Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pray for Persecuted Church: Afghanistan


[The Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar] Afghanistan remains mired in chaos as the U.S. prepares to decrease troop numbers from the ‘surge’ initiated by President Obama in late 2009. Attempts to negotiate with the Taliban have been fruitless, and relations between President Karzai (previous president) and members of parliament remain tense. The Taliban insurgency remains problematic, with political assassinations in July and an attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul June 2011. Out of 76 people groups in the country, 70 are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Muslim 99.8%, Christian 0.01%
Ideology
Islam
Head of State
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani (Updated)


Converting from Islam to any religion is a crime, and proselytizing is illegal. There are no formal churches in the country. It is believed that several hundred Afghans now follow Christ. Christians experience intense persecution from family members and neighbors. Shoaib Assadullah was arrested in 2009 after giving a New Testament to a man who later reported him to authorities. The arrested Christian refused to recant his faith, despite promises of freedom if he would. Another Afghan Christian, Said Musa, was arrested after video depicting Christian baptisms was aired on national TV. Following international campaigns on their behalf, both men were eventually released.

Pray that believers will find creative and safe ways to worship and fellowship.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Friday, May 29, 2015

Pray for Persecuted Church: Pakistan


[The Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar] Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It suffers from chronic sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, including frequent suicide bombings and killings. Though the constitution guarantees religious freedom, Christians increasingly suffer under Pakistan’s three blasphemy laws. One law stipulates that any person who defiles the name of the prophet Muhammad may be punished by life imprisonment or death. Four hundred forty-nine (449) of the 463 people groups in Pakistan are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Muslim 95.8%, Christian 2.5%
Ideology
Islam
Head of State
President Asif Ali Zardari


Christians in Pakistan live under constant threat from fundamentalist Muslims. Muslim employers and neighbours frequently accuse Christians of crimes and blasphemy against Islam, and Christians are assumed guilty. The blasphemy laws are often used unjustly to imprison or otherwise punish Christians for practicing their faith. Government officials do not adequately protect Christians from violence, and those who attack Christians are seldom brought to justice. Last year, Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member was assassinated for criticizing the blasphemy law and calling for Christian prisoner Asia Bibi’s release. Governor Salmaan Taseer, a Muslim, was also killed because of his support of the repeal of the blasphemy laws. On March 21, 2011, a group of armed Muslims opened fire on Christians at an open-air prayer meeting, killing two of the men. Before their burial ceremony, about 4,000 Christians protested in the streets and demanded that the police arrest the killers.

Pray that Pakistan’s blasphemy law will stop being used as a weapon against Christians
THINK BIG. START SMALL .GO DEEP.


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Jesus encountered with Critics (Grace-Giver and Law-Keepers Collide)


At about that time Jesus was walking through some grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, so they began breaking off some heads of grain and eating them. But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, ‘Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath’” (Matthew 12:1-2, NLT).

Jesus and his disciples were “walking through some grainfields.” Because the disciples were hungry, they began to pluck heads of grain and eat them. They weren’t stealing, God had told farmers not to harvest the edges of their fields, so travellers and the poor could partake (see Leviticus 23:22). On any other day, no one would have questioned Jesus about what the disciples were doing. Because this was the Sabbath, however, the Pharisees accused them of breaking God’s law about not working on the day they were supposed to keep holy (see Exodus 20:8-11).

The Pharisees had separated themselves from anything non-Jewish and carefully followed both the Old Testament (Jewish Scriptures) laws and the oral traditions handed down through the centuries. They were exacting, detailing and scrupulous in their attempts to follow God’s law as well as hundreds of those traditional laws (sayings of the rabbis, which are not directly inspired by God as the Scriptures). And the worst thing was – they expected the Jews to do the same.

According to Exodus 34:21, harvesting grain was forbidden on the Sabbath, and picking the grain and rubbing it could have been interpreted as “harvesting”. But, as was often the case, the Pharisees were missing the spirit of the law and focusing on the letter. The disciples were picking the grain because they were hungry, not to harvest the grain for profit (I’m sure God would allow His hungry people to eat). The disciples were not breaking God’s law as recorded by Moses, just violating one of the Pharisees’ many rules. Obviously, the Pharisees must have been following Jesus to find an offense worthy of accusation. They expected to put Jesus on the defensive. Instead, he refuted their specific accusation and their interpretation of the Sabbath.

