Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus on the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:18)

’The time has come,’ Jesus said.
The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!
(Mark 1:18,

Jesus’ message concerned the “kingdom of God.” We find the phrase 14 times in Mark’s Gospel and over 100 times in all four Gospels. It is here in His first recorded message and in His last messages according to Acts 1:3.

Jesus’ parables were parables of the kingdom. What did Jesus mean by this? Is it a future kingdom? Is it the church? What does it have to do with us today?

At the time of Jesus, the idea of the kingdom was common in Jewish thinking. Scholars looked forward to a new age of peace and material well-being when Israel would be free from the oppression of Rome. Increasingly, the phrase “the kingdom of God” had taken on a highly political tone. It had become virtually a slogan for Jewish nationalism. Political activists and freedom fighters had begun to take things into their own hands. Such revolutionaries were called “zealots” (Jesus chose one among his disciples – Mark 3:18). Galilee, in particular, became a hotbed for such men. We can easily imagine the tension in the air when Jesus proclaimed, “The kingdom of God is near!” But Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom was different in a number of ways.

Firstly, for Jesus the kingdom was not national but personal. It was about God’s rule in a person’s heart. The kingdom was not a territory to be found on a map (like the United Kingdom) but God’s reign as king in an individual’s life. During His trial, Jesus explains to Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36). It’s another kind of kingdom.

Secondly, for Jesus the kingdom was not material but spiritual. It is not a place of earthly prosperity but spiritual blessing. When Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when the kingdom would come, he told them that the kingdom of God is “within you.” That is, it is an internal and spiritual kingdom, not an external and visible one (Luke 17:21). Paul, later in the New Testament, tells us in Romans 14:17 that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Thirdly, for Jesus the kingdom was not only future but here and now. With the coming of Jesus, God’s rule among men had begun. The day the prophets had dreamed of was here. The kingdom was here because Jesus was here!

And now, whenever a person confess that Jesus is Lord, by repentance and faith, the kingdom of God is present, for that person has made God king in his or her own life. Undoubtedly, there is also a future element to the kingdom of God. The Bible looks forward to a time when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Revelation 11:15). But the first stage is here. Hence the challenge to repent and believe, for this is the way into God’s kingdom.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Jesus command Us to Go for Spiritual Surgery (Mark 9:42-48)

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched’
(Mark 9:43-48,

I think this section of Scripture is a good illustration that people need to know what the Bible means, not just what it says. If Jesus’ commands above were to be taken literally, every believer alive would need to cut almost all part of their bodies. Which of us has never sinned with our eyes (lusting, coveting), hands (stealing, hitting), or feet (walking into trouble)? If we all did precisely what the Bible said in this case, we would need to line up for amputations service!

Jesus was using hyperbole (spell high-per-boe-lee). It is an exaggeration for effect and emphasis. You hear hyperbole every day: “I’ve told you a million times”; “I was so embarrassed I could have died”; “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” The statements are not literally true but are overstated to drive home a point. The point that Jesus was driving home was that there are two ways to use your physical body – for God’s purposes or against God’s purposes. If your goal is to serve God, and yet your body do things that do not please God, your body is your enemy. Jesus wants you, His followers, to give your eyes, hands and feet – and everything else for that matter – to Him as well as your soul.

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). God is not interested in watching people chop themselves to holiness, but rather He wants them to discipline their physical bodies to match their spiritual commitment to Christ. Thus, you must takes sin and its consequences very seriously (“hell where the fire never goes out”; “the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched”; scary!), as this passage shows.

It would have been nice if we can hear first-hand what the Master said and asking Him about what He meant exactly. But here is some good news: Today, wherever you go, His Spirit is within you and His Word is before you. Walk with Christ so that you can be more like Him. Nothing should stand in the way of faith. You must be ruthless in removing sins from your life now in order to avoid being stuck with them for eternity. Make your choices from an eternal perspective. Go for a spiritual surgery now!

Think: What sins you need to “cut off” and “pluck out” from your life
to be what God really wants you to be?

