Friday, February 28, 2014

Spiritual Living in a Secular World (Free Books Inside)

It was the book and particularly the character of Daniel that strengthen my faith in Christ when I worked as assistance manager in the entertainment industry for almost 2 years ago (Before I joined the full-time ministry). By God’s Word encouragements, I get to witness for Christ in my workplace (with my ups and downs of course). I hope that this book can encourage you to read and practice the Book of Daniel in your life.” (RA)

Christians today often feel without a voice: a minority in an indifferent world. Should we withdraw? Get stuck in, despite blurred boundaries? Like the Israelites in Babylon, for many of us this is a time of temptation and defeat.

Ajith Fernando’s Spiritual Living in a Secular World engaging book uses the experience of the young Israelite, Daniel. Daniel and his companions were the elite: young men of outstanding ability. God put them in a position where their names – their very identity – were changed to fit Babylonian culture. They learned pagan languages and became steeped in Babylonian society.

Yet they did not compromise. They avoided the opposite traps of isolation and accommodation, preferring instead the option of obedient involvement. By their radical obedience they proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is alive and well – and so can we.

This month of March 2014, I would like to offer you 3 BOOKS (ONLY) entitled Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Ajith Fernando.

You are welcome to get a copy of this book for yourself by simply do these 2 things:

First, comment below “Rich, give me one copy (Your name). I hope that through this book I can… [Not less than 10 words]”

Then, send message to my inbox Facebook account your real name, phone no. and your postal address. [For book distribution purposes only] Thank you.


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ask and Knock (Or Pray with Open Wallet)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Jesus in Matthew 7:7)

When you pray, you must ask, seek and – knock!” (RA)

A father was leading his family in their time of devotions. When he prayed, he told God about the needs of the poor widow across the street. He listed the things she needed, and he proceeded to tell the Lord just how to send them.

Tear of sympathy tolled down his wife’s cheeks. But one member of the family – the couple’s son – wasn’t praying. He was thinking. When the father said “Amen”, his son walked over to him and with his hand held out said, “Dad, give me your wallet and I’ll go over there and answer your prayer myself.” It was obvious to that youngster that prayer and practice must go together whenever possible.

Of course, prayer must come first. But the reason of prayer is action and practice. There are certain prayers that need extraordinary miracles to happen (and we can’t do anything, except fully relying on God) such as when we pray for people’s salvation, spiritual comfort for the broken, Spirit-anointed ministry, healing, etc. But there are great many prayers that need us to pray and at the same time need us to move into actions. When we pray for a job, we need to find job. When we pray for the hungry, we need to provide food for them. When we pray for good result in exam, we need to study.

Remember this old-ever-relevant advice about prayer: When you pray, pray as though everything depended on God. When you work, work as though everything depended on you. Both God’s sovereignty and human’s free will.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

C.S. Lewis on The Theology of Being Good

[Anyone] is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17,ESV)

From C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity:

“Even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam – he is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts. And that has practical consequences. As long as the natural life is in your body, it will do a lot towards repairing that body. Cut it, and up to a point it will heal, as a dead body would not. A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself.

In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble – because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repent (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out.

That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or – if they think there is not – at least they hope to deserve approval from good men.

But the Christian think any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

We All Could Pray for Humility

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)

While attending a dinner, a famous multi-millionaire heard a discussion on the subject of prayer. After listening for a while, the man of means exclaimed with a sneer,
Prayer may be all right for some of you, but I don’t need it. Everything I have today I’ve worked hard for, and I’ve earned it all myself. I didn’t ask God for anything.”

A university president listened politely, then said to the braggart,
There is one thing you don’t have that you might pray for.”

Startled, the millionaire blurted out, “And what might that be?”
The educator replied gently, “Sir, you could pray for humility.”

