the power of the will and when Jesus came, He wanted them to obey from inside out. Murder stemmed from anger and adultery caused by lust from the heart (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28). Jesus wanted a complete overhaul of the heart! In fact a new heart must replace an old one and that would need divine intervention. This was not a surprise if the people understood the Old Testament correctly! It was prophesied from Moses to the prophets!

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live (Deuteronomy 30:6).

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jeremiah 24:7).

Thus, Jesus began to change the mindset of the people of His days that without God in them to help them, they would fail miserably. Only after Jesus died and resurrected, the people began this ‘new heart’ lives with the Holy Spirit in them.

And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

With 613 tangled and complex laws, it is unsurprising that the Jews were ensnared in the circle of confusion. One can remember when at the Garden of Eden, there was only one law – do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). 

Jesus then shortened 613 laws to two greatest commandments which all the Law and the Prophets hung on (Matthew 22:34-40).

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’

No one could and can fulfill or fully obey Moses’ laws except one Man – Jesus Christ! He lived a perfect sinless life and no one could point a finger at Him or talk a single bad about Him. Therefore He was worthy to die on our behalf for all our sins. When He died on the cross for the sins of mankind, Jesus in essence ‘carried believers’ over to God! Not one person could or can earn himself or herself to be restored to the relationship with God!

When we go to heaven, God sees Jesus’ sacrifice as the seal of redemption! Not us! We are all sinners condemned to hell if not for our Saviour!

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

So, we come back to the Person of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus left to heaven after His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to be in every believer. He was the promise of God of how a ‘new heart’ believer should live from then on. The Holy Spirit is working His way in us so that we can obey the two greatest commandments mentioned above. From the inside out!


Next: Anger and Murder (Matthew 5:21-26)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

FORGIVENESS - OVERCOMING THE IMPOSSIBLE BY MATTHEW WEST


This is a book about doing the most difficult task – to forgive. What I like about Matthew West’s forgiveness is the real life stories of brokenness and despair of being hurt and the laboriously burdensome journey to forgiveness. Although the stories here ended with forgiveness and victory, there are always real incomprehensible struggles within each character. There was always the “why me?” question ringing loudly within. At the end, it was God! The grace of God that always manages to set the pace for healing in all kinds of hurt. And I believe Matthew West in this book shouts, “It is possible!”  Not humanly possible but God-possible! The author’s intention is clear: do not let unforgiveness keep you bound, let forgiveness set you free to your God-given destiny!


Thank you Book Sneeze for the free ebook for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

YOU’LL GET THROUGH THIS – MAX LUCADO


He has done it again! This time, Lucado has inspired and stretched me with his insightful views and no nonsense approach to suffering. His artistic writing skill of Old Testament’s story of Joseph penetrated into my spirit deep within. The book would hopefully provide an encouragement and relief to those who are going through severe trials that indeed, God will get them through! In the end, one thing is clear in this book, we will go through trials and there is no easy way out. However, we will get through any trials if we do not give up on God! Words of men sometimes are not enough to heal a hurt but when the eyes of sufferers are focused on God, they would eventually sail through! The Joseph's story is true testament to what God can do in our lives if we let Him.

I give this book 5 stars.

Thank you, BookSneeze, for providing this e book free for the purpose of this review.