Monday, March 31, 2014

Back to Jerusalem (Free Books Inside)

The Great Commission
I [Jesus] have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20, NLT)

Napoleon once said "When China is moved it will change the face of the globe." Today those words are becoming a reality through the powerful spiritual vision of the Chinese church to send 100,000 missionaries across China's borders to complete the Great Commission, even in this generation!

In this book, Back to Jerusalem, Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang, three Chinese house church leaders, who between them have spent more than 40 years in prison for their faith, explain the history and present-day reality of the movement. Christians everywhere who are called to fulfill the Great Commission will be thrilled by this testimony and inspired to live bolder lives as disciples of Jesus Christ today.

The Lord replied, ‘Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!
For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe
even if someone told you about it’” (Habakkuk 1:8, NLT)

This month of April 2014, I would like to offer you 3 BOOKS (ONLY) entitled
Back to Jerusalem by Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, Enoch Wang, and Paul Hattaway.

You are welcome to get a copy of this book for yourself by simply do these 2 things:
  1. First, comment below “Rich, give me one copy (Your name). I hope that through this book I can… [Not less than 10 words]”
  2. 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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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Jesus, the Savior Calls Levi, the Sinner (A Reflection on Mark 2:13-17)

As [Jesus] walked along [the shore of Lake Galilee],
he saw a tax collector, Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in his office.
Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Levi got up and followed him” (Mark 2:14, GNB).

Since I begin my reflections on the Gospel of Mark, I now discover personally that Jesus is a very controversial figure. He always surprises us with His words and actions. He challenged His disciples and offended the Pharisees. He puzzled His companions and breaks the religious traditions. He shocked those who follow Him and annoyed those who do not. And now, He recruits a tax collector among His followers… What a superb plan!

His action doesn’t surprise us because we don’t see any visible tax collectors in every city in Malaysia until I tell you that they are similar with illegal money lenders who charge high rates of interest as they wishes (or check tax charge in your bill next time). They collect tax for the enemy, the Roman Empire, and extra for their own pocket money. Thus, they are considered traitors and outcasts. They were the ancient-gangsters (with Roman guards), dishonest and greatly disliked by their fellow Jews. What did Jesus think when He said to Levi “Follow me”!? I don’t know. I still amaze and wonder.

Levi got up and followed Him” was the immediate response. Levi probably has heard one of Jesus’ preaching. Nevertheless, it was instant and risky decision. If the fishermen like Peter and John one day decided not to follow Jesus anymore, they can always return to their occupations – but not Levi. He can’t return to his previous job that easily. Stupid? Perhaps. But I bet Levi doesn’t regret his decision that day. I know it because “later on Jesus was having a meal in Levi’s house.” He throws a party with his fellow “tax collectors and other outcasts” (Mark 2:15). Jesus and His disciples (good guys) mixed with Levi and the outcasts (bad guys) under one roof. Partying, drinking and eating together.

That was why the Pharisees asked, “Why does [Jesus] eat with such people?” (Mark 2:16) They were playing religious game which prohibited ‘righteous’ people (like them of course) from dirtying their hands with known sinners. They are like this friend of mine who asked me why I go karaoke, watching movies, BBQ, play bowling and futsal, and hang out with drinkers and smokers outside church circles. “Jesus heard them and answered, ‘People who are well do not need a doctor, but only those who are sick. I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts.” (Mark 2:17). Jesus is saying that He come for those who realize that they are sinners in need of a Savior, not to those who called themselves ‘righteous.

Remember, Jesus calls us to be “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Salt cannot accomplish its purpose while sitting in the salt shaker. We need to sprinkle ourselves among the unbelievers in the world in order to affect them. If we only have Christian friends, attend only Christian activities and going only to Christian places, we’re guilty of not being “the salt of the earth” in the world. We must communicate God’s love firsthand, as Jesus did to Levi, to those who need the Savior, Jesus Christ.

[Fyi: Levi, the tax collector is Matthew (another name), the apostles.
He is the one who wrote the Gospel of Matthew]
I wonder; what if he did not answered Jesus’ call that day? Hmmm…
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Jesus Can Forgive Sins? (A Reflection on Mark 2:1-12)

Seeing how much faith they had, Jesus said to the paralyzed man,
My son, your sins are forgiven.’
Some teachers of the Law who were sitting there thought to themselves,
How does he dare talk like this? This is blasphemy!
God is the only one who can forgive sins!’” (Mark 2:5-6, GNB).

The same way my Muslim friends responded to me when I said that Jesus can forgive our sins, the teachers of the Law cried sternly: “No, only God can forgive sins!” This is perfectly understandable defend. If God was the one who was offended, why Jesus took the position to forgive the man’s sins as if He is God? If He is merely God’s messenger why didn’t He simply say, ‘My son, God has forgiven your sins’? How can he know that? If Jesus is nothing more than a godly man, then this accusation is valid – this is blasphemy!