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Abram had a Choice: Faith or Self-Sufficiency (Genesis 12:10-16)

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’ When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels
(Genesis 12:10-16,

The journey God called Abram to undertake wasn’t safe. Abram had to pass through the lands of many unfriendly kings. As Abram’s danger grew, his fear grew – especially in the land of Egypt. Pharaoh was the sort of king who took whatever he wanted. Abram was afraid Pharaoh would want his wife, Sarai, and kill her husband to have her. Abram would rather lose his wife than to protect her (Abram was faith-less here; Sarai was very obedience).

Abram had a choice: he could renew his trust in the God who promised to see him through; or he could attempt to solve the problem in his own strength and wisdom. He chose the latter. It was a perfectly understandable reaction; when things feel out of control, our first instinct is to attempt to take control. But in relying on his own shrewdness, Abram made the situation grow worst. He forsook his wife, ‘prostituting’ her to save his own skin.

When we trust in our own shrewdness, we draw a very strict limit around the solutions that are available to us. In my own experiences, many of those solutions are worse than the original problem, simply because I trust myself more than I trust God’s guidance and promises. When we rely on God, we open ourselves to a whole universe of solutions. Now, practically today, how to know God’s will in our lives? How to make God-centred decisions? For Abram, he can just ask God, but he didn’t. For us today, we have the Holy Spirit and the Word of God available and accessible to us. Get serious with the Word. To know God’s will is to have the mind of Christ; to have the mind of Christ is to know God’s Word: God’s will is God’s Word. It is through God’s Word that we can have faith in the God of the Word.

Every day we have a choice: faith or self-sufficiency.

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Letters to Annie: Let's Attend Church Together

Dear Annie,

            I miss you so much. There is no line and internet coverage here, so I write a letter to you. It’s been awhile, I don’t know what to say at first, but surely, what come to my mind first is this: I love you.

Annie, I think it’s time for us to get more serious in our relationships. I don’t mean that we’re not serious before, but I think that we should start discussing more deeply about our faith and probably we should start attending church together. Someone once says: “Christians are like coals of a fire. Together they grow – apart they grow cold.” I don’t want to just grow old with you. I want to glow in Christ together with you.

We live in a world that is teeming with temptations and distractions – a world where good and evil struggle in a constant battle to win our hearts and souls. Our challenge, my sweet Annie, of course, is to ensure that we cast our lot on the side of God. One way to ensure that we do so is by the practice of regular, purposeful worship in the church (And outside church buildings too). When we worship God faithfully and fervently, we are blessed. When we fail to worship God, for whatever reason – our busyness, distant or works – we forfeit the spiritual gifts that He intends for us. “We are co-workers in God’s service” (1 Corinthians 3:9). Thus, as we start to attend church together, we should make an effort to serve Him in the church.

Love, every day provides opportunities to put God where He belongs: at the center of our lives and our relationships. When we do so, we worship not just with our words, but also with deeds, and that’s as it should be. I pray and I insist [as your man] that Christ comes first. Always first. I read your shared post on Facebook: “Nothing will bring two hearts closer than two hearts after the heart of God.” Cool! How true! As I read the Scriptures, I can be sure that God really loves His church and that’s where His heart is. Where there are Christian fellowships, there is “the heart of God.” So dear, to “bring two hearts closer” – mine and yours – we should start attending and be involved in church together. This is not the only way, for sure, but it is the best way J


Your man,

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Abram Had An Astonishing Capacity for Belief (Genesis 12:1-5)

The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all the possessions they had accumulated… they set out from the land of Canaan, and they arrived there
(Genesis 12:1-5,

Abram (later will be called Abraham) lived somewhere in modern-day Iraq, most likely from a tribe of moon-worshippers. Nothing in the Bible indicates what kind of man Abram was - nothing about his moral life – that separated him from other pagans. And yet God choses him. Few chapters after the Bible recorded that Abram was quite average in his character and integrity.

But God called Abram anyway. Abram, this childless 75-year-old, would be a great nation someday, and through him God would bless all the nations. All Abram had to do (which is the hardest to do) was leave everything he had ever known – his country, people and household – and follow this mysterious Voice to a new country. The Voice doesn’t mention, by the way, where this new country is, or how long it will take to get there.