Think about this: The Pharisees saw themselves as guardians of God’s law, so they were quick to judge and condemn anyone who might break even a minor interpretation and tradition. Emphasizing laws and rules is called “legalism,” and it’s easy to slip into, especially if we’re trying to justify our own behaviour. In the process, we can miss what’s really important. The Pharisees tried to create a religious crisis over a few heads of grain. Soon, in the next chapter of the gospel story, we’ll see them argue about whether or not to heal someone on the Sabbath. Don’t be like the Pharisees. Be graceful like Jesus.

Nobody’s perfect, so we can always find something to criticize if we look hard enough. Jesus was perfect, yet the Pharisees thought they had caught him breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Jesus said that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). Instead of condemning us for our lawbreaking, Jesus treats us with mercy and grace, giving us what we could never earn by our own efforts. Based on our merits, we wouldn’t have a chance for redemption and eternal life. The Pharisees focused on the law and missed the Saviour. Don’t be like the Pharisees. Be merciful and gracious like Jesus.  Focus on Jesus and don’t miss what is really important.

Examine your own spirit of criticism or judgment of others.
Ask God to fill you with His love, mercy and grace for others.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pray for Persecuted Church: Mauritania


[The Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar] Mauritania is one of the world’s poorest countries and one of the most restricted. Freedom of religion is non-existent, and Islam has dominated for more than 1,000 years. Social and family matters are judged under Shariah, or Islamic law. A bloodless coup in August 2008 led to democratic elections and a new president in 2009. Fourteen of the 19 people groups in Mauritania are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Muslim 99.8%, Christian 0.2%
Ideology
Islam
Head of State
Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

The Green flag is Mauritania
The government prohibits distribution of non-Islamic religious materials and the evangelism of Muslims. It is illegal for citizens to enter non-Muslim households, and anyone who confesses Christ faces the death penalty. “Shadrach,” a The Voice of Martyrs (VOM) worker in Mauritania, and several others were attached and beaten in July 2011 by an Islamic group led by a Muslim leader.

Pray: Pray for revival in underground churches and for strong Christian leadership.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Jesus Kristus, Aku Deka Pendiau ti Baru


Tu pun Berita Manah pasal Jesus Kristus, ti Anak Allah Taala. Munyi ti ditulis dalam bup nabi Isaiah, ‘Ku Allah Taala bejaku, ‘Dinga! Aku ngirumka seruan Aku dulu ari Nuan; iya deka nyediaka jalai ke Nuan.’ Siku orang ngagau di menua puang: ‘Sediaka jalai ke Tuhan; Gaga jalai Iya rurus!’’ John Pemaptisa pegari di menua puang, madahka pemaptisa nesal ati ke pengampun dosa. Semua orang ari serata menua Judea, enggau ari Jerusalem mansang ngagai iya. Sida ngaku dosa sida, lalu iya maptisa sida ba Sungai Jordan. Gari John digaga ari bulu unta, lalu belulang ti melit punggung iya digaga ari kulit jelu. Lalu pemakai iya buntak enggau ai manyi. Ku iya madah ngagai orang mayuh, ‘Iya ke datai dudi ari aku lebih agi bekuasa ari aku, datai ke aku enda tau meremi lalu muka tali kasut Iya. Aku udah maptisa kita ngena ai, tang Iya deka maptisa kita ngena Roh Kudus’
(Mark 1:1-8, Bup Kudus Baru).

Enti Raja empu deka datai tentu seruan iya datai dulu lalu nyedia ka jalai, madah ka orang bakani patut nyendia diri. Iya muai penanggol dulu. Nya meh pengawa John Pemaptisa. Raja ti besai nyau ka datai, ti udah ditulis bala nabi beribu-ribu taun dulu. Dikumbai sida “Messiah” tauka “Kristus.” Iya ka niri ka Perintah Allah Taala di dunya tu, ngasoh samoa bansa nyadi rakyat Iya, ti nitih ka pesan Raja. John, nabi ti pengabis ujong, lalu pengabis besai – Seruan Kristus empu.

