Monday, March 30, 2015

Jesus, God's Fullest Mercy Revealed


Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me’
(Jonah 1:2, NKJV)

God is a forgiving God. As I read this small Book of Jonah, I’m amazed by a clear picture of a firm but forgiving God. It starts with God ordered Jonah to preach in Nineveh, a foreign town filled with the unusual immorality associated with major cities of Assyrian Empire. “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD” (1:3). Jonah ran away from God (How funny is that!). Yet Jonah’s disobedience in heading in the opposite direction didn’t result in his death or the end of his service. God’s mercy was upon him.

In fact, God used Jonah to convert the sailors on his escape ship, even when he rebelling and sinning. Before they throw Jonah into the sea, the sailors prayed, “We pray, O LORD, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O LORD, have done as it pleased You” (Jonah 1:14). And God used Jonah to reach Ninevites even though he hoped that they would be destroyed. “Then God saw their [Ninevites’] works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). God’s mercy was upon the sailors and the people of Nineveh.

Of course, Jonah did experience God’s anger – in the form of a storm, being swallowed by a big fish, and suffering intense heat – but these were also signs of God’s mercy because God used them to show Jonah that he had a second, a third, fourth… and so on chances to him. From our human perspective, there can be few people who deserved God’s mercy less than Jonah, the sailors and the Ninevites. Yet God forgave them all.

Throughout the Bible, God’s mercy is directed towards his children, the Jews. But in the Book of Jonah, God is clearly revealed as also the God of non-Jews, of the Gentiles (us!). God is interested in a crew of pagan sailors and He even forgives “more than one hundred and twenty thousand” (4:11) of Israel’s greatest enemies. He gave many chances to Jonah. See! God’s forgiveness is not restricted to the Jews only but to all people who asking for forgiveness and acknowledge their sins toward Him. Now, God even show greater mercy toward us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of all mankind. In Jesus, God’s great mercy revealed to the fullest.

The Scripture says: [Whoever] believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:15-17, NKJV). Mercy! Mercy! Mercy! Thank you LORD!


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Jesus, Even on the Cross Welcomes Sinner


Two others, both criminals, were taken along with [Jesus] for execution. When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left
(Luke 23:32-33, The Message)

Reading this text, I’m amazed at Jesus even more today. Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Right at the end of his earthly life he was still among sinners, the people he had come to save. One of them asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom. He said, “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Like many repented-sinners before him, this one criminal turned to Jesus in his hour of need.

The other criminal cursed Jesus, this one turned to Jesus, acknowledge his deserved punishment and come to Jesus in his need. I think he wasn’t sure precisely what he was asking. He didn’t use theological language or set form of words or recites the Sinner’s Prayer. He simply put his trust in Jesus because he knew that Jesus was sinless and perhaps he believes that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God in human flesh and that Jesus could truly help him. At this point, even if he was not so sure about who Jesus really is (as I assumed he did), he knew that Jesus is unique and that God is truly with him. And so, he somewhat have faith in Jesus.

Ah, amazing thing happen when we put our faith in Jesus. The forgiving Son of God, dying on the cross, promised that the criminal would be with him in paradise, that very day. Jesus replied to him, “Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, The Message). There was no conditions. Jesus received the criminal exactly as he was, and Jesus promised him more than he asked for, more than he hoped for, and far more than he expected. This is God: It’s never too late for come to him and ask for forgiveness. In Jesus, God is always ready to forgive us. What happened to the criminal on the cross who have faith (as little as it may seem) in Jesus can happen to us too. It’s no different for us today. Jesus is truly amazing!

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

What Christians Ought to Be Known

I just love this picture, that's all... 
Question: What Christians should be known for in thirty years from now?

Simply put, I thinks Christians ought to be known for loving people outside of their social comfort zones. Today we’ve become pretty good at loving people like ourselves, but the kind of love I hope Christians are known for in thirty years breaks our social love boundaries.

Of course, love is too difficult a word to define. But let me try listing what I think the future of Christian love ought to involve:

§  Loving without putting our acts of kindness on a pedestal. What happened to giving in secret? Glamourous charity is not charity at all.
§  Loving without strings, unconditionally, no bait and switches.
§  Being unconcerned about being unnamed, rewarded, or repaid.
§  Prioritizing the other, even in the midst of personal discomfort.
§  Advocating for the undefended.
§  Being a voice for the voiceless.
§  Being better listeners to those who need to be heard.
§  Being a church without walls – simple church, organic church, megachurch – it’s all good. We’re one church.
§  Seeing the church as a home of the fringe, the misfits, and the marginalized, where these same people lead with real authority.
§  Being willing to die for others, laying our lives down like the first-century Christians did when pandemics struck their cities. They would stay to serve the afflicted while others left.
§  Responding immediately to any global crisis.
§  Thinking of long-term commitment to radical and sacrificial compassion for the poor.
§  Being a gentle conversationalist with the world.
§  Showing love for Christ more than love for Christianity as a culture.
§  Creating a place where all are truly empowered, led and seen. A place where the next generation finally reflects the majority, multicultural world. Jesus really didn’t have blue eyes! (or did he?)

