Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Jesus Prayed Eyes Wide Open: Awake and Watchful

[Jesus] brought them [the disciples] to a garden grove, Gethsemane, and told them to sit down and wait while he went on ahead to pray. He took Peter with him and Zebedee’s two sons James and John, and began to be filled with anguish and despair. Then he told them, ‘My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me’
(Matthew 26:36-38, The Living Bible)

The Gospels tell us that Jesus and His disciples regularly visited Gethsemane. After the last supper, Jesus took them with Him. Once they were in the grove, Jesus had eight of the disciples stay close to the entrance while He moved deeper among the trees to pray. Some says that it was a rocky place surrounded by trees. Jesus then took Peter, James and John with Him, the same three who had accompanied Him on the mountain when He was transfigured in Matthew 17:1-13 [At this point, Judah Iscariot was going to the Pharisees to betray Him]. I assumed those with Jesus could clearly see that their Master was “anguish and despair.”

Then Jesus told the three who were with Him, “My soul is crushed with horror and sadness to the point of death… stay here… stay awake with me.” Newer translation translated: “Stay here and keep watch with me” (NLT). Jesus was literally said: “I am very sad” or “grieved.” This statement by Jesus reminds me of Isaiah’s words about the Suffering Servant whom God would eventually send to His people, the Messiah: “We despised him and rejected him – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised and we didn’t care” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was about to experience the worst parts of His earthly life…

Jesus asked the three, “Stay here… stay awake with me” or “Stay here and keep watch with me.” The term He used means “keep aware.” Jesus wasn’t asking them to pray while He go for ministry; He was asking them to pray alertly as He Himself was praying. This is interesting: It is not likely that Jesus closed His eyes during prayer, nor that He instructed His disciples to do so. We’re told that before He raised Lazarus from the grave, “Jesus looked up to heaven and said…” (John 11:41); also, at the beginning of His high priestly prayer, “When Jesus had finished saying all these things he looked up to heaven and said…” (John 17:1). I noticed that keeping awake and watchful were what in Jesus’ mind as He talked about prayer.

Even though Jesus is the Son of God, in times of crisis, as a man He turned to prayer and bringing others to join Him. He expressed His dependence on God and His dependence on others too. He went to the cross alone but He invited others to walk there with Him as far as possible. This make me think: People we depend on often let us down (and we, in the same way, let others down) but that is not necessarily a compelling reason to stop depending on others. Even though Jesus knew the shortcomings of His disciples, He trusted them in His hour of need. After all, that was the only way for them to eventually learn to be trustworthy. For a very independent person like me, these lessons from Jesus are great reminder for me to: 1) Pray by keeping awake and watchful; and 2) Learn to depend and trust on others, just like Jesus. Amen.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Simple Book Review: The God Delusion

The God Delusion (2006) by Richard Dawkins

If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about. The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination,” writes Richard Dawkins. Calling himself as consciousness-raiser atheist, he said, “My dream is that this book may help people to come out” and “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen to me. And yet, I find that this book is thought-provoking and brilliant.

When I talked to my friends about this book, I asked them to question me as if I’m an atheist. Because I studied Dawkins’s perspectives and arguments mainly from documentaries such as “The Genius of Charles Darwin”, “The God Delusion: The Root of All Evil”, “Enemies of Reasons”, “The Atheist: Richard Dawkins”, “Faith School Menace” and through his many debates and interviews such as “The Selfish Gene” and “An Appetite for Wonder”, easily I find that in the end of our conversations my friends are either looking up thinking, speaking up defensively or shutting up conclude that it doesn’t matter. For the latter group of people, I would like to quote Dawkins: “Unquestioning faith is [not] a virtue.”