Christianity, however, has an explanation about this: Jesus was God incarnate. He is “the one and only Son, who is himself God” (John 1:18, NIV). He is “my own dear Son” (Mark 1:11) said God the Father during His baptism. “I,” Jesus said, “and the Father are one” (John 10:30). To the spiritual blind eyes, He is blasphemed. But to His people, He is the Son of God and the Son of Man, who has authority to forgive sins. The teachers of the Law were right when they protested, “God is the only one who can forgive sins!” That was why Jesus openly declared that the man’s sins were forgiven – He is God incarnate.

[Jesus] said to them, ‘Why do you think such things? It is easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? I will prove you, then, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’” (Mark 2:8-10, GNB).

This is very practical question. Anyone can say to you and me that ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ There would be no way of telling whether it had happened or not. I bet there was no physical changed to the paralyzed man when Jesus said this. But to say ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’ is very evident that Jesus is blasphemed if the miracle doesn’t happen on the spot. Jesus was basically said to the teachers of the Laws that the reality of healing demonstrates the reality of forgiveness. “While they all watched, the man got up, picked up his mat, and hurried away” (Mark 2:12). The healing happened in front of everyone. Therefore, the forgiveness is real!

Today, I fear, people seeking healings more than seeking Jesus, the Healer. People are more obsess with miracles rather than knowing the Son of Man behind the miracles. People are asking for signs and wonders but not the forgiveness of sins that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ. When you read the Gospel of Mark, you’ll find that Jesus make preaching as His primary agenda (1:14, 1:21, 1:38-39, 2:2), not healings and miracles. His message was and is always be until His second coming, that all of us need to joyfully follow and obey, is that: “The right time has come and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15, GNB).

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jesus, Four Friends and a Paralyzed Man (A Reflection on Mark 2:1-12)

Jesus was preaching the message to them when four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man to Jesus. Because the crowd, however, they could not get the man to him. So they made a hole in the roof right above the place where Jesus was. When they had made an opening, they let the man down, lying on his mat” (Mark 2:2-4, GNB).

This is a famous story about four men brought a friend to Jesus. What is so touching about this scene is that they were so keen that they climbed onto the roof of the house, made an opening, and tried very hard lowered a mat bearing a friend who lay motionless to Jesus. The man was hurting from emotional and physical suffering, incapable of movement (“paralyzed”), making him utterly dependent upon the help of family and friends. Imagine how the man felt at that moment. Obviously, the man needs healing from Jesus.

The four friends, we read, really believed that Jesus would do something for their friend. This is telling when Jesus “seeing how much faith they had” (Mark 2:5). They have invisible faith. Faith that make a hole in the roof. Faith that cause dust covering the floor where Jesus taught. Faith that shown in their sweat-stained faces when they lowered their friend at the feet of Jesus. Jesus, I observed, always associated faith with doing something, not just sitting still and claiming promises. James put it in the nutshell: “Faith without actions is dead” (James 2:26). To have faith is invincible, to live in the faith is visible. Do you have such a faith?

Jesus is unpredictable. He goes beyond the man physical problem. Jesus sees a sinner in need of forgiveness. “Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5). The people listening were shocked. Could it be that the man suffering was due to his past and presence sins? I highly suspect. Now, we must be careful not to label every sickness, disease and death happened due to some particular sins. But all of these are consequences of our sinful condition that Jesus came to deal with on the cross. Are there any sins that you need to confess that may cause you to suffer today? Jesus knows all about it, so you don’t need to hide it. He is ready to say “Your sins are forgiven” if only you would “repent and turn to God” (Acts 3:19).

The root cause of the man paralyzed was his sin against God.  It is not so much with the symptoms but the core problem – sins. We must confront every sinner with this universal issue. We must preach that God offers the forgiveness of sin by grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ alone (not health, wealth and prosperity gospel!). And so, as God incarnate, Jesus speaks with authority: “’I tell you, get up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ While they all watched, the man got up, picked up his mat, and hurried away. They were all completely amazed and praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:11-12). Yes, most of us never seen anything like that but we have seen (or will see) God done a greater miracle in us when we are forgiven from our sins and have eternal life when we believe in His Son (John 3:16). Amen.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Jesus Touched the Unclean, Unwanted, Unloved, Rejected and Mistreated Man (A Reflection on Mark 1:40-45)

A man suffering from a dreaded skin decease came to Jesus, knelt down,
and begged him for help, ‘If you want to,’ he said, ‘you can make me clean.’
Jesus was filled with pity, and stretched out his hand and touched him.
I do want to,’ he answered. ‘Be clean!’
At once the disease left the man, and he was clean” (Mark 1:40-42, GNB).