Dave Gibbons
Pastor of New Song Church
Quote from Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project (Baker Books, 2007) pg. 228-229
Original title as ‘Love’

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Lord, I Serve in the Church More than Others"


I have a love-hate respond to this wonderful story in the Book of Luke in the New Testament. Partly because Jesus told the story to the deserved self-righteous Pharisees and partly because it is about me, another self-righteous guy. The story was about two men. One man was a Pharisee, one of the respectful religious leaders of the day. The other one was a tax collector, a profession that was typically despised by the Jews and was considered to be sell-out to the Roman occupiers. Again, Jesus was telling this story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves (mostly the religious leaders of the day) over their moral performance and who looked down at the common people:

Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’

Jesus commended: ‘This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself’” (Luke 18:9-14, The Message).

Yeah, I love-hate this story. Here we have two different men. One, the Pharisee, is careful to keep up appearances and do everything right. He takes pride in his moral performance and his extravagant religious activities. If he have Facebook account today I think he would posts many religious pictures, Christian blogs links and spiritual quotes (hmmm… just like me). He might wear sparkling Christian t-shirt, read KJV Bible only and gossiping or pointing fingers at everyone’s, anyone’s faults. In his attitudes, thoughts, actions and words, he looks down on others.

The tax collector, on the other hand, cries out and pleads for God’s mercy and is unashamed to be transparent to admit that he has failed God. Rightly, he confesses his faults, acknowledging that he is not worthy to lift up his face to God and calling himself “a sinner.” His heart attitude is real humility. Wow! How far am I from this kind of humility prayer! Therefore, Jesus said, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (NIV).

I learned (over and over again) that God is not impress by my appearances or even my many ministries. God is looking at the heart. Our humility, true humility in the presence of God is what Jesus commend to us. Humility, not a habit of self-righteous and pointing out the faults of others, is what God is looking for in us. Ah, this is a wonderful story! I hate-love this story.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Who is the God I Reveal?


Do we think of God as one who likes to “haul sinners over the coals”? Do we think of the Lord as one who likes to list our sins for us and force us to “eat humble pie”? How we see God’s character will determine how we reveal God to others, so what kind of a picture of God are we communicating to people? Is “our God” always angry, never truly satisfied, constantly carping and criticising, or is he the gracious and amazingly merciful God? To bring this question down to the daily reality of our lives: how do our children see God in us, and hear about God from us? How do unbelievers in our workplace, school, or neighbourhood see and hear about God through us? In our lives, are we communicating a portrait of our heavenly Father as slave master?

This past year one of my students shared in class a most painful story about his son putting a gun in his own mouth and threatening to blow off his head. He said with tears that he had failed as a father to communicate graciousness to his son in the demands he made and in the way he treated him. Many fathers are like this. I will never forget one of my sons saying this to me, “Dad, what you have got against me?” His words shocked me deeply, and I said to him with tears, ‘Son, I have nothing against you. I love you!” I couldn’t believe I had made him feel that I was unhappy with him, or dissatisfied with who he was. We need to remember that no one has ever seen God; what they know of God’s love is what they see in us. So, again, what are people learning about the character of God from our lives?

Jerram Barrs
Author of Learning Evangelism from Jesus
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 123-124.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

Orang Muda, Jangan Takut akan Sesama Manusia (Renungan tentang Yeremia 1:4-10)


TUHAN berfirman kepadaku [Yeremia], ‘Sebelum Aku membentuk engkau dalam rahim ibumu, dan sebelum engkau dilahirkan, Aku sudah memilih dan melantik engkau menjadi nabi bagi bangsa-bangsa.’ Aku menjawab, ‘Ya TUHAN Raja, aku tidak pandai bercakap kerana aku masih terlalu muda.’ Tetapi TUHAN menjawab, ‘Jangan berkata bahawa engkau masih terlalu muda. Pergilah kepada orang yang Kusuruh engkau pergi, dan beritahulah mereka segala sesuatu yang Kuperintahkan kepadamu. Jangan takut terhadap mereka kerana Aku akan menyertai engkau untuk melindungimu. Aku, TUHAN telah berfirman!’ Kemudian TUHAN menghulurkan tangan-Nya, menyentuh mulutku dan berfirman, ‘Dengarlah, Aku memberi engkau firman-Ku yang harus engkau ucapkan. Pada hari ini Aku memberi engkau kuasa atas bangsa dan kerajaan untuk mencabut dan menjatuhkannya, untuk membinasakan dan menggulingkannya, untuk membina dan menegakkannya” (Yeremia 1:4-10, BM).