There are many things I agree with the author such as “There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents”; “Religion can be a force for evil in the world”; “Only religious faith is a strong enough force to motivate such utter madness [suicide bombers] in otherwise sane and decent people”; “The teachings of ‘moderate’ religion, though not extremist in themselves, are an open invitation to extremism”, etc. What I disagree with Dawkins are his treatments of the Scripture (out-of-context), his ideas about the God of the Old Testament (The God hypothesis), and his bias references to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus suggesting that Jesus is a myth and never really existed.

As Christian, I make it a habit NOT to read only Christian books. In the past I had read book by Michael Shermer, another influential atheist, entitled The Believing Brain (I would also refer to Sam Harris and late Christopher Hitchens). Both books instead of moving me away from the God of the Bible, they actually help me to think biblically and critically on the faith issues. Books that doesn’t help you to think, doesn’t worth your time. However, if you’re a new Christian, I suggest that you may want to strengthen your faith and understanding of the Word first. Discernment and Biblical worldview are much needed especially if you want to read this kind of books. Below are Richard Dawkins’s book contents:

Chapter 1: A Deeply Religious Non-Believer
Deserved respect. Undeserved respect.

Chapter 2: The God Hypothesis
Polytheism. Monotheism. Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religious of America. The poverty of agnosticism. NOMA. The Great Prayer Experiment. The Neville Chamberlain School of evolutionists. Little green men.

Chapter 3: Arguments for God’s Existence
Thomas Aquinas’ ‘proofs’. The ontological argument and other a priori arguments. The argument from beauty. The argument from personal ‘experience.’ The argument from scripture. The argument from admired religious scientist. Pascal’s Wager. Bayesian arguments.

Chapter 4: Why There Almost Certainly is No God
The Ultimate Boeing 747. Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser. Irreducible complexity. The worship of gaps. The anthropic principle: planetary version. The anthropic principle: cosmological version. An interlude at Cambridge.

Chapter 5: The Roots of Religion
The Darwinian imperative. Direct advantages of religion. Group selection. Religion as a by-product of something else. Psychologically primed for religion. Tread softly, because you tread on my memes. Cargo cults.

Chapter 6: The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?
Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin? A case study in the roots of morality. If there is no God, why be good?

Chapter 7: The ‘Good’ Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist
The Old Testament. Is the New Testament any better? Love thy neighbour. The moral Zeitgeist. What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t they atheists?

Chapter 8: What’s Wrong with Religion? Why Be So Hostiles?
Fundamentalism and the subversion of science. The dark side of absolutism. Faith and homosexuality. Faith and the sanctity of human life. The Great Beethoven Fallacy. How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism.

Chapter 9: Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion
Physical and mental abuse. In defence of children. An educational scandal. Consciousness-raising again. Religious education as a part of literary culture.

Chapter 10: A Much Needed Gap?
Binker. Consolation. Inspiration. The mother of all burkas.

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Simple Book Review: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of The Structure of DNA

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of The Structure of DNA (1968)
by James D. Watson

Honestly I almost don’t understand the language of chemical and biological terms – biochemistry – in this book besides sugar, protein and X-Ray photography. For the most part, I refer to Youtube videos such as “The DNA Double Helix Discovery” and “TED Talk by James Watson: How We Discovered DNA” to understand the whole experiences. So, what is my goal in reading this book? Serendipity and inspirational story. Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, writes, “[Watson] has described admirably how it feels to have that frightening and beautiful experience of making a scientific discovery.”

The discovery of the structure of DNA by Francis Crick and James D. Watson (with Maurice Wilkins) in 1953 with all its biological implications has been one of the major scientific events of the 90’s century until now. Without it, there will not be any explosion of researches in relation to biochemistry. The discovery was one of the biggest contributions to the history of science!  Besides that, this book also highlighting their healthy-rivalries (some said bitter rivalries) with people like Linus Pauling and their beautiful friendship stories. They were very serious and focus, yet very playful. In my opinion, they win Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962 because they were curious and passionately pursue one goal, one aim only: To find “the secret of life.”  I can feel Watson’s excitement for his work as he penned: “DNA was my only gold rush. I regarded DNA as worth a gold rush.” And so they found gold…
[However, since I’m a theist, I find that James Watson involvements in The Genome Human Project is ethically wrong. But as scientist and brilliant thinker, I admire him and Crick.]