Leprosy deformities hands
In another translation the man was “a leper(ESV). Leprosy is “a dreaded skin decease” that makes the people during Jesus’ time physically suffers. Not only that, they are considered as social and religious outcast. They are classified as unclean which also includes unwanted, unloved, rejected and mistreated (Do you know? There is a National Leprosy Control Centre (NLCC) built in Sungai Buloh, Selangor).

In this story, the man came to Jesus. Kneeling and begging for Jesus’ mercy. He doesn’t force Jesus to heal him. He simply asked “If you want to” (not like our demanding Jesus-you-must kind of prayer). Was he trying his luck? Was he really having faith in God? I don’t know. But I’m sure he was desperate and believes that somehow Jesus was able to heal him. What is Jesus’ respond? “Jesus was filled with pity” (Mark 1:41) or “moved with compassion(NKJV). Jesus probably “was indignant(NIV) too due to the disease that had so ruined the man’s life.

Another shocking respond that I observed here, something that I surely wouldn’t have done, is that Jesus “stretched out his hand and TOUCHED him”! Touch the ugly, skin disease leper? People who saw this act of compassion would have been (more) shocked to see Jesus touch the man. I think, the man himself also shocked because for so long nobody dare to touch him like Jesus do. The Man of God touched the unclean. The Son of God “became a human being” and “lived among us” (John 1:14) and touch our lives. I don’t know about you, but I really desperate for this kind of God, God who is not only sovereign and powerful, but personal and keep-in-touch. Lord, and yet Friend. Master and also Brother. God who loves us to called Him Father. Jesus is what the world need today!

Now if you had experienced such compassion and love in your own lives, you wouldn’t be surprise to read that: “the man went away and began to spread the news everywhere” (Mark 1:45). Of course he will do… How about you?
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Jesus on Silent, Solitude and Salvation (A Reflection on Mark 1:35-39)

Very early in the next morning, long before daylight, Jesus got up and left the house.
He went out of town to a lonely place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, GNB).

Jesus is not too busy to pray. In the Gospel of Mark, there are three occasions where Jesus intentionally set apart time “to a lonely place”. After the feeding of the five thousand He “went away to a hill to pray” (6:46) and at the garden of Gethsemane He “went a little farther… and prayed” (14:35). In the midst of His popularity and success, amazingly, Jesus never let anything distracted His eyes from His Father. He loves people because He loves the Father. That was why He needed a quiet time to be alone and have fellowship with His Father.

We are so not like Jesus. We’re busy impressing God with our performance and service. We easily become proud when we are getting popular. We desire worldly success and then forget about the mission. We look at wealth, health and prosperity but not to Jesus anymore (Well, only when we need Him to rescue us from trouble and anxiety so that we can achieve more of our dreams. Just like a genie in the bottle). We are too loud to hear God speaks to us. We don’t remember how joyful it is to be alone with God. Maybe this verse is for you and me as a reminder.

Perhaps we are more like Simon Peter – loud and restless. “But Simon and his companions went out to search for [Jesus], and when they found him, they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ But Jesus answered, ‘We must go on to the other villages around here. I have to preach in them also, because this is why I came.’” (Mark 1:36-38). Peter and the others want Jesus to perform more miracles and win more crowds. Jesus, however, wants to go to the other places. They put miracles first, but Jesus put preaching the Good News first (1:39). They seek healings, but Jesus seeks the lost. Jesus had a mission not a goal.

We must remember that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).This is why Jesus came. This is why you’re saved. This is why also you’re saved for – to preach the Good News from God about Jesus Christ to the lost! Amen.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jesus Heals Many People (A Reflection on Mark 1:29-34)

Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, and as soon as Jesus arrived,
he was told about her. He went to her, took her by the hand, and helped her up.
The fever left her, and she began to wait on them.” (Mark 1:30-31, GNB)

In the previous verses we read that Jesus have authority over lives when He called the fishermen to become His followers, His authority over minds when the people were amazed at His teachings, His authority over spirits when He ordered evil spirit from a man in the synagogue and here we see that Jesus also have authority over illnesses.

I assumed by now the disciples were beginning to grow in faith. I think that was why “they immediately told Jesus about [Simon’s mother-in-law]” (1:30, NLT) for Him to heal her. Jesus went, lifted her to her feet, and she was immediately well. She was sick with fever on bed one time and then another time – she gets busy preparing a meal. The healing is instant and complete, not like today’s modern healing schemes! Later that day Jesus healed a great crowd of people (v. 32-34). He was the busiest man in town.