Gari John digaga ari bulu unta, lalu belulang ti melit punggung iya digaga ari kulit jelu. Lalu pemakai iya buntak enggau ai manyi (madu).” Pemakai iya semina chukup ngidup ka diri aja. Iya enda ingin sekali ka utai dunya. Iya ingin ka utai ti besai agi – nyedia ka orang ka penatai Jesus, Anak Allah Taala, iya nya Kristus. Nagang pengingin tuboh kitai, nya siti jalai ngalah ka lalu ngerusak mayoh bengkah penyai. John baka nabi Elijah kelia, ti ngerusak adat Baal, petara kapir, serta enggau imam Baal 40 iko. Baka Elijah mega John ngerusak pendiau kapir ba orang Juda.

John muai penanggol. Lalu penanggol ti besai ari semoa iya nya dosa. “Nesal ati ke dosa kita, laban Perintah serega nyau semak!” (Matthew 3:2). “Semua orang ari serata menua Judea, enggau ari Jerusalem mansang ngagai iya. Sida ngaku dosa sida, lalu iya maptisa sida ba Sungai Jordan.” Iya nyepoh ka sida dalam ai. Udah nya iya ngangkat ka sida baru ari ai. Nya tanda sida ninggal ka pendiau lama ti jai lalu bulih pendiau ti baru ti tuchi.

Pia kitai mega diasoh berubah, nitih ka jalai baru lalu nyadi orang baru. Enti kitai baka nya, Tuhan kitai ka amat datai (Tuhan nang udai datai dulu). Datai dini? Ba ati kitai, ba runding enggau pengawa kitai, ba rumah, ba bilik kitai, ba dunya kitai, ba pengidup kitai, nyadi Raja amat. Suah minta Tuhan Yesus Kristus datai ngambi ka megai nuan amat-amat. Tang kati penanggol udah dibuai ari ati nuan? Iya nya dosa?

Sembiang
Datai O Jesus, dalam ati aku! Amat bisi mayoh macham penyai ti nanggol penatai Nuan.
Buai nya, Tuhan, lalu pegai ati aku, pegai pendiau aku, nuan ti Messiah, Kristus Tuhan aku.
Aku deka bulih pendiau ti baru. Amen.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Diambik, disemak, disalin ngau diubah ulih aku ari Mending Ka Tuhan: Berati ka Injil St Mark
Ditusun ulih F.A. Vergeer M.H.M.
Imprimatur: Rt. Rev. Bishop Dominic Su, D.D., Januari, 1996.
Dikeluar ulih: Diocesan Centre, 1, Lanang Road, P.O. Box 495, 96007 Sibu, Sarawak. 
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Pray for Persecuted Church: Brunei


[The Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar] Brunei’s economy is based almost entirely on oil and natural gas, and its great national wealth gives it a strong measure of global influence relative to its size. The same family has led the country for more than six centuries. Out of 26 people groups, the eight largest are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Muslim 65.3%, Christian 11.4%
Ideology
Islam
Head of State
Sultan/Prime Minister Sir Hassanal Bolkiah


There are few believers in this small country. Islam is the official religion. While religious freedom is guaranteed under Brunei’s constitution, Christians face a variety of restrictions, including confiscation of religious materials intended for distribution and sale, and prohibitions on religious teaching in private, non-Islamic schools. Evangelism and conversion to Christianity is prohibited, Bible importation is forbidden and the government regularly ignores requests to build or expand churches. Even religious symbols on imported magazines are censored. There are only three registered churches in the country, all built during the colonial era. No new churches have been permitted, so believers must meet secretly. The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has smuggled Bibles into the country for three years and effectively met the need for Bibles for every Christian in the nation in 2011.