Amazingly, Abram followed. Whatever his shortcomings, the man had an astonishing capacity to believe. He staked his whole life on the conviction that God’s promises were true. Again and again, Abram made mistakes. But he always returned to this first conviction: God’s promises are true. That capacity to believe is what made Abram the father of our faith. Obedience come from believing in God’s promises. Abram could not always know what route the journey would take but he learned to trust in God to direct his steps.

How can Abram's faith in God’s promises encourage you
to entrust your needs more fully to God?
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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Jesus' Triumphant Entry (the Spirit of Palm Sunday): Either You Praises or Curses Him

Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me’… The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
(Matthew 21:1-2, 6-9,

Jesus knew how to get a party started. On that day there were thousands of Jews journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate their annual Passover festival. Jesus chose that crowded day to enter the city on a donkey. What may seem like an ordinary ride to some people (for an Iban like me, this event is meaningless) was actually a significant fulfilment of a prophecy by the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, that the Promised One, the Jewish Messiah, would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a young male donkey (read Zechariah 9:9 and Matthew 21:5).

Lining Jesus’ path with clothing and branches was a sign of paying homage to the One they now proclaimed as their God-sent King. Like screaming fans watching a celebrity walk to the red carpet, the Jewish people shouted with joy over Jesus’ arrival. Many considered Him their long-awaited Deliverer who would rebuild Jerusalem and restore the line of King David. They hailed Him as “the Son of David” which He was through the linage of both Joseph and Mary.

But Jesus’ glory ride would soon end (for the people) in tragedy. The crowds would change their praises of him “Hosanna!” to curses “Crucify him!” (Matthew 27:22-23). Why such dramatic changed from “Hosanna” to “Crucify him”? Because the crowds had the wrong expectations of Him. You see, Jesus on His first coming didn’t come to earth for people’s honour, recognition, privilege or title. He said His mission on the previous chapter: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

This Palm Sunday please be remember that: ‘the triumphant entry’ story is about the King who came as a lowly servant on a donkey, not in royal robes; but on the clothes of the poor and humble. Jesus comes not to conquer by force as earthly kings; but by love, grace, mercy, and His own sacrifice for His people. His is not a kingdom of armies and splendour; but of lowliness and servanthood. He conquers not nations; but hearts and minds. If Jesus has made a triumphal entry into our hearts, He reigns there in peace and love. As Jesus followers, we must exhibit those same qualities – the spirit of Palm Sunday – love, grace, mercy, servanthood and peace. Let the world sees the true King living and reigning in triumph in us. Amen.

If you display love, grace, mercy, servanthood and peace in your lives, you praises Him;
If you display the otherwise, you curses Him

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jesus is Not Against Denominations But For Oneness in Him (Mark 9:38-42)

Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:38-42, NIV).

I’m not sure which ‘John’ was talking to our Lord Jesus here. I assumed the young apostle John. I think John was really shook up. He saw someone else minister to people in Jesus’ name then he tried to shut him down because “he was not one of us” or “he wasn’t in our group” (The Message). ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’ I imagine John might have said today. ‘You’re not an ordained minister. Besides, you didn’t exorcise the demon our way; you don’t dress like we do and you didn’t sing gospel songs like we do.’ What I hear Jesus might saying in His reply is: ‘It’s okay John. Just because he’s not in your denomination doesn’t mean he isn’t one of My disciples. The important thing isn’t that he be in our group but that he minister in My name.’ Really, Jesus said: “Do not stop him.”

There are a lot of people around today who think as John thought. We know the Bible says that all believers are one in Christ, but we are pretty suspicious of anybody who doesn’t believe in Jesus exactly the way we were taught (Just like a young Richard). Here, Jesus pointed out two reasons why John and other disciples should not stop anyone to use His name: 1) No one doing miracles in His name will turn against Him (v.39); and 2) Anyone who isn’t against Him and His disciples are supporters not saboteurs (v.40).

Steven, Gibreson and Oliver are all Christians. Each confess Jesus to be the Lord and Saviour of his life and all three are filled with the Holy Spirit. Steven’s church (Catholic) has an altar and crucifix; the congregation sings anthems for worship; the bishops serve wine for communion and baptize by sprinkling. Gibreson’s church (Anglican) has a foyer and choir loft; the congregation sings hymns in worship; the ministers serve grape juice for communion and baptize by having water pour on head or fully immersed in water. Oliver’s church (BEM/SIB) meets in a simple-decorated room, the believers sing contemporary songs, and the elders serve apple cider for communion and baptise in a river by immersion. When these three guys attended Christian Fellowship as students, they could do one of two things: 1) Avoid each other suspiciously and seek fellowship with their own ‘kind’ only or; 2) Set their denominational distinctive aside and focus on their oneness in Christ. Jesus’ Word in Mark 9:38-42 leads me to believe that He preferred the latter.