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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Jesus Shared the Glory with the Father Before the World Began (John 17)

When Jesus had finished saying all these things [about himself to the disciples] he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the time has come. Reveal the glory of your Son so that he can give the glory back to you. For you have given him authority over every man and woman in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life – by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth! I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. And now, Father, reveal my glory as I stand in your presence, the glory we shared before the world begin
(John 17:1-5, The Living Bible, bracket mine)

As we read John 17, the time for Jesus’ glorification had arrived. If the Father would glorified the Son in the crucifixion and resurrection to come, the Son could in turn give eternal life to His followers [Remember: Eternal life is not so much as the longevity of life but the fullness of life, namely, life in fellowship with God]. In doing so, Jesus would glorified the Father. Jesus clearly stated that people could have eternal life by “knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” In this statement, Jesus affirmed that He had glorified the Father on earth by “doing everything” that the Father had given Him to do. This work would be accomplished through His death on the cross.

Then, what amazed me is, as Jesus looking beyond the cross to His resurrection and ascension, He asked the Father to restore the glory He had enjoyed with the Father “before the world begin.” Wow! There are two main proofs that Jesus’ prayer was answered: 1) Before Stephen was stoned to death, he exclaimed, “Look, I see the heavens opened and Jesus the Messiah standing beside God, at his right hand!” (Acts 7:56); and 2) After Jesus ascension to heaven, the Apostle Paul explains…
Though [Jesus] was God,
did not demand and cling to his rights as God,
but laid aside his mighty power and glory,
taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men.
And he humbled himself even further,
going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross.
Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven
and gave him a name which is above every other name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven
and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father
(Philippians 2:6-11, The Living Bible)
To me, clearly, Jesus knew who He was: the Son of God. Today people have wide ranging of ideas of Jesus’ identity. Some see Him as an idealistic religious leader; others highlight His moral teachings and example. Some call Him a radical, a revolutionary, and others focus on His concern for the poor, a socialist. While some views may have a bit of truth, these are the most important facts about Jesus: He is fully human and fully divine; He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead; eternal life can be found only through faith in Him (that mean, for wrenched sinners like us, “the only way” is in fact, God’s grace to us). We can know a lot about various religious practices, the Scriptures, the exemplary of moral life and good works (of course, these are also important). But that means nothing unless we know Jesus.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Jesus' Gift Is A Peace of Mind and Heart

[Jesus said] “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you – I am going away, but I will come back to you again... I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me
(John 14:27-29, The Living Bible)

Lord Jesus’ gift to the disciples was “peace of mind and heart.” Jesus wasn’t promising the absence of troubles. In fact, in the near future Jesus Himself would personally endure great physical, emotional and spiritual pains and struggles. What Jesus promised was that they would have His peace in the midst of or during those conflicts and problems. So He affirmed His disciples to “don’t be troubled or afraid.” God was in control.

I think the disciples assumed as long as Jesus was present with them physically, they could rely on the peace and security He brought them, but what would they do when they had to face problems without Him? Besides His continued presence through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), Jesus promised His peace (“shalom”) will be with them. In the days and years to come – example, during the Book of Acts – Jesus’ gift of peace would be a vital source for the disciples. Later Jesus told them, “I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Why Jesus continued to speaks about His imminent departure and return to the disciples over and over again? Oh, so that they would not be surprised and fearful when these events occurred! They would recognize that Jesus knew what would happen (as He said it would be), and they would have confidence and faith in Him. Jesus wanted them to have “peace of mind and heart” and not be “troubled or afraid.” In the same way, as Christ believers we all face struggles, conflicts, tragedies, and broken dreams almost every day. Don’t be troubled and afraid! Jesus’ assurance in the past also applicable for us today: “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.” At every turn, Jesus assures us of His presence and promise. The midst reality of problems and conflicts in life, God is with us.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Top 25 Classic/Contemporary Books that Change My Life (To Reread Again)

A wisdom seeker will read a great book, savour it, and reread it in the future
(Tony Reinke, Lit!)