Pray: Pray for wisdom as VOM monitors and provides for the needs of believers.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Jesus is Able to Perform Deep Healing (or A Search for Faithful Friends)


Soon the house where [Jesus] was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus” (Mark 2:2-4, NLT).

It helps to know a little about house architecture in the Middle East. Ralph Gower in his book The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times (2005), writes, “Initially homes were made with sun-dried mud bricks, but technology advanced until it was possible to fire the bricks in a kiln, and until rough stone and rubble houses were being built… the (flat) roof was constructed by laying brushwood across rough sycamore beams and binding them together by using mud.” Thus, face with a wall-to-wall crowd in the house and limited access to the doorways, the friends (“four men”) devised a desperate plan. They would go up on the roof, figure out where Jesus was standing below, “dug a hole through the roof,” and lower their friend in front of the Lord.

Imagine the scene indoors [Pause]. Those listening to Jesus began to notice sound overhead, and then pieces of the ceiling started to rain down. Moments later, an opening appeared and a stretcher was lowered. The crowd, driven back by the debris, had cleared a landing area.

Seeing their [the four men] faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’ But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, ‘What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!’” (Mark 2:5-7). Looking down at the man clearly (obviously!) in need of one kind of healing, Jesus chose instead to offer him first a deeper healing – the forgiveness of sins. Some religious experts accused him of blasphemy, since if he claimed to be able to forgive sins he claimed to be God. Of course, that is exactly who Jesus is. (Read Mark 2:8-12. Here Jesus added significance to his statement of forgiveness. He knew talk was cheap unless he could back it up with action – which he did by freeing the man to skip home joyfully, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” The paralyzed man was healed!).

Think about this: What caused Jesus to heal the paralyzed man? The faith of the four men (Mark 2:5). Jesus honoured the faith of those friends. Remember, the paralysis of sin is the most deliberating human disease, and people all around us are walking by with the symptoms every day. Many people are spiritually “paralyze,” so the world need more friends like this man – friends that have faith in Jesus. Friends that bring others to Jesus. Moreover, friends that believe in Jesus. How much trouble are you willing to undertake to get your friends to Jesus? Know this: Jesus is all the more ready to forgive our sins and he can perform deep healing in us. Maybe you can be a faithful friend to your friend. And bring him or her to Jesus.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Pray for Persecuted Church: Burma (officially known as Myanmar)


[The Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar] Burma (officially known as Myanmar) has been ruled by a repressive military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) for 22 years. In 2010, Burma held a flawed parliamentary election that officially disbanded the SPDC but gave government positions to members of the former regime and heavily favoured the military. Authorities have perpetrated numerous human rights violations, including forced labour, genocides, rapes, tortures and detentions, mostly on Christian groups. About 2 million people have fled the country, and many within the country are internally displaced. Out of 142 people groups, 51 are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Buddhist 80.0%, Christian 9.0%
Ideology
Buddhism/Military Dictatorship
Head of State
President Thein Sein


Though the Burmese government claims freedom of religion, in 2010 the SPDC banned independent Protestant house church activities and carried out a variety of abuses against ethnic minority Protestant Christians, including forced labour, relocations and destruction of religious sites. In the last two years, the military has closed churches, imprisoned pastors, forced Christian children to work and offered money and promotions to soldiers who convert Christians to Buddhism. Christian minority groups, particularly the Karen and Chin groups, are singled out because the government’s goal to create a uniform society of one language, one ethnicity and one religion. A 2007 document outlines a 17-point plan to eliminate Christians. A 2009 law bans independent house churches.

Pray: Pray for peace and for those displaced by armed conflict in the north.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Jesus Wants to Make You Whole, Come to Him


In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.’ Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ And instantly the leprosy disappeared” (Luke 5:12-13, NLT).

Jesus healed many people, but some of those cases stood out to the disciples like this one. An “advance case of leprosy” usually results in grotesque injury and disfigurement. A leper suffers from loss of feeling. Nerve endings that lie just below the surface of the skin all over the body gradually become dead. A leper cannot feel a pebble in his shoe or sense that he has grasped a hot object that is burning her hand. The pain that triggers an instant jerk from us is absent in leprosy.