It’s important for Jesus’ followers around the world to appreciate one another differences - their church traditions and methods – to link hands and hearts as one in Christ. As long as someone claims a relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and committed to the truth of God’s Word, there are common ground upon which to build a relationship. We must not boast to have exclusive right to certain teaching and ministry methods. We are not to let modes of worship or denominational distinctive separate us as family in Christ. Let us enjoy and appreciate the variety of people who follow Jesus – our brothers and sisters in faith. Let us not cause anyone “to stumble” but together we must encourage one another. Amen.

*Of course, Jesus doesn't encourage denomination either.
For denominational is human invention. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Jesus, Penyelamat Kitai: Ukai Ketegal Baju Iya, tang Pengarap Nuan (Mark 5:25-34)

Nyadi dia bisi siku indu ke udah sakit begetah dua belas taun. Iya udah berubat ngagai mayuh bengkah lutur. Tang sida enda ulih ngeraika iya. Semua duit iya nyau abis kena iya berubat, tang iya nadai belinsur gerai, tang majak balat-sebalat sakit. Iya udah ninga pasal Jesus. Iya lalu datai ari belakang Jesus dalam tekang bala mayuh, lalu negu baju Jesus, laban ku iya bejaku dalam ati diri, ‘Enti aku negu baju Iya, aku deka gerai.’ Iya lalu tekala nya badu agi begetah, lalu iya ngasaika tubuh diri udah digeraika ari penyakit nya. Jesus lalu tekala nya nemu kuasa bisi udah pansut ari Iya. Iya lalu nguing ngagai tekang bala mayuh lalu bejaku, ‘Sapa negu baju Aku?’ Sida murid Iya lalu bejaku ngagai Iya, ‘Peda Nuan pemayuh orang besedul ngelingi Nuan, lalu agi ga Nuan nanya, ‘Sapa negu Aku?” Jesus majak gining-gining ngiga orang ke udah negu Iya. Tang lebuh indu nya nemu utai bisi udah nyadi ba iya, iya datai, getar-getar takut, besugang di kaki Jesus lalu madah ngagai Iya semua utai ti udah nyadi. Jesus lalu bejaku ngagai iya, ‘Anak, pengarap nuan udah ngeraika nuan. Mupuk meh nuan enggau selamat. Nuan udah gerai ari penyakit nuan’
(Mark 5:25-34, Bup Kudus Baru)

Indu nya bisi sakit begetah (tauka penyakit pansut darah) udah 12 taun. Taja pan iya nadai dibri nama, iya nyadi ka chunto ngagai kitai ketegal pengarap ia ti besai ngagai kuasa Tuhan Jesus Kristus. Ko iya berunding dalam ati: “Enti aku negu baju Iya, aku deka gerai.” Tu pengarap ti besai! Enda iboh mayoh macham pengawa serta jako. Enda iboh besampi panjai tauka bebunga-bunga. Iya semina “negu baju Jesus” lalu iya gerai! Tekala nya Tuhan Jesus nemu kuasa Allah Taala bisi udah pansut ari Iya ngerai ka indu nya.

Jerita tu tau tembu ditu.

Tang enda.

Tuhan Jesus “majak gining-gining ngiga orang ke udah negu Iya. Tang lebuh indu nya nemu utai bisi udah nyadi ba iya, iya datai, getar-getar takut, besugang di kaki Jesus lalu madah ngagai Iya semua utai ti udah nyadi.” Jesus lalu bejako enggau iya: "Anak, pengarap nuan udah ngeraika nuan.” Nama kebuah Tuhan Jesus ngasoh iya mantai pengawa tu di moa orang mayuh, lalu baka ngemalu ka indu tu?