My leader asked me, “You read a lot of books, is this a form of escapism for you?” My answers was (and is): “Yes, in one sense it is for the purpose of escape, but not so much as escapism. I’m not reading to avoid reality, but I do read to temporarily escape to another world.” For me what’s dangerous is when we read to escape from reality. What I’m promoting is that we read to escape to another world where we get help, encouragement and inspiration in order for us to return home to reality. Great books – Christian books or non-Christian books – can bring glory and honour to God, the Giver of Thought and Word, when those books help me to see more of God’s greatness, beauty and creativity. To these kind of books I want to escape to.

As Christians who treasure an ancient book – the Bible – we by new nature in Christ also (can or/and should) esteem old books. To be honest, many contemporary ‘Christian’ books today are not worth reading, and some are spiritually dangerous and somewhat very shallow. Given the vast number of such books in the marketplace, we need wisdom and discernment in what we read, lest we be unwittingly led astray. Therefore, it is recommendable that we read wisdom-proved old/classic books. C. S. Lewis values old books that he writes, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.”

Reading old/classic books is a good way to gain the perspective we need to guard our hearts and minds in this age of abundant nonsense and heresy. Having said that, I also would like to recommend great contemporary books that I think should be listed as classic (at least in my opinion). Here are my lists of classic and contemporary books that I will surely reread it again and again:

My Top Classic Books

1. Knowing God (First Published 1973) by J. I. Packer
2. Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (First Published 1986) by John Piper
3. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (First Published 1978) by Richard Foster
4. Charismatic Chaos (First Published 1992) by John MacArthur
5. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (First Published 1563) by John Foxe
6. The Pilgrim’s Progress (First Published 1678) by John Bunyan
7. Mere Christianity (First Published 1952) by C. S. Lewis
8. Spurgeon: A New Biography (First Published 1984) by Arnold Dallimore
9. Bible Speaks Today Series: The Message of 2 Timothy (First Published 1973) by John Stott
10. The Challenge of Mission (First Published 1959) by Oswald J. Smith
11. The Holiness of God (First Published 1985) by R. C. Sproul
12. The Mind on Fire: An Anthology of the Writings of Blaise Pascal (First Published 1989) edited by James Houston
13. Expository Thoughts on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (First Published 1857) by John C. Ryle
14. The Confessions of St. Augustine (First known as “Confessions” written between AD397-400)
15. The Upside-Down Kingdom (First Published 1978) by Donald B Kraybill
16. Whatever Happened to Worship? (First Published 1985) by A. W. Tozer

My Top Contemporary Books (should be classic! Maybe some of it are)

1. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (First Published 1998, but Jonathan Edwards’s The End For Which God Created the World was published in 1765) by John Piper
2. Don’t Waste Your Life (First Published 2003) by John Piper
3. The Supremacy of God in Preaching (First Published 1990) by John Piper
4. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World (First Published 1993) by John MacArthur
5. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (First Published 2006) by Eugene H. Peterson
6. Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (First Published 2011) by Timothy Keller
7. Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus (First Published 2011) by John Eldredge
8. Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (First Published 2011) by Tony Reinke
9. Unlocking the Bible: A Unique Overview of the Whole Bible (First Published 2003) by David Pawson

My favourite preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, writes this about rereading books: ““Master those books you have. Read them thoroughly. Bathe in them until they saturate you. Read and reread them…digest them. Let them go into your very self. Peruse a good book several times and make notes and analyses of it. A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books he has merely skimmed. Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading. Some men are disabled from thinking by their putting meditation away for the sake of much reading. In reading let your motto be ‘much not many.” Now, go, read book!