A leper’s life was marked by other pain. In Jesus’ day, lepers were required to maintain a personal quarantine, keeping their distance from others and loudly announcing that they were “Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!” according the Old Testament, to anyone who might come near. This man had advanced leprosy, meaning people will never get near him, ever. It’s quite possible this man had gone years without personal contact with another human being. His humble request to Jesus might sound tentative to us, but it combines a balance of respect (“if you are willing”) with a profound recognition of Jesus’ abilities.

Jesus responded without a word. He moved toward the man and touched him. Jesus touched the leper! Jesus could just heal the man without touching him but he have more in mind. He want to restore not just the man’ body but also his dignity and personhood. He treated him as clean before he actually healed him. His words “I am willing” must have simply confirmed for this man what was already happening in his mind and body. Wholeness is much more than physical health. In fact, wholeness is more important than the condition of our bodies. Even under the best circumstances, our bodies age and wear out; only God can provide wholeness of heart, mind, and soul. Fortunately, God is willing. Jesus is willing.

Think about this: We are not yet whole. Sometimes we require adjustments; at other times only radical transformation will bring about God’s purposes in us. Every glimpse of our incompleteness can be an invitation to join the leper at Jesus’ feet to humbly ask for healing and cleansing. You might not be physically leper but we all need to be whole. Friend, bring your personal brokenness to Jesus, the Healer – today – with confidence that he is willing to make you whole. Jesus still says, “I am willing.” Come to Him.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pray for Persecuted Church: Comoros

Comoros women
Comoros, which is plagued by political instability and civil strife, transitioned to democracy in 2006 and elected its second democratically elected president in 2010. As one of Africa’s poorest counties, Comoros is dependent on food aid. Sunni Islam is practiced by almost 99 percent of the population, and Quranic schools for children reinforce Islam’s influence. Of 12 people groups in Comoros, eight are unreached by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Category
Restricted Nation
Religion
Muslim 98.8%, Christian 0.9%
Ideology
Islam
Head of State
President Ikililou Dhoinine

While the constitution guarantees religious freedom, Islam is the dominant religion and persecution against Christians generally takes in the form of social discrimination. There are fewer than 6,500 Christian nationals in this country of 770,000. There are two Catholic churches and one Protestant church, but only noncitizens may use the buildings. There are no official churches for Comorian people. Evangelicalism is forbidden, and conversion to Christianity can lead to severe discrimination from the community and family members. In some areas, local authorities restrict the practice of Christianity. One believer who left Islam had his travel documents revoked. Christian workers report being verbally attacked by people from the local mosque for leading prayer meetings on Fridays.

Pray: Pray for Muslim-background believers who are persecuted by family members.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Jesus on the Habits of Heart


Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, the begged him not to leave them. But he replied, ‘I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.’ So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.”
(Luke 4:42-44,
NLT).

After Jesus deals with crowds of curious and needy people (Luke 4:40-41), he leaves Simon’s home (Luke 4:38-39) and went to a quiet place. Jesus finds “an isolated place.” This gives us a glimpse into the way Jesus lived intentionally. Mark 1:35 note that Jesus “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Jesus didn’t seek solitude to be alone with himself; he found a quiet place to be alone with his Father. Time apart allows us to focus our prayer by minimizing distractions. It offers God time to speak to us. The impression we get from Jesus’ life is that these times away were essential to his spiritual well-being.

The parallel accounts in the different Gospels give a more complete picture of this event. Again, Mark tells us the disciples were the first to notice Jesus missing and searched for him. “When they found [Jesus], they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ But Jesus replied, ‘We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came” (Mark 1:37-38). Above Scriptures provides the atmosphere of the moment, telling us that the people “begged him not to leave them.” Jesus informed those seeking him that his priority was delivering the “Good News of the Kingdom of God” as widely as possible. He refused to be distracted. The apparent urgency of people’s needs would not keep him from his primary task. Jesus, I adore you.