TUHAN berfirman terus kepada Yeremia. Yeremia dipilih sebagai nabi khas bagi umat Israel. Yeremia ada misi khas dari TUHAN. Oleh itu, apa yang dijanjikan kepada nabi Yeremia (seperti “kuasa atas bangsa dan kerajaan untuk mencabut dan menjatuhkannya”) tidak semesti apa yang dijanjikan oleh TUHAN kepada kita. Tetapi Firman-Nya; “Jangan takut terhadap mereka kerana Aku akan menyertai engkau untuk melindungimu” harus menjadi dorongan dan kekuatan bagi setiap kita yang ingin mentaati-Nya dan melayani orang disekeliling kita.

Kita sebagai orang-orang muda seperti nabi Yeremia yang ingin mentaati TUHAN dan melayani orang lain pasti akan melalui banyak rintangan terutama sekali tentangan dan penolokkan daripada orang lain. Kita takut apabila kita tidak diterima. Saya sendiri kadang-kadang terfikir kalau-kalau ada orang yang tidak berpuas hati terhadap saya. Mungkin ada yang tidak suka dengan cara dan bagaimana saya melakukan sesuatu. Ada yang tidak setuju dan akan ada yang tersinggung. Saya sendiri juga mungkin ada melakukan kesilapan atau tersalah cakap dan mendapat kritikkan yang negatif. Takut akan sesama manusia adalah faktor utama yang menghalang kita dalam pelayanan bagi TUHAN.

Jadi TUHAN berfirman, “Jangan takut terhadap mereka kerana Aku akan menyertai engkau untuk melindungimu.” Hadirat dan penyertaan-Nya lebih berharga dan penting daripada apa yang orang lain katakan tentang kita. TUHAN akan menyertai dan melindungi kita semasa dan melalui masalah yang kita akan alami kerana Nama-Nya. Melalui Yesus Kristus, janji yang sama juga sudah diberikan kepada kita sekarang; “Allah sudah berfirman, ‘Aku tidak akan membiarkan kamu, Aku tidak akan meninggalkan kamu.’ Oleh itu, dengan penuh keyakinan kita berkata, ‘Tuhan Penolongku, aku tidak akan takut. Apakah yang dapat dilakukan orang terhadap aku?’” (Ibrani 13:5-6); dan “Jika Allah berpihak kepada kita, siapakah dapat melawan kita?” (Roma 8:31).

Jadi, TUHAN berfirman kepada nabi Yeremia dan juga kepada kita orang-orang muda sekarang yang telah dipanggil oleh-Nya untuk mentaati dan melayani orang lain, “Jangan berkata bahawa engkau masih terlalu muda... Jangan takut terhadap mereka kerana Aku akan menyertai engkau untuk melindungimu.” Kerana TUHAN yang kita ada ialah Tuhan yang tidak akan meninggalkan kita. Kerana Dia telah memilih dan mempunyai rencana yang indah dalam kehidupan kita. Kerana Roh-Nya akan memimpin setiap pergerakkan dan percakapan kita. Kerana TUHAN sendiri akan bersama kita semasa kita mengalami tentangan atau penolakkan. Jangan takut. Jangan takut. Jangan takut.


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Jesus and the Punk-Rocker

Not-so-hardcore-Japanese-punk fashion
As I Googled the word ‘Punk’, there are two basics definitions, 1) “a loud, fast-moving, and aggressive form of rock music, popular in the late 1970s”, and 2) “a worthless person” (often used as a general term of abuse). Punk rock (or simply, punk), as I understand it back then, is more of the message it brings then about the music. “What is punk to you?” I asked a student who don’t like to go to church and Christian fellowship but like hanging out with me for a cup of coffee and discuss about the latest movies and a bit of music. “I’m not sure,” this guy with a black t-shirt and tight jean said. I know, it’s difficult to describe it. He paused and then continued, “Punk is me. Punk is you. Punk is the way we show and expressed our anger, love and passion in life… It’s inside of us… and some may expressed it through actions, words, clothes, etc. It’s about what you believes, values and who you are.” I nodded not as approval but as a sign of understanding. “It’s about being an individual. It’s about breaking the status quo! There really aren’t guidelines or rules for punk… everything fuck off! If you don’t like certain kind of music genres, fuck off, punk is for me.” He smiled. Too emotional I think but I understand.