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Apakah Respon Musa Apabila Ada Orang Lain Bernubuat Seperti Nabi? (Bilangan 11)

Maka keluarlah Musa lalu disampaikannya firman TUHAN kepada bangsa itu. Dia mengumpulkannya tujuh puluh orang daripada kalangan tua-tua bangsa itu dan disuruhnya mereka berdiri di sekeliling Khemah. Kemudian TUHAN hadir dalam awan dan berfirman kepada Musa. Diambil-Nya sebahagian daripada Roh yang ada pada Musa, lalu diletakkan-Nya pada kesemua tujuh puluh tua-tua umat itu. Ketika Roh itu turun ke atas mereka, bernubuatlah mereka seperti nabi, tetapi sesudah itu mereka tidak lagi bernubuat. Akan tetapi, ada dua orang tertinggal di perkhemahan, seorang bernama Eldad dan seorang lagi bernama Medad… Roh itu pun turun ke atas mereka dan mereka bernubuat seperti nabi di perkhemahan… Yosua anak Nun, yang menjadi pembantu Musa sejak masa mudanya, berkata, ‘Tuanku Musa, cegahlah mereka!’ Tetapi kata Musa kepadanya, ‘Adakah kamu mencemburui hal itu demi mendukung aku? Kalau sahaja seluruh umat TUHAN menjadi nabi kerana TUHAN mengurniakan Roh-Nya kepada mereka!’
(Bilangan 11:24-26, 28-29, Alkitab Versi Borneo)

Musa sudah hampir burning out. Tugas yang diberikan oleh TUHAN kepadanya sangat besar dan adalah sangat mustahil bagi dia untuk melakukannya sendirian (walaupun Miriam dan Harun memimpin bersamanya). Jadi TUHAN meletakkan “sebahagian daripada Roh yang ada pada Musa” kepada “kesemua tujuh puluh tua-tua umat” atau pemimpin-pemimpin Israel. Selepas itu, Alkitab mengatakan bahawa ada dua orang daripada mereka – Eldad and Medad – keluar dari Khemah Allah dan mula bernubuat secara terbuka di kawasan perkhemahan orang Israel. Pada masa itu, Yosua merasakan ini merupakan suatu masalah yang besar!

Kenapa? Pada pendapat saya, Yosua melihat ‘tragedi’ ini sebagai suatu ancaman terhadap kepimpinan Musa. Sebelum ini hanya Musa yang bernubuat bagi orang Israel. Oleh itu, Yosua “mencemburui” hal itu kerana dia sangat ingin melindungi kepimpinan dan keunikkan tuannya Musa sebagai nabi orang Israel. Mungkin juga Yosua melihat Eldad dan Medad sebagai ancaman kepada kedudukannya sendiri. Dia menyeru supaya Musa mencegah atau sekurang-kurangnya menegur para nabi tersebut supaya tidak bernubuat lagi. Tetapi bagi Musa, dia tidak terasa diamcam. Malah dia mengalakkan supaya (jika boleh) “seluruh umat TUHAN menjadi nabi”! Musa tidak cemburu. Musa tidak rasa tergugat. Musa berharap semua orang diberkati oleh TUHAN, bukan dia sahaja. Memang padanlah apabila Firman Allah berkata: “Musa seorang yang begitu lembut hatinya, bahkan lebih lembut daripada semua umat yang berada di muka bumi ini” (Bilangan 12:3).