Laban indu nya deka belalai. Kitai enda tau baka nya. Pengarap kitai ngagai Tuhan Jesus enggau kuasa Iya enda patut dipelalai dalam ati kitai aja belama-lama lalu enda ditusoi ngagai orang bukai (Indu tu belalai tang Jesus deka iya ngaku dimoa orang mayuh). Pengarap tu ukai baka padi ti disimpan dalam tajau lalu enda dikeluarka agi. Enti pia, iya deka bau akap. Manah agi iya ditanam baru iya mai penguntong serta bebuah. Baka nya mega pengarap kitai. Kitai mesti ngaku ka iya, madah ngagai orang mayuh, tusoi enggau ati ti gaga laban Tuhan Jesus udah ngerai ka nuan enggau aku. Lak ka pengarap ditanam dalam ati orang lain mega lalu bebuah nitih ka peneka Allah Taala.

Makin tua ngemesai ka nama Tuhan Jesus ti nyelamat ka kitai, makin mansang besai pengarap tua ngagai Iya. Pengarap kitai enda patut dipelalai, iya mesti dibrita ka ngagai orang mayuh awakka sida mega dibai kitai bendar agi arap ka Tuhan Jesus ti Penyelamat kitai. Ko Saint Paul dalam surat iya ngagai orang di Rome: “[Kami] arap dalam ati kami lalu digaga lurus di moa Allah Taala; kami ngaku enggau mulut kami lalu idup” (Rome 10:10). Tuhan Jesus empu meda udah bejako: “Bejalai kita ngagai serata dunya, lalu tusui Berita Manah ngagai semua mensia” (Mark 16:15). Nama Berita Manah tu? Ia nya Tuhan Jesus empu. Anang ngelalai ka pengawa Tuhan ba pengidup nuan. Selalu deka nusoi ka Berita Manah ngagai orang bukai. Anang takut.

O Tuhan Jesus, udah mayoh kali Nuan mantai ka pengerindu Nuan, kuasa Nuan enggau penyuman Nuan ngagai aku. Patut amai aku magi ka penemu nya ngagai orang bukai, ngambi ka sida enggau aku sama bela mansang dalam pengarap ka Nuan ti Penyelamat dunya. Amen.

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God's Master Plan: To Gather People of Every Tribe and Nation (Genesis 11:4,6-9)

[Men] said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth’… The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. This is why it was called Babel – because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth
(Genesis 11:4, 6-9, NIV).

God’s first command to humanity was: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). In other words, spread out across the earth! When people spread out, after few decades, they will speak different languages and creating different cultures (Yes, I watched National Geography on human languages and cultures). Without human intervention, that seems to have been God’s plan all along – to have not “one language and common speech” (11:1) forever but a multi tribes and nations, each praising God in its own way. The Bible has much to say about “every tribe and nation” coming to God.

But in the generations after the Flood, the people had other plans. They didn’t want to fill the earth and subdue it. They wanted to stay right where they were and become great – “make a name for ourselves” – which can be mean as wanted to be like gods. So they began building the great city and the tower that would reach to the heavens – challenging God’s authority and God’s lordship over the people and culture.

God had other plan for them. He confused their language and scattered them from there over all the earth. Certainly, it was a punishment. But it was also a mercy, for it forced the people out of their delusion of self-sufficiency and self-reliance into something richer and more adventurous. It is amidst of our diversities that God want us to unite under one Christ. In this way, God is more glorified when “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9) worshiping God. Beautiful! This is God’s plan. Amen.


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Monday, March 14, 2016

God’s Anger is Always Answered by His Grace and Mercy (Genesis 9:12-16)

[God] said. ‘This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth
(Genesis 9:12-16, NIV).

In the Old Testament (no less than the New Testament), God’s anger is always answered by His grace. The global destruction of the Flood was followed immediately by the promise of hope and mercy. “Never again,” God promised, would He send the kind of flood that Noah and his family had just lived through. And the sign of that promise was a bow in the sky – a rainbow.

FES staffs like to see rainbow. Rainbow is like a giant bow in the sky. It is worth noticing that the bow is aimed to shoot its arrows up toward heaven, not down toward earth. The bow is not against humankind that say: “Behave yourselves or the arrow of God’s wrath are going to shoot at you again.” No, this bow is positioned to shoot at the heart of God. It is as if God is saying: “I promise, cross My heart.” In this covenant, God puts Himself on the hook.