How interesting, I said to myself. He is bold and authentic, rude but kind, punk and a bit of philosophical. I definitely doesn’t like his language and I surely won’t listen to some of the songs that he recommended to me. But I do like this man. He know that I work in a Christian student ministry, but he doesn’t feel uneasy or shy when he shared about his life to me. I listened to his stories once per month at least over a cup of coffee, and I would share with him about my own life, the Bible and Jesus whenever I could. Both of us like punk rock (such as Blink 182, Green Day, Bowling for Soup, The Offspring, etc.), but I’m not sure if he also like the Jesus of the Bible (maybe He is not sure yet), and it doesn’t matter for now because it’s not about winning another ‘Christian’ but it’s about showing and introduce a person like him to the Person of Jesus Christ. Loving actions, truthful words, continues prayer.  

In the Bible, after Jesus called Matthew (or Levi), the tax collector to follow him, he then having a dinner in Matthew’s house where “many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples” (Mark 2:15, NKJV). Know this, tax collectors were hated by people because they cooperated with the Romans government. Therefore Jesus’ actions in spending time with sinners transcended the taboos and culture of the day. Jesus may have broken some religious rules and traditions. Jesus, as spiritual leader, (so the other religious leaders thought) shouldn’t be among the social outcasts of society or even spending time with the publicans and sinners – but Jesus does the opposite! Jesus looked past all that and saw their need. Jesus cares about people and about their soul’s eternal destinies. He build trust and relationship. He show compassion and sincerity. He shown Himself to others. “Those who are well have no need of a physician,” Jesus proclaimed, “but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17). Jesus came to the sinners (build relationship) and Jesus called people to repentance (changed life).

Me and the punk guy. Jesus and the tax collector. I’m not Jesus, Jesus is definitely not me. The punk guy and the tax collector (and me) are sinners, but they’re not the same. We’re different. But all of us (and you) have the same need – we need Jesus. So if we are Christians, then we ought to be like (Jesus) Christ since Christian mean a follower of Christ. Follow. Exemplify. Be. Therefore, like Jesus, we should look beyond church building, Christian fellowship and even culture of the day to people’s hearts. Jesus showed us that we shouldn’t let cultural norms or even Christian subculture norms of today dictate who we should evangelize and befriend with. Punk rockers, tax collectors, me and you need Lord Jesus. The sick need a Physician. Lost sheep need a Shepherd. Sinner need the Saviour, Jesus Christ. On John 17:14-19, David Mathis, executive editor for desiringGod.org, writes, “Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others.”

This is my latest entry post on my Facebook (23.03.2015):
Even punk-rockers are seeking for the One true God.
Gives us a change to discover more of Jesus and don't judge us very quickly.”
Yes, hang out with us. Our hearts are restless until they find rest in God.
 Tell us (more) about Jesus.
(Welcome us, Punk, but you may not affirm our music. We’re okay)
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Isa al-Masih ialah Pembela Kita (Renungan tentang 1 Yahya 2:1-2)

Anak-anakku, aku menuliskan hal-hal ini kepadamu supaya kamu tidak berbuat dosa. Dan jika sesiapa berbuat dosa, kita mempunyai seorang Pembela ke hadirat Allah Bapa, iaitu Isa al-Masih Yang Benar itu. Dialah korban perdamaian bagi dosa kita, malah bukan dosa kita sahaja tetapi dosa seluruh umat manusia
(1 Yahya 2:1-2, Kitab Suci Zabur dan Injil, KSZI)

Seperti renungan-renungan Firman Allah sebelumnya (sila klik, Renungan tentang Surat Pertama Rasul Yahya), saya menerangkan yang Rasul Yahya sebenarnya menulis surat ini kepada umat-umat Allah yang sudah percaya kepada Isa al-Masih, bukan kepada semua orang di dunia. Jadi, surat ini ialah khusus bagi orang Kristian.

Kita orang Kristian patut sedar bahawa menjadi pengikut Isa tidak semesti kita tidak akan berbuat dosa lagi. Kita perlu meninggalkan dosa yang lama dan hari demi hari kita harus melawan percubaan dan keinginan diri melalui kuasa Roh Allah yang ada bersama kita. Tetapi ada masanya kita akan jatuh dan berbuat dosa lagi. Di sini Rasul Yahya menulis bahawa orang Kristian yang benar akan mengakui dosa dia dan TUHAN pasti akan mengampuninya. Bagaimana ini boleh terjadi? Murka Allah terhadap semua dosa kita sudah diselesaikan oleh Isa al-Masih melalui darah-Nya yang menyucikan kita daripada segala dosa (1 Yahya 1:7).