We all could pray for humility. We all need to be reminded day by day that all that we have are really from the Lord and all things belong to Him. We all could to pray for humility. We need to recognize our limits and our finiteness in the sight of the Infinite God. We all could pray for humility. “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility,” writes John Ruskin, “I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power, or hesitation in speaking his opinion. But really great men have a curious under-sense of powerlessness, feeling that the greatness is not in them but through them; that they could not do or be anything else than God made them.” We all could pray for grace J

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Christ's Criteria of Discipleship

The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.
It is enough for students to be like their teachers,
and servants like their masters” (Matthew 10:24-25, NIV)

In the previous verses, Jesus has been preparing his twelve disciples to be sent out on a preaching mission. Having described to them the nature of their ministry and also warned them of possible persecution – he now sets out his two criteria of discipleship.

The disciple or student is “not above the teacher” and the disciple or student is “to be like the teacher.” Wow! The first I understand as the disciple’s authority and the second as of the disciple’s lifestyles. These two strands of thinking are in our Lord’s main criteria of discipleship.

Disciple’s authority. A disciple or student is someone who is under authority. He is not above his teacher. Jesus as we read was compares this student-teacher relationship to that of a servant and his master. One is under the authority of the other. It was an invitation to submission to his lordship. But I have a question in mind as I read this: Jesus is no longer with us physically like he was with the earliest disciples, so how to submit to him? Then I remember the Scripture that says: “If you continue in my [Jesus’s] word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). Thus, for the Christian today to submit to Jesus is to submit himself to the authority of his word – the Bible.

Disciple’s lifestyle. Now, a disciple or student is not only under authority, but he is also “to be like the teacher”. In other word, it is the logical consequence for when a person takes the God’s Word seriously and submits himself to it, the disciple find that his life becomes increasingly like Jesus. It was said that the disciple’s lifestyle of the early Church was unique. In The Address to Diognetus, an early second century letter, it was said that:

The Christians are no different from the rest of men in where they live, in their speech, or in their clothing… they follow local usage in their dress, food, and way of life; and yet they manifest a marvellous and admittedly strange way of life in their society… they marry and have babies like the rest of men, but they do not expose their infants. They share a common table, but not a common bed. Though in the flesh, they do not live according to the flesh; though living on earth, their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, yet their private lives they go beyond the laws.”

Evidently, these early Christians knew the meaning of discipleship. But do we now, today really understand what does it mean to be a Christ-ian; Christ’s follower; Christ’s student; Christ’s disciple? Is the Bible – God’s Word – our authority in life? Are our lifestyles shows that we are becoming more like Christ? Remember: The disciple is “not above the teacher”, submit to His authority – God’s Word, the Bible. And the disciple is “to be like the teacher”, follow the lifestyle of Jesus and becoming more like him. Amen.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Valentine's Day: A Reminder to Love the Sinner (But Hate the Sin)

Long time ago I was struggle with Jesus’ words and actions. He said such thing as “[The sinner or wicked] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46,
ESV). That is to say, the sinners will go to hell and the righteous will be with God in heaven. Amazingly knowing this reality, Jesus, throughout the Gospel stories always spend time with sinners and even hang on the cross with the criminals. He said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

Now, why does he do that? The popular answer would be because Jesus loves sinners and he desires to saved them from the eternal punishment of hell and make them righteous and have eternal life in Him. Cliché but true. But isn’t that answer also means that in order for Jesus to love me, I should be a sinner. And the worst interpretation of all is that it doesn’t matter if I keep on sinning because Jesus still loves me anyway. Cliché but false. The best argument, most biblical and faithful to the Scripture, the core attitude of Jesus toward this matter is that: Jesus loves sinners, but hate sins. Cliché but this is the truth.

This truth can only be applied to Jesus, the Son of God because only God can love beyond the wickedness of the sinner and only God can hate righteously. We often failed to love and hate in a godly manner because we ourselves are sinners. We can have the same attitude toward others only if we allow Jesus to lives in us and we in Him. Only if He is the Lord of our lives.