Most of the covenants in the Bible are two-sided, in which God’s people agree to hold up their end of the bargain. But this covenant – between God and the earth – is all about God. God’s anger is always answered by His grace and mercy.

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

C.H. Spurgeon on Prayers (Most of the Time) Should be Short and Strong

This is excerpt from C.H. Spurgeon’s Concerning Prayer sermon delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington (1888). I just love Spurgeon!:

We expect the Lord to hear our prayers. No, we are sure that He does so. We hear our fellow Christians say, when we tell them of instances in which God has heard our prayers, “How very extraordinary!” And we look at them and say, “Extraordinary?” Has it become an extraordinary thing for God to be true to His own Promise? I like better the remark of the good old lady, who, when her prayer was answered, was asked, “Does it not surprise you?” She said, “No, it does not surprise me. It is just like Him.”

If anyone of you had a promise from a friend that, upon your sending in a note, he would give you such-and-such a thing—if you sent the request and he fulfilled his promise, would you say, “I am greatly surprised at his action”? No, no—you believe that your friend means what he says and you look for him to keep his word. O child of God, deal with God on those terms. The wonder was that He should make the promise at all! But when He has made the promise, it is not wonderful that He should keep it—He expects you to ask and He waits to give.

A promise is like a check. If I have a check, what do I do with it? Suppose I carried it about in my pocket and said, “I do not see the use of this bit of paper, I cannot buy anything with it,” a person would say, “Have you been to the bank with it?” “No, I did not think of that.” “But it is payable to your order. Have you written your name on the back of it?” “No, I have not done that.” “And yet you are blaming the person who gave you the check? The whole blame lies with yourself. Put your name on the back of the check, go with it to the bank and you will get what is promised to you.”

A prayer should be the presentation of God’s promise endorsed by your personal faith. I hear of people praying for an hour together. I am very pleased that they can. But it is seldom that I can do so and I see no need for it. It is like a person going into a bank with a check and stopping an hour. The clerks would wonder. The common sense way is to go to the counter and show your check and take your money and go about your business. There is a style of prayer which is of this fine practical character. You so believe in God that you present the promise, obtain the blessing and go about your Master’s business.

Sometimes a flood of words only means excusing unbelief. The prayers of the Bible are nearly all short ones—they are short and strong. The exceptions are found in places of peculiar difficulty, like that of Jacob, when he cried—

With you all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.”

As a general rule, faith presents its prayer, gets its answer and goes on its way rejoicing.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

God's Wrath Poured Out on Those Who Want to Have It Their Way (Genesis 6:11-18)

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood… I am going to bring floodwater on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you’
(Genesis 6:11-14; 17-18, NIV).

I observed that we tend to treat Noah’s flood as a children’s story. The ark floats steadily atop the rising waters, a smiling giraffe poking its head through the window, and Noah smiled as if everything was fun to watch. But the story of the Flood is a story of God’s wrath.

God’s wrath is not an easy or pleasant thing to contemplate. But it expresses itself throughout the Bible in the Old Testament as well as the New. God’s wrath is another aspect of God’s love. To use the lesser example: If you love anyone deeply, you already know how your anger burns against anything that would harm that person. God’s wrath – His righteous-anger (not like ours’) – aims for that which seeks to destroy the people He loves. Sin destroys lives, relationships, and happiness. The anger of God is like the anger of surgeon who cut away cancers rather than seek to harm their victims.

God pours out His wrath by finally giving people what they want. The people of Noah’s time wanted to live without God. So God removed His loving hand from their lives and floodwaters poured out. In the end, the people got exactly what they wanted – and it was the end of them.

What’s hope for us today? Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “[God] demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Romans 5:8-9). Don’t have it your way; wants God’s way - enter the ark of God. 


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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

God's Grace in Human's Dark Hearts (Genesis 4:3-8)

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. And Abel also brought an offering – fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked at favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’ Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attached his brother Abel and killed him
(Genesis 4:3-8, NIV).

The brokenness and the consequences of post-Fall sinful-world reached a new level in the relationship between Cain and Abel, the first brothers. They both brought their offerings to God. Abel, a shepherd, brought the best of animal; Cain brought fruits and vegetables.