Isa al-Masih ialah Pembela kita. Apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan “Pembela”? Bayangkan kita berada di mahkamah. Rasul Yahya seperti mengatakan bahawa jika kita dituduh bersalah dihadapan Allah Bapa, kita ada peguam bela yang akan mewakili kita. Isa al-Masih, Putera Allah yang duduk bersama Allah Bapa akan ‘masuk campur’ dan membela kita dari segala tuduhan Iblis kepada kita. Walaupun Iblis telah menuduh kita “siang dan malam di hadapan Allah TUHAN” (Wahyu 12:10, KSZI), Isa akan menjadi Pembela bagi kita. Kematian Isa al-Masih di kayu salib telah menjadi “korban perdamaian bagi dosa kita” (1 Yahya 2:2). Allah itu adil, maka dosa harus dihukum. Allah itu juga kasih, maka Dia mengutus Putera-Nya untuk mati bagi kita. Isa ingin dan sanggup mati bagi kita. Oleh itu, jika kita berbuat dosa, dan kita terus mengakui dosa kita, Allah pasti akan mengampuni kita! Inilah kebaikan dan kasih kurnia Allah.

Ingat, sebagai seorang Kristian, kita pasti akan melakukan dosa lagi walaupun selepas kita bertaubat. Jangan jadikan ia kebiasaan dan jangan juga mudah putus asa. Apapun terjadi, Isa al-Masih akan tetap menjadi Pembela kita. Seorang Kristian yang benar bukanlah seorang yang sempurna dan tidak berbuat dosa lagi, tetapi seorang yang sentiasa akan mengakui dosanya di hadapan Allah. Pengakuan dosa sepatutnya menjadi rutin orang Kristian. Ini tidak bermaksud kita sering berfikiran negatif. Ini bermaksud kita ialah anak-anak Allah dan kita sebenarnya “mempunyai fikiran al-Masih” (1 Korintus 2:16).

Bagi kamu yang belum mengenal dan menerima Isa al-Masih sebagai Tuhan dan Juruselamat kamu
Adakah kamu juga mahu Isa menjadi Pembela kamu?
Atau kamu boleh membela diri sendiri di hadirat Allah Bapa yang Maha Adil dan Suci?

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Jesus Might Spent More Time Outside the Church


I have great optimism about the reputation of Christianity in the future. [Right now, the perceptions raised in the book Unchristian by David Kinnaman of what our emerging culture thinks of Christians and the church such as too hypocritical, judgmental, antihomosexual, only care about people being ‘saved,’ etc. are pretty embarrassing and sadly true*]. But the good news is that while people have negative perceptions of the church and Christians, they are open to and respect what they know of Jesus. This led me to write a book about this, where I conclude that people like Jesus but not the church.

So if over the next thirty years, Christians, and especially church leaders, escape the subculture that we have created, this could really change the climate of how we are viewed by those outside the church. In theory, it really shouldn’t be hard to do. Jesus followers need to simply be friends with those outside the church. It’s not too complicated – going to movies with them, caring for them as any friend would, having them over for dinner, being there for them, not just seeing them as evangelistic targets. So even if they stumble at the gospel, as many, of course, will, at least they won’t stumble at all the negative stereotypes and perceptions that have developed.

But it does mean that we do need to take the words of Jesus seriously when he said not to be separate from the world but to be in the world, protected from evil. I absolutely know we need Christian community, but we have swung the pendulum so far into Christian “community” that we now live in more of an isolated world. Our time is filled with Christian activities and busyness in the church, taking us away from building normal and healthy friendships with those in the world.

So the future could be quite positive if people experience that not all Christians are antihomosexual, judgmental, and sheltered. I envisioned Christians naturally befriending those outside the church, understanding their faith, being deeper thinkers theologically, and truly having answers for those who ask. My prayer and hope for the future is that church leaders will become missional leaders, which in turn will produce missional churches, and then the perceptions will be changed to positive as the Spirit of God uses our lives to be salt and light. So when a similar study is undertaken in thirty years, people will describe Christians as “loving, kind, family centred, caring for the poor, good examples, peaceful,” and the other fruits of the Spirit.

Dan Kimball
Pastor and Author
Quote from Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project (Baker Books, 2007) pg. 232-233
*Passage in the bracket on the first paragraph is mine
Original title as ‘Jesus’

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Will Jesus Throw a Stone at the Adulterous Woman? (Maybe. Maybe Not. Only If You Know)


Jesus was in the Temple. “The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him” (John 8:3-6, The Message).

They want to trap Jesus. They had caught a woman committing adultery and they wanted to know what Jesus would do. By the way, where was the man who committed adultery with the woman? Get away freely? Controversy. Just like today’s controversy. Another story. But now, how would Jesus treat such a foul sinner? What would Jesus do?