Let us, in the midst of this worldly-love celebration – Valentine’s Day – be reminded that God love us first and in respond "We love him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And then in the same way, let us also be reminded to love sinners (the most loving thing to do is to tell others about Jesus and His work of redemption on the cross) and in the same time be reminded that we should never compromise and tolerate sins at the same time. Hate the sin but not the sinner. God helps us to love, Your way! Amen.


P.s: “Hate the sin, love the sinner” was made famous by Mahatma Gandhi. It is not from the Scripture. He probably paraphrase that quote from St. Augustine of Hippo’s “With love for mankind and hatred of sins." I don’t know from which context he said this, but when I use this quote I have God’s love in mind, Jesus’ words and deeds in the Scripture and from my own personal experiences when I encounter God’s grace and love in my life – changed me from sinner to saint.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Tree of Bad and Good Habit

An old teacher was once taking a walk through a forest with a pupil by his side. The old man suddenly stopped and pointed to four plants close at hand. The first was just beginning to peep above the ground, the second had rooted itself pretty well into the earth, and the third was a small shrub, while the fourth was a full-sized tree.

The tutor said to his young companion. “Pull up the first.”
The boy easily pulled it up with his fingers.
Now pull up the second.” The youth obeyed, but found the task not so easy.
And now the third.” The boy had to put forth all his strength and was obligated to use both arms to uproot it.

Its hard la bro..
And now,” said the master, “try your hand on the fourth.” But the trunk of the tall tree, grasped in the arms of the youth, hardly shook its leaves. “This, my son, is just what happens with our bad habits. When they are young, we can cast them out more readily with the help of God; but when they are old, it is hard to uproot them, though we pray and struggle ever so sincerely.

What a lesson about habit! Bad habits destroy our relationship with other and God and in the long-term will destroy ourselves. Long-stubborn-habits must be overcome by remove it or change it and then replace it with good habits. This is the most difficult process, but not impossible. It requires strong determination and God’s divine help.

As for the earliest stage of bad habits, we must overcome it from the start. St. Augustine writes, “Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity.” And as Watson C. Black observed: “Bad habits are like comfortable beds – easy to get into but hard to get out of.” We must pull the first plant of bad habits before it become large uprooted trees of sinful and devilish habits. (P.s: Vise versa. Good habits must begin small. Then if we nurture and water it every day consistently, it will become an uprooted tree of good and God-glorifying habits). Ask God to recognize your small plant of bad habits through the power of prayer and the divine help of His Spirit. God helps us! Amen.


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Monday, February 10, 2014

Prayer is God Control Me, Not I Control God.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42)

Painting of Olive Tree
A parable is told of two men who planted olive trees in their fields. Afterward the one prayed, “Dear Lord, my trees need water. Please send rain.” The showers came!

He then petitioned. “They need sunshine.” And God bathed them with sunlight!

Later he cried, “Father, my trees need something to make them hardy. Please send a frost tonight.” It came but killed them all.

Travelling over the other man’s groove, he found his olive trees flourishing.
How can this be?” he asked. The reply came,

When I prayed, I didn’t ask for rain, sunshine, or frost; I just said, ‘Lord, you made these trees. You know what they need. Just send what is best!’”

Let me tell you what are the false assumptions and true principles of prayer in this parable. Firstly, it is false assumption that God always answered every prayer exactly as we wants, but it’s true that God answered prayer. Secondly, it is false assumption that we can control and ‘use’ God for our own self-centered desires, but it’s true that God may use the events in our lives to make us realized that He is in control – not us. Thirdly, it is false assumption that we shouldn’t pray specifically about our needs, but it true that we need to know what our needs are and trust God to answer it all according to His will.   

In their book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby and Claude King writes, “Prayer is designed more to adjust you to God than to adjust God to you. God does not need your prayers, but He wants you to pray. You need to pray because of what God wants to do in and through your life during your praying.” Charles L. Allen further explained: “Prayer is not a means by which I seek to control God; it is means of putting myself in a position where God can control me.” Amen.


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