Think about this: Habits like prayer and carrying out God’s priorities in life will be limited if we consistently yield to distractions. Growing our relationship with God doesn’t happen by accident. We must imitate the intentional way Jesus carried out daily living. Most positive habits begin as deliberate actions. We don’t accidently fall into the habit of prayer and silent and solitude. We grow into those habits by repeated practice. Prayer, silent and solitude becomes habitual when we discover it is crucial to our spiritual health.

Ask yourself, what would improve the regularity and quality of your time alone with God?
What most distracts you from keeping your spiritual priorities?

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Thursday, May 21, 2015

God created Us for His Glory (The Crystal-Clear Reason for Living)


John Piper, my all-time favourite preacher, wrote in his book, my all-time favourite and life-changing book, Don’t Waste Your Life (2007, 2009), “The Bible is crystal-clear: God created us for his glory. Thus says the Lord, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:6-7). Life is wasted when we do not live for the glory of God. And I mean all of life. It is all for his glory. That is why the Bible gets down into the details of eating and drinking. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We waste our lives when we do not weave God into our eating and drinking and every other part by enjoying and displaying him.

What does it mean to glorify God? It may get a dangerous twist if we are not careful. Glorify is like a word beautify. But beautify usually means “make something more beautiful than it is,” improve its beauty. That is emphatically not what we mean by glorify in relation to God. God cannot be made more glorious or more beautiful than he is. He cannot be improved, “nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything” (Acts 17:25). Glorify does not mean add more glory to God.

It is more like the word magnify. But here too we can go wrong. Magnify has two distinct meanings. In relation to God, one is worship and one is wickedness. You can magnify like a telescope or like a microscope. When you magnify like a microscope, you make something tiny look bigger than it is. A dust mite can look like a monster. Pretending to magnify God like that is wickedness. But when you magnify like a telescope, you make something unimaginably great look like what it really is. With the Hubble Space Telescope, pinprick galaxies in the sky are revealed for the billion-star giants that they are. Magnifying God like that is worship.

We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God is all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. In the night sky of this world God appears to most people, if at all, like a pinprick of light in a heaven of darkness. But he created us and called us to make him look like what he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God. We are meant to image forth in the world what he is really like” (page 32-33).


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Jesus' Authority and Power amazed Everyone

Jesus at Synagogue
Then Jesus went to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught there in the synagogue every Sabbath day. There, too, the people were amazed at his teaching, for he spoke with authority. Once when he was in the synagogue, a man possessed by a demon – an evil spirit – began shouting at Jesus, ‘Go away! Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!’ Jesus cut him short. ‘Be quiet! Come out of the man,’ he ordered. At that, the demon threw the man to the floor as the crowd watched; then it came out of him without hurting him further. Amazed, the people exclaimed, ‘What authority and power this man’s words possess! Even evil spirits obey him, and they flee at his command!’ The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region” (Luke 4:31-37, NLT).

Jesus actually moved to Capernaum, making that village in Galilee his base of operations during much of his ministry years. He became a regular teacher in the local synagogue “every Sabbath day” when he was in town (Btw, synagogue was like a local church fellowship). The brevity of the Gospel accounts often leads us to picture Jesus continually on the move, at times almost driven from place to place by the crowds that followed him. But Jesus lived at the normal speed of life, walking from place to place. One of the easy-to-miss lessons from Jesus’ life is that when we follow him, we must slow down.

Jesus taught with authority, unlike other spiritual teachers of his day. While they quoted various authorities, Jesus spoke as one intimately aware of the meaning of God’s Word, with confidence and clarity, connecting the content of Scripture with the lives of his hearers. Luke wrote, “The people were amazed at [Jesus’] teaching, for he spoke with authority”; and they themselves exclaimed, “What authority and power this man’s words possess!” Jesus amazed everyone by his authority. After all, he was “the Holy One of God.”

The rude interruption by the demon-possessed man shows us spiritual realities that seem foreign to most modern people. People who never encountered this kind of situation wonder, ‘Could this happen today?’ (One student from Peninsular Malaysia, after he went back from mission trip at rural area of Sarawak, said to me, “Brother, I never thought that demon-possessed is real!”) C.S. Lewis pointed out that Satan knows enough to go undercover when it suits him. In our current society, too many simply dismiss the possibility of the Satanic force or see it merely as character for movies and TV shows with no real base in reality. Here, Jesus’ presence forced the demon out of his hiding. We discover with certainty that demons do exist and that their purpose is to destroy (but Jesus came to give life). Against Jesus, however, they have no power or authority.