The Scripture says, “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him” (John 8:6-7, Msg). I suspect, there was a long silence while Jesus looked at the ground and doodled his finger in the dust. They repeated their question (so annoying!) and eventually Jesus “straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.’ Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt” (John 8:7-8, Msg). Or if you like ESV translation, Jesus simply said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Very clear and direct. What was their response to Jesus’ challenge? Well, “hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone” (8:9, Msg). Now, since Jesus is the most qualified Man on earth to throw a stone at her, what would Jesus do next? Do you think Jesus would do it? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe if you know Jesus, you already know the answer…

Jesus stood up and spoke to her, “’Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?
No one, Master.’ ‘Neither do I,’ said Jesus” (John 8:10-11, Msg). What is happening here? This is how I see the situation, that: judgment and punishment belong to God – and before Him all men and women are equally guilty. That was why everyone starting with the oldest ones walked away. The accusers were accused! They understood it! Do we? Understand this, in the light of God’s holiness nobody can classified one person as good and another as bad, because all people are equally sinful in the face of God’s absolute perfection, and all are in equal need of His forgiveness. Everyone need God’s forgiveness through faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. ALL.

This woman, though she had committed a terrible sin, was no worse in God’s eyes than any of the religious leaders who were condemning her. In God’s eyes, sin is sin. There is no small or big sin – just sin. That mean, she was also no more sinner than anyone of us since everyone sin against God (no need Bible verses here. We know it alright). But in God’s grace and mercy, Jesus didn’t pick up a stone. Jesus didn’t asked her if she was sorry. Jesus didn’t say that his love is conditional. Jesus told her that he didn’t condemn her. Jesus only told her, “Go on your way.” Jesus, after his words of forgiveness, he told her, “From now on, don’t sin” (John 8:11, Msg). Jesus as Son of God, with authority, forgive her.

Ah, Jesus = Forgiveness. Mind you, forgiveness is not a reward offered to those who promise not to sin anymore or who have stopped sinning. Forgiveness is not given to those who feel sorry and hope to be good. Forgiveness is God’s unconditional grace to sinners. Forgiveness is through repentance and faith in Christ’s work on the cross for us. So, it is natural and expected – out of gratitude – that we should show our love in our actions, with new behaviour and lifestyle. Jesus says to us, “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” Don’t go back sinning the way you were before. Move on with Christ in you. You’re forgiven sinners.


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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Do Something for Jesus


Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892), my old old friend. It’s been a while since I read him, refreshed my mind and challenged my heart to meet the old wise preacher and friend. He taught me to love the Scripture. He pointed me to the Lord. His favourite is the grace of God. Spurgeon always emphasised God’s truth by saying that only by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven and return to the loving Father. Joy, love and peace. But, he also pointed out that saving-faith and love of God will produce fruit of the spirit. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action,” writes James, “is dead” (2:14). Spurgeon encouraged us:

Show Him a proof of you love, and the best proof you can give is you own personal holiness and persevering effort to gather in His redeemed. Brother, sister, do something for Jesus. Do not talk about it; do it. Words are leaves; actions are fruits. Do something for Jesus; do something for Jesus today! Ere the sun goes down, think of some one action that may tend to the conversion of some one person, and do it with your might; let the object of the effort be your child, your servant, your brother, your friend – but do make the effort today.

Having done it today, do it tomorrow, and every day, and doing it in one way, do it another; and doing it in one state of heart, do it in another. Let your joy enchant; let your sorrow arouse; let your hope attract; let your changeful moods help you to attract sinners from different quarters, as your varying circumstances bring you into contact with differing persons. Be always awake. Turn yourself about as a gun on a swivel to reach persons who are found in any direction, so that some may fall wounded by the gospel’s power. By all means, save some. God grant it may be so.”

Oh yes, do something for Jesus.
Real-faith will produce actions.
Actions may spark faith and repentance.
Only God can save, but yeah, do something for Jesus.
Yes Lord, I’m doing something today. I’m writing this. Amen.
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Penebangan Pokok, Kandungan Karbon Dioksida dan Pemanasan Global


“[TUHAN] Allah menempatkan manusia itu di Taman Eden
untuk mengusahakannya serta memelihara taman itu” (Kejadian 2:15, BM)

Hutan kita memerlukan pokok (itu logik!). Tiada yang menarik tentang hutan yang gondol dan tidak ada pokok (Itu logik kedua). Tetapi, bagaimana penggondolan hutan boleh memberi impak kepada pemanasan global? Mari kita kembali kepada asas. Fikirkan, setiap udara yang kita sedut mengandungi oksigen dan yang kita hembus pula mengandungi karbon dioksida. Pokok-pokok dan segala tumbuhan akan menyerap karbon dioksida dan menukarkannya kepada oksigen supaya kita boleh terus bernafas. Beginilah, secara ringkas, kitaran kehidupan di dunia.