God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. Cain was furious – whether angry at God or at Abel or both, the Bible doesn’t say specifically. Nor does the Bible spell out directly why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, but it seems likely that it was the state of Cain’s heart – and not the technicalities of produce offerings verses animal sacrifice – that stood between Cain and God. “If you do what is right,” God admonished Cain, “will you not be accepted?” God followed the question with a stern warning: “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Even as He look into Cain’s dark heart, God gave the first murderer a choice. But Cain chose to be a slave rather than master of his sin. His external anger was a manifestation of a deeper sin inside. Each of us has the same choice: what do we do with it is up to us. Remember, now we have Christ and His Spirit. We can overcome sins by His power and grace. In Christ, “You must [can] rule over it.” God is sovereign and we have choices.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

God Wants Us to Work, Work Hard (Genesis 3:16-19)

To the woman [God] said, ‘I will make your pain in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ ‘Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return
(Genesis 3:16-19, NIV).

Before Adam and Eve sinned, the earth offered up its good things willingly. It even watered itself (2:6). I imagined. Everything changed, however, after that first sin. Now cursed, the ground produces “thorns and thistles” more easily than fruits and vegetables. Since the Fall, work has been a struggle – contrast to work before the Fall.

Work is not the result of the Fall. It is sacred. Even before they had sinned, Adam and Eve had the job of taking care of the Garden (see 2:15). From our post-Fall perspective, it’s hard to imagine what such work might have: no thorns and no thistles. But whatever that post-Fall work might be, we can – I can – be confident that it was a work of cooperation with the earth, free from the frustration of the work we experience where the weeds always grow back, no matter how many times we pull them (ask my mother).

Because of sin, everything is harder than it has to be. Have you ever wonder about that Christians? Work is harder. Childbirth is harder. Relationships are harder. And yet this is still our Father’s world, and He still calls us to push through the hardships to gain such rewards as this world yields. God’s grace, yes; hard works, of course.   


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Saturday, March 5, 2016

God's Perspective is the Best and God's Intention is Good (Genesis 3:1-6)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’’ ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it
(Genesis 3:1-6, NIV).

The serpent promised Eve new “eyes” to see what God sees. Adam and Eve got a new perspective, of course, but it wasn’t God’s perspective. The serpent taught them to doubt God’s goodness. The serpent accused God as having hidden agendas when He commands them the straightforward: “You must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). God desires for them to joyfully obey Him – to choose life. But the serpent wants them to find misery when God had intended only good for them.

No longer pure in hearts, Adam and Eve hid from God. They believed that the shame they were experiencing must reflect God’s true view of them. The serpent, after all, had told them that eating the forbidden fruit would open their eyes. Lies! The truth is, Adam and Eve already had a godlike view of the world they inhabited. The serpent – the Devil – took away the very thing he promised to give.

Since that day in the Garden, our perspective has been tainted. We find it very hard to believe what may be the simplest, most fundamental truth of all: God loves us, and He wants what is best for us. It is forever be true.


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Friday, March 4, 2016

God made Us for Relationship: Not for Self-Sufficiency (Genesis 2:18-23)

The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky… But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man’
(Genesis 2:18-23, NIV).

Throughout the Creation story, a phrase repeated over and over again: “God saw that it was good.” The day was good. The night was good. The seas were good. The dry land was good. The trees, the plants, the mountains, the rivers, the birds, the animals, Adam – God saw all of it and saw that it was good.

So it is a surprised for me when I read God declares that something is not good. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God says. He was not pleased to see Adam’s loneliness so He created a companion – a helper – for the man out of his very bone and flesh.

At last!” Adam said (Genesis 2:23, NLT). That little exclamation is telling. The world was freshly made. This was before the Fall, remember. Adam was living in the beautiful Garden. He had the full presence of God. And yet in the absence of another human being with whom to share it all, Adam couldn’t truly enjoy it all. And then, God created another human being like Adam. Thus, Adam exclaimed: “At last!” No more loneliness.

We were made for relationship, not for self-sufficiency.
You’re not alone. You shouldn’t be alone – God wants us to be in fellowship.
It is not good for any of us to be alone.

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