Dalam perkara-perkara rohani, ego boleh menjadi penghalang kepada kepimpinan kita. Melalui kes diatas, kita diingatkan oleh Musa supaya jangan terasa cemburu apabila ada orang lain dipanggil oleh TUHAN dan mempunyai kebolehan yang sama (atau lebih lagi) daripada kita. Semuanya tentang kemuliaan TUHAN, bukan tentang kemuliaan kita sendiri. Sebagai pemimpin, kita harus memberi galakkan dan mengajar orang lain untuk melayani TUHAN dan umat-Nya. Kita memimpin mereka supaya Kerajaan Allah yang harus diutamakan, bukan agenda kita didahulukan. Jika difikirkan baik-baik, sebenarnya kita tidak harus mendapat kredit apabila sebenarnya Roh Allah yang bekerja dalam kehidupan kita. Jauhi rasa cemburu dan ego dalam hal-hal rohani.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jesus Lives WITH Us and IN Us Because of the Holy Spirit

“[Jesus said] “If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, for it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, for he lives with you now and some day shall be with you… I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Comforter instead of me – and by the Comforter I mean the Holy Spirit – he will teach you much, as well as remind you of everything I myself have told you
(John 14:15-17; 25-26, The Living Bible)

A lot we can expound from passages above, but I just want to focus on the subject of the Holy Spirit here. Lord Jesus now promised His followers they would experience His presence more fully and intimately because the Father would send them the Holy Spirit. The expression “another Comforter” or “another Advocate” in some translations implies that Jesus was the first and the Spirit would be the same kind of “Comforter.” When Jesus would no longer be with the disciples physically, the Holy Spirit would be with them and in them, and He would “leads [them] into all truth.”

Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) on the disciples just before His ascension, and the Spirit was poured out on all the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2) shortly after Jesus ascended to heaven. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God with and in the believers, helping them lives as He wants and building Christ’s church – that is, the gathering of all believers, not church building per se – on earth. In chapter 14, Jesus taught these truths about the Spirit: #1 He will be with us forever (John 14:16); #2 The world at large cannot and don’t want to receive Him (v.17); #3 He lives with us and in us (v.17); #4 He will become our Teacher (v.26) and; #5 He will reminds us of Jesus’ words a.k.a. God’s Word (v.26) [Also if you read Chapter 16, the Holy Spirit will convicts us of sin, shows us God’s righteousness, announce God’s judgement on evil, guide us into all truth, and brings glory to Jesus].

After Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, all of these about the Holy Spirit came true. How about now? You see, Jesus did not leave the disciples – and us – alone. He is with us and in us. He is with us through His Spirit encouraging, assuring, convicting, guiding, enlightening and empowering. We need to depend on Him, listen to Him, and follow His lead. The question is: Are you living in the Spirit of Christ?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Jesus Says We Will Do Even Greater Works than His'

“[Jesus said] “In solemn truth I tell you, anyone believing in me shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask him for anything, using my name, and I will do it, for this will bring praise to the Father because of what I, the Son, will do for you. Yes, ask anything, using my name, and I will do it! If you love me, obey me…
(John 14:12-15, The Living Bible)

When I read this, I wonder, what does Jesus meant when He said that the disciples “shall do the same miracles I have done, and even greater ones”? After I continue reading the next chapter then I understand that it was referring to the task of spreading the Gospel (see John 15:7-8). The “greater ones” would have two parts: 1) Quantity, greater number of converts, and 2) Geography, greater scope for the conversions. Jesus remains the Greatest Miracle Worker.

And what about this business of “using my name” or “asking in my name” (NLT) means? When I read the context of this text, it means – in my observation – that every prayer or asking must be in agreement with Jesus’ person and purpose according to God’s character and will. That was why Jesus added “If you love me, obey my commandments” (v.15, NLT). God will not grant requests contrary to His nature and desires, and we cannot use His Name as a magic formula to fulfil our selfish desires. As the Apostle John reminds us that “he will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will” (1 John 5:14).

Here also Jesus reminds the disciples to obey His commandments. When the disciples had Jesus with them, they could watch Him and listen to Him carefully. If they had questions, they could ask Jesus (What a privilege! The Word Alive speaks the Word of God). During those about three years, their understanding of Jesus was expanding and deepening. Eventually, they would carry the responsibility of taking His message to all the world. Jesus was preparing the disciples for life without His physical presence. The Holy Spirit “Comforter,” will be with them and “he will never leave” them all (v.16). Ever. They would have to pray (“ask”), live (“obey”) and tell (“greater ones”).