Tetapi harus kita fikirkan juga bahawa pokok-pokok dan segala tumbuhan bukan hanya menyerap karbon dioksida yang dilepaskan oleh kita manusia dan haiwan-haiwan. Ia juga menyerap karbon dioksida yang ada diseluruh bumi ini termasuk yang dilepaskan secara semula jadi seperti apabila berlaku letupan gunung berapi, melalui gas-gas yang dilepaskan semasa proses pereputan berlaku dan apabila hutan terbakar. Malah, pembakaran bahan api fosil juga menyumbang kepada pelepasan gas karbon dioksida.

Hutan-hutan yang ada di bumi sekarang sangat penting bagi menyeimbangkan kandungan karbon dioksida di atmosfera kita. Ia menyerap karbon dioksida dari atmosfera dan dipindahkan ke daun-daun, akar-akarnya dan kembali ke tanah. Menurut apa yang saya pernah baca dalam satu artikel, selama 40 tahun, 4000 meter persegi hutan boleh menyimpan 50 tan karbon dioksida. Tetapi, bagaimana jika pokok-pokok semakin berkurangan?

Dengan jumlah penduduk di bumi sekarang semakin meningkat – hampir 7 bilion – pemintaan untuk bahan binaan seperti kayu juga semakin meningkat. Kita perlu membina rumah, membuat kertas untuk keperluan rumah, sekolah dan pejabat, memotong pokok-pokok untuk pertanian dan menggondolkan hutan atas tujuan pembangunan. Pokok-pokok dipotong supaya kita boleh membina banyak lagi pusat-pusat membeli-belah dan untuk membina empangan elektrik. Hutan-hutan yang pada mulanya memenuhi seluruh bumi sekarang sudah ditebang, dibakar dan dibersihkan secara rakus dan tidak teratur menyebabkan kita hilang hampir 80 peratus hutan-hutan semulajadi di dunia (menurut World Resource Institute). Sebagai contoh untuk kamu lebih memahami kemusnahan ini, bayangkan kamu berdiri di sebuah cermin yang besar. Lihat dari kepala hingga lutut kamu. Itulah 80% dari bahagian tubuh kamu. Itulah nisbah hutan-hutan yang hilang sekarang.

Apabila hutan ditebang atau dibakar, ia akan menyebabkan dua perkara. Pertama, pokok-pokok yang menyerap karbon dioksida di udara semakin kurang. Kedua, ia akan mengakibatkan pelepasan karbon dioksida yang terkandung di dalam akar-akar pokok dan tanah yang selama ini disimpan di dalamnya. Ketahuilah, penebangan hutan adalah penyumbang kedua terbesar selepas pembakaran bahan api fosil kepada pemanasan global di bumi sekarang. Ingat: semakin banyak kandungan karbon dioksida di udara, semakin panas suhu muka bumi. Semakin panas suhu bumi, semakin kering tanah dan pokok-pokok. Semakin kering tanah dan pokok-pokok, semakin tinggi peluang bagi hutan terbakar teruk. Apabila ada kebakaran hutan, secara sengaja atau tidak, hutan yang kering akan lebih mudah merebak dan menjadi teruk berbanding dengan hutan yang sihat. Semua kitaran alam semula jadi, pasti akan memberi kesan kepada kita juga akhirnya.

Sayangi hutan-hutan kita.
Kita harus mengusahakannya dan juga – memeliharanya.
Lakukan sesuatu. Kita dan masa depan.
Jadilah suara bagi ciptaan-Nya.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Prisoners Smiled in Peace Before Choke to Death


So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:12-14)

Charles Wesley gives us an example of how one might obey Hebrews 13:13 and go “out the camp” and bear the abuse he endured. On July 18, 1738, two months after his conversion, Charles Wesley did an amazing thing. He had spent the week witnessing to inmates at the Newgate prison with a friend named “Bray,” whom he described as “a poor ignorant mechanic.” One of the men they spoke to was “a black [slave] that had robbed his master.” He was sick with a fever and was condemned to die.

On Tuesday, Wesley and Bray asked if they could be locked in overnight with the prisoners who were to be executed the next day [this is outside the camp!]. That night they spoke the gospel. They told the men that “One came down from heaven to save lost sinners.” They described the sufferings of the Son of God, his sorrows, agony, and death.

The next day the men were loaded onto a cart and taken to Tyburn. Wesley went with them. Ropes were fastened around their necks so that the cart could be driven off, leaving them swinging in the air to choke to death. The fruit of Wesley and Bray’s nightlong labour was astonishing. Here is what Wesley wrote:

“They were all cheerful; full of comfort, peace and triumph; assuredly persuaded Christ had died for them, and waited to receive them into paradise… The black [slave]… saluted me with his looks. As often as his eyes met mine, he smiled with the most composed, delightful countenance I ever saw.
            We left them going to meet their Lord, ready for the Bridegroom. When the cart drew off, not one stirred, or struggle for life, but meekly gave up their spirits. Exactly at twelve they were turned off. I spoke a few suitable words to the crowds; and returned, full of peace and confidence in our friends’ happiness. That hour under the gallows was the most blessed hour of my life.”