Think about this: Ignoring demonic activity and the other ways Satan is active in the world means we would have to ignore a great deal of Scripture. Treating God’s Word seriously means we have to conclude that Satan and his demons are real, dangerous, and powerful. They are not to be trifled with or taken lightly. We take them seriously because, as Christians, we put on the armour of God specifically for this battle (see Ephesians 6:10-16). But then again, remember, in Christ we have His authority. We are in the spiritual battle, and yet we have won!

Do not fear, commit yourself confidently to the Lord today,
whose power and authority triumph over every enemy.
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Reference: Life Application Study Bible Devotional: Daily Wisdom from the Life of Jesus (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2011)


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jesus, the Servant King


Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah by coming to earth. He did not come as the conquering king that the people expected, but as a servant, keeping the fact that he was the Messiah a secret. Eventually Jesus would reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, but first he would reveal himself as the suffering Servant. Jesus served by telling people about God, healing them, and giving his life as the atoning sacrifice for their sins. Jesus suffered by being born into a poor family and being tempted, questioned, rejected, falsely accused and convicted, beaten, hit, spat upon, tortured, mocked, and crucified. Giving his life and becoming sin (though he was sinless) on the cross was the ultimate act of suffering and service.

Jesus taught and lived that “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man [Himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV).

Important for Today. Those who claim Christ as Saviour and Lord should follow his example by serving God and others. Real greatness in Christ’s Kingdom is shown by service and sacrifice. Instead of being motivated by ambition or love of power or position (as is true with most people), we should do God’s work because we love him and his creation.

What does it mean for you to be a servant?
What can you do to serve God today?
To whom in your home, neighbourhood, school, place of employment,
Or church can you give a “cup of water” (Mark 9:41) in His name?
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


Taken and edited from Life Application Bible Commentary: Mark (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: Carol Stream, Illinois, 1994), Introduction.  Title above mine. 
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Jesus' True Identity is Greater than a Mere Miracle Worker

People came to Jesus for healing
That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak” (Mark 1:32-34, NLT).

People were descended on Capernaum, hoping for help from Jesus. That single phrase, “The whole town gathered at the door to watch,” captures the intense interest that drew people to Jesus. In the glare of the evening fires, the joyful faces of people freed from captivity to sickness and to demonic influence glowed even brighter. The evening echoed both with the cries of demons and with shouts of praise to God. Those who came or were brought to Jesus were healed. He did not let the demons identify him because he was not ready to reveal his true identity as the Son of God. And so Jesus with authority “did not allow them to speak.”

If we assume that Jesus performed miracles in order to prove who he was, we will be somewhat confused when we read that he refused to do a miracle on command (Matthew 16:1-4), that he forbade demons from speaking (Mark 1:34), and that he asked those he had healed not to tell anyone (Mark 1:44). Why would he not take advantage of every marketing opportunity? (Brian Tracy must be disappointed when he read this). Because his identity didn’t depend on people believing he could do miracles! Jesus didn’t work miracle to prove he was the Son of God; he did miracles because he was the Son of God. He didn’t go around “flashing credentials”; he responded to genuine needs and didn’t exploit those he was helping. He wouldn’t be pressured or bullied into performing miracles. He didn’t heal everyone (Remember, Jesus’ mission was first and foremost the healing of people’s souls).