As I read this, I asked myself ‘Why Jesus heals?’ The Scripture seems to give more than one reason. Because He is compassionate, to fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, to reveal the Father’s glory, to destroy the works of the devil – and most importantly, to prove His mission on earth, that is “to preached the Good News from God(1:14). It is important for us to understand that healing is not the end, the Gospel or the Good News from God about His Son, Jesus Christ, is. Healing, just as for the case of miracle, is a sign to what is more important – namely, Jesus Christ Himself. If we seek healing more than we seek the Healer, then we have missed the point (Be extra careful with false teachers nowadays. Be wise and discern).

But there is nothing wrong with asking for healing. It is even commanded in the Scripture. Simon’s mother-in-law who did not ask for it (but the disciples asked for her) and the people who come for it – both were healed by Jesus. Indeed, He is the Healer. Sometime we do not receive healing because we didn’t ask for it. All we have to do is ask. But sometimes it is because we don’t really believe in the Healer… In this case, get to know Him personally. Ask God and seek Him first. Amen.

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jesus Ordered the Evil Spirit (A Reflection on Mark 1:23-28)

[A man] with an evil spirit came into the synagogue and creamed,
What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Are you here to destroy us? I know who you are – you are God’s holy messenger!’
Jesus ordered the spirit, ‘Be quiet, and come out of the man!’”
(Mark 1:23-25, GNB)

Just when the people at the synagogue (a place of Jewish public worship) quiet and still amazed at Jesus’ authoritative teaching (read my previous article) another amazing sequel came into the scene. A man with an evil spirit. An acknowledgement of who Jesus is. A great voice with authority.

I think the man with an evil spirit was there in the community all this while. I also suspect that people knew about him and considered his condition as incurable. Here we read that the evil spirit in him reacted very strongly in the presence of Jesus. Why? Why only in Jesus’ presence? Because the evil spirit knew who is this man Jesus and His real identity. He is “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24, NIV).

All this while, the scribes’ teachings have no authority and power. Jesus, “the Son of God” (Mark 1:1), on the other hand terrified the evil spirit. Jesus silenced the spirit and delivering the helpless man from his demon. The people had never seen such authority before. So that was why “the people were all so amazed” (Mark 1:27).

It is good to know that Jesus has authority over the spirit world, for God’s archenemy Satan is still at work today trying to lure and control people who give him room in their lives. During one of my first mission trips to longhouses, I witnessed a missionary pastor delivering a man from evil spirits who practice black magic. The man heard the Good News and wanted to submit to Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.  In the name of Jesus, at once the evil spirits were casted away! He is free! He is saved!

If Jesus in us and us in Him, we are under His authority and protection because He is the One who has already smashed Satan and his demonic kingdoms. I told a student who stay in hostel one time, “Do not fear of the hysteria phenomena in your campus. That is Satan’s strategy to distract you from fearing the One who have authority over all things. Satan fears (scare) Jesus. So you must fear (reverence) Him.

It is fit that “the news about Jesus spread quickly everywhere” (Mark 1:28).
I wonder have you heard the news about Jesus Christ? Have the news spread to you?
He cares less when the evil spirit creamed, “You are God’s Holy messenger!”
But He is eager for you to believe and say, “Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior!”
What is your respond?
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Jesus Taught with Authority (A Reflection on Mark 1:21-22)

Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach.
The people who heard him were amazed at the way he taught,
for he wasn’t like the teachers of the Law;
instead, he taught with authority
” (Mark 1:21-22, GNB).

Jesus reputation has gone before Him and He is invited to preach in the synagogue service on the Sabbath day. As he taught, people were amazed. The content of Jesus’ teaching, I think, is not new but the way he teaches is unique. It is refreshing but also challenging and somewhat – disturbing.

What’s the difference between Jesus and the teachers of the Law (or scribes)? Jesus “taught with authority.” Even though the scribes were the Israel’s hard-core seminary students and were always studying the Law of Moses and teaching it to the people, overtime they seems to forget the Lord behind the Law. They were so wrapped up in knowing every details of the Law that they overlooked the God of the Law. They lack authority because they lack real relationship with God. We can be like that.

Jesus’ teaching was authoritative because He knew God the Father, the Author of the Law, personally. He taught not only what the Law said but what the Law meant (After all, the Son of God was there went the Law was given to Moses). It was uniqueness that makes the people “amazed at the way he taught.”

When students asked me, how to share God’s Word in my Christian fellowship? I often replied, get to know the Scripture that you want to share very well. Not too detail but sufficient for the day. Left aside your previous ideas and personal agendas behind and let the Word speaks to you. If there are encouragements, share it. If there are warnings, tell people about it. If there are challenges, make sure that you deal with it first before challenge others to do the same. Don’t try to force the Word to be relevant but be sure that it is applicable both to your life and theirs.

Most important of all – no matter how convincing your message might be – have a personal relationship with God. Either people like your message or not, let them say that you teach and speak “with authority” because you know God. I’m convince that the Holy Spirit will teach you more about this if you allow Christ and His Word to have authority in your life day by day. Amen.

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