I think these three words summaries the Christian life: Pray, Live, and Tell. Pray give the idea of relationship, communication and worship. God loves it when we pray! Live means joyfully doing what God wants us to do. This involves studying His Word to discover His commands and principles for living; then we obey. The Holy Spirit is in us to teach us – even when we fail. Tell means sharing with others the Good News of Jesus Christ – what He did at the Cross and how He has changed our lives (but first we must live). Like the disciples, with the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, we can change the world!


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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Simple Book Review: Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books

Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) by Tony Reinke

I simply love this book! I underlines almost every pages saying to myself, “Correct!”; “I understand”; “This is good”; “I agree!” with my pen. “Lit” is short for literature, which is long for books. It represents many millions of books we can pick up and read. This is a helpful guide on how to better read, what to read, when to read and why we should read. I wish I had read this book sooner! There are two parts (I includes short quotation from each chapters):

Part 1: A Theology of Books and Reading

Chapter 1 Paper Pulp and Etched Granite: Laying the Cornerstone of Our Theology of Books. “If we fail to prioritize the eternal Word over temporary books, our reading will never be distinctly Christian” (pg. 28).

Chapter 2 Wide-Eyed into the Son: How Personal Sin and the Gospel Shape Our Literacy. “My reading did not make me godly… The sight of Christ’s glory permanently changed my life. And it forever changed how I read books” (pg. 35).

Chapter 3 Reading Is Believing: Savouring Books in an Eye-Candy Culture. “As a word-centred people we must learn to prize language in a visually-dominated world. If our hearts prioritize images over language, our hunger for books will erode” (pg. 47).

Chapter 4 Reading from across the Canyon: How a Biblical Worldview Equips Us to Benefit from Books. “A firm grasp of biblical worldview, learned directly from the study of Scripture, is essential for Christian book reader because distortions to the biblical worldview can be found on every shelf in the bookstore” (pg. 63).

Chapter 5 The Giver’s Voice: Seven Benefits of Reading Non-Christian Books. #1 Non-Christian literature can describe the world, how it functions, and how to subdue it; #2 It highlight common life experiences; #3 It can expose the human heart; #4 It can teach us wisdom and valuable moral lessons; #5 It can capture beauty; #6 It begs questions that can only be resolved in Christ; and #7 It can echo spiritual truth and edify the soul.

Chapter 6 The God Who Slays Dragons: The Purifying Power of Christian Imagination. “The imagination is a God-given ability to receive truth and meaning” (pg. 87).

Part 2: Some Practical Advice on Book Reading

Chapter 7 Read with Resolve: Six Priorities that Decide What Books I Read (and Don’t Read). #1 Reading Scripture; #2 Reading to know and delight in Christ; #3 Reading to kindle spiritual reflection; #4 Reading to initiate personal change; #5 Reading to pursue vocational excellence; and #6 Reading to enjoy a good story (Author’s lists of priorities).

Chapter 8 How to Read a Book: 20 Tips and Tricks for Reading Nonfiction Book. “To better read our Bibles, or any nonfiction book, we must work to improve our reading skills… by pursuing self-discipline and seeking to excel in reading books…” (pg. 118)

Chapter 9 Literature is Life: Tapping into the Benefits of Fiction Literature. #1 Fictional literature can help us explore abstract human experiences; #2 It can deepen our appreciation for concrete human experience; #3 It expands our range of experiences; and #4 It provides beauty and creativity to be enjoyed.