Jesus made it very clear that he could perceive a person’s real need, even when that person asked only for physical healing. So he greeted the man lowered through the roof on a stretcher with a word of forgiveness. He knew the man needed forgiveness even more than he needed to be able to walk (see Mark 2:3-5). There was a specific purpose behind every miracle Jesus performed, but it was never simply to prove who he was. Think about this: Earlier that day in Capernaum synagogue, Jesus was teaching and those who listened were amazed at the authority of his words. Not long after this, when it became clear that Jesus wouldn’t settle for being a miracle worker, Simon Peter described why real disciples follow Jesus (not because of his miracles). Peter said, “Lord, to whom [else] would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68). Peter gets it! In the end, it wasn’t about the miracles that he had performed but who Jesus was and is now to you.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jesus, God's One and Only Son (Why Believing in Jesus is So Crucial)

God willing to give, Jesus willing to die
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT).

Here we read God’s motive for giving that gift of eternal life, of being born again: He “loved the world so much.” The quantitative statement raises the question: How much did God love the world? God’s action answers the question: “He gave his one and only Son.” This is giving, not as in “sharing for a time” but as in allowing the Son of Man to be “lifted up” (John 3:14) like Moses’ serpent on a pole*. This is the kind of ultimate giving Paul described in Romans 5:8, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

After declaring God’s motive and action, John 3:16 then defines the breadth of the opportunity (“everyone”) and the mode of response (“who believes in him”). The classic English “whosoever” here conveys the thought that anyone and everyone who believes in Jesus becomes a candidate to receive certain benefits (such as “eternal life”) and avoid certain consequences (such as “the judgment”). This conveys the same certainty as the “must” Jesus used when he told Nicodemus “you must be born again” in order to “enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). So “believe in him” become crucial phrase to understand. Believing in Jesus doesn’t mean attraction to his personality or recognition of his existence; believing in Jesus means believing in the significance of his work at the Cross, where he died for our sin. By the way, “will not perish” refers to the fact that without Jesus’ intervention, we have no hope. Perishing is the human condition without Jesus. The Gospel is good news because it tells us there’s one way to avoid perishing – believing in Jesus.

Think about this:  At some point in your life you may have memorized this verse, John 3:16. It represents (as most people) one of the clearest summaries of the Gospel in the New Testament. Accepting its meaning and committing to it lead to second birth – born again. By personalizing these words, we allow God to do His birthing work in us. God love you. Jesus loves you. Believe in him.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

*What is the connection between Jesus on the Cross and “the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness”? I think reading David Pawson’s ‘Is John 3:16 the Gospel?’ is very helpful.

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Sunday, May 17, 2015

Jesus says You must be Born Again

A symbol of born again
After dark one evening, [Nicodemus] came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.’” (John 3:2-8, NLT)

This is one of the hard saying of Jesus. Nicodemus spoke as “we” and “us,” but Jesus looked him in the eyes and said, “Unless you’re born again.” Caught off guard, Nicodemus could only imagine one kind of birth – natural physical birth – the ludicrous picture of an adult receiving a second birth from his mother prompted Nicodemus’s question. Jesus replied was quite puzzling at first. He clarified by rephrasing and expanding his first statement. “Born again” was a new way to describe spiritual regeneration and conversion. “Born again” becomes “born of water and the Spirit.” Many see here a reference to baptism (in water) and baptism by the Spirit. But the immediate context supports the interpretation of physical birth and spiritual birth. The “again birth” follows the first birth that humans can produce. The change is so radical that it is equal in importance to our original birth. So, Jesus said, we shouldn’t be surprised by the standard: “You must be born again.”

Jesus equated “born again” with “born of the Spirit.” He was no longer speaking of the ultimate results of spiritual rebirth (citizenship in the Kingdom of God), but about how the Spirit works in someone’s life. The effects of God’s transforming power are like the evidence for the wind: You can hear it and see its effects, but you can’t see the wind itself. Now, we often explain our own conversion experience by focusing on what we did – prayed the prayer, raised the hand, knelt at the altar, wept in repentance – but those actions were a response to what God is doing.

Think about this: If you have experienced being born again, you have a story to tell. Whether that experience produced a radical shift in your life (like physical birth) or reflected more subtle and quiet changes (like the wind), life became different. This is what (real) conversion does – converts you to God’s way of thinking and living. Nicodemus had to question long held beliefs and re-examine his priorities. What has the Spirit been saying to you? How has the Holy Spirit produced spiritual life in you?


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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