Two things in this story amaze and inspire me. One is the astonishing power of Wesley’s message about the truth and love of Christ. All the condemned prisoners were converted, and they were so deeply converted that they could look death in the face (without a long period of “follow up” or “discipling”) and give up their lives with confidence that Christ would receive them. Their suffering was not for righteousness’ sake, but the same dynamics were at work to sustain them. They looked on their suffering as something they must pass through on the way to heaven, and the hope of glory was so real that they died in peace. Oh, for such power in witness!

The other thing that amazes me is the sheer fact that Wesley went to the prison and asked to be locked up all night with condemned criminals who had nothing more to lose if they killed another person. Wesley had no supervisor telling him that this was his job. He was not a professional prison minister. It would have been comfortable and pleasant to spend the evening at home conversing with friends. Then why did he go?

God put it in his heart to go. And Wesley yielded. There are hundreds of strange and radical things God is calling his people to do in the cause of world missions. Not everyone will hear the same call. Yours will be unique. It may be something you never dreamed of doing. But I urge you to listen to the leading of the Spirit to see where “outside the camp” he may be taking you “to bear the reproach he endured.
[Quote from Let the Nation Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper (Inter-Varsity Press, 1993, 2007), Page 81-82. Title mine]


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Friday, March 13, 2015

P.s. Freedom of Religion?


Students had been asking me questions about Islam. I know some general teachings and beliefs about Islam but I don’t know how to answer students if they ask in-depth questions about Islamic theology. I don’t think most Muslims know either (same goes with majority Christians on Biblical theology). I once heard how a Muslim scholar twisted Christian teachings, and how a Christian talked out of his ignorance about Islam. I find telling myself that, I don’t want to do that damage to other religions like that. I don’t want to twist and misinterpret Islam teachings. If I don’t know, I don’t know. If I know, I should give some evidences and study the subject first before giving my response.

So I read some books on Islam by notable scholars and teachers. Local and international. One of the books that I like is Islam Explained by Shaik Kadir (Marshall Cavendish Ltd: Singapore, 2006) – simple and concise. Most popular question students asked me is about the Freedom of Religion, especially in Malaysia. Honestly, in general, Islam teachings about this subject in Malaysia is very confusing (Whenever political-agenda-religious-minded leaders speaks, don’t listen to them). One attitude and ideology stating that Islam is a religion of sword, while majority modest believers says it is a religion of peace. Which one is true? I personally think it’s how people interpret their fundamental beliefs in their religion. What the Al-Quran and Hadith says?

Shaik Kadir, what is your respond? He writes:

“Since the Prophet [Muhammad]’s time, people were and are attracted to Islam because of its uniqueness, beauty, rationality, universality and dynamism.

Another notable characteristics of Islam that makes it attractive to people is the freedom to belief, and this is mentioned in the Quran. God says: “There is no compulsion in the faith,” because “The right way is clearly distinct from error” (2:256). The Quran adds: “If it had been your Lord’s Will, they would have believed – all who are on earth!” (10:99). But God did not make every human being a believer without choice. God made man special, endowing him with superior intelligence.

As man can think and make choices, the Prophet was not allowed by God to compel people to become Muslims (10:99). Instead, God commanded the Prophet to call people to Islam with wisdom and kindness. God says: “(O Muhammad!) Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and reason with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16:125).

As Islam is a religion established by the Prophet himself (and not one formulated ages after the founder’s death), the Prophet sent letters to rulers of his neighbouring countries inviting them to Islam, but no one was forced to it as he had closed followed the instructions of the Quran not to compel people into it. Therefore, in the course of his 23 years of Apostolic mission, the Prophet did not compel anyone to accept Islam against his own free will, not even his own uncle and guardian, Abu Talib, who was never formally converted to Islam.

God advised the Prophet to tell those with other religions, thus: “You have your faith and I have my faith” (109:6). However, as a comprehensive and completed Religion of God for mankind, Muslims are requested to pass the Message of Islam to others, believers and non-believers, so that they will not hold Islam in contempt. The Islamic method of Islam-sharing is: “Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom” (16:125). This is an invitation taught by God Himself. It is a gracious and intellectual way of inviting people to understand Islam – by wisdom” (page 144-145).

Freedom of religion in Islam – What do you think?
Or freedom of religion in Malaysia – What is your respond?
Have this in mind: I want to understand, not argument. Thanks.

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