Chapter 10 Too Busy to Read: Six Ways to Find (and Protect) the Time You Need to Read Books. #1 Expect resistance from your heart; #2 Make time to read, not excuses for why you don’t read. We all have good excuses; #3 Cultivate a hunger for books by reading (and rereading) great books; #4 Set priorities, and let them drive your book selections; #5 Stop doing something else in order to make time to read; and #6 Try reading three (or more) books at a time and take advantage of your environments.

Chapter 11 Driven to Distraction: How Internet Habits Cripple Book Reading. “As Christians, convinced of the important of book reading, we must periodically gauge the effects of [power of distractions] the Internet and social media upon our lives” (pg. 145).

Chapter 12 Marginalia: The Fine Art of Defacing Books with Pencils, Pens and Highlighters. Quoting John Piper, “If it’s worth reading, it’s worth writing in” (pg. 153).

Chapter 13 Reading Together: Building Community One Book at a Time. “One great way to sink details deep into our long-term memory is to read and discuss books with friends… God intended books to be read for the benefit of the community” (pg. 156)

Chapter 14 Raising Readers: How Parents and Pastors Can Ignite in Others a Love for Book Reading. Tips for parents: #1 Fill your home with books; #2 Read to your kids; #3 Don’t stop reading to your kids; #4 Read your books in front of your kids; #5 Teach young children to read; #6 Push entertainment into the background; #7 Listen to audio books in the car; #8 Hunt for the best books; #9 Anticipate new books; #10 Celebrate the classics; #11 Cultivate your child’s moral imagination; #12 Help interpret worldviews as you read to your children; #13 Read your favourite excepts to your children; #14 Invite your children to read to the family; #15 Challenge your children to improve books; and #16 Most importantly, read the Bible together as family. Tips for pastors: #1 Make opportunities to talk books; #2 Illustrate sermon points with classic literature; #3 Pepper your sermon with direct quotes from Christian living books; #4 Lead a book discussion group; #5 Start a church library or book table; #6 Maintain a list of recommended books on your church website; #7 Suggest books regularly as part of a book-of-the-month feature; #8 Recommend chapters of books; #9 Answer theological questions with pages from books; and #10 Give books as gifts.

Chapter 15 Happily Ever After: Five Marks of a Healthy Book Reader. #1 Mature readers prize wisdom; #2 They cherish old books; #3 They keep literature in its place; #4 They avoid making books into idols; and #5 They cling to the Saviour. “[Our] confidence before God can only be in Jesus – not in how smart we are, not in how many theology books we read, not in how we order our reading priorities, not in how inefficiently we use our reading time… Regardless of how many books we read, we cling to the old rugged cross” (pg. 185).

I recommend this book my wholeheartedly. There is only one reason why I type lengthy about the contents of this book – I want you (especially my friends, parents and pastors) to read books!


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Friday, August 12, 2016

Jesus Revealed the Distant and Mysterious God

“[Jesus said] “If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him – and have seen him!’ Philip said, ‘Sir, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus replied, ‘Don’t you even yet know who I am, Philip, even after all this time I have been with you? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking to see him? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own but are from my Father who lives in me. And he does his work through me. Just believe it – that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or else believe it because of the mighty miracles you have seen me do’
(John 14:7-11, The Living Bible)

The disciples’ response to Jesus’ statement about Himself reveals that they didn’t understand fully His divinity (I understand if the world also don’t get it yet). In this chapter 14 alone, Jesus describes three important aspects of His unique identity: 1) He and the Father share characteristics in such a way that if you has seen one has also seen the other; 2) He and the Father are united in such a way that when Jesus speaks the Father speaks; and 3) He claimed that any Christ-centred requests to God made in His Name will be answered.

To know Jesus is to know the Father. “No one has ever actually seen God, but, of course, his only Son has, for he is the companion of the Father and has told us all about him” (John 1:18). “Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God” (Colossians 1:15). “God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus insisted that because the disciples knew Him, they knew the Father already. It’s good to note that to the Jews, God was sovereign Creator, holy and separate from them. God loved and chose them, of course, but He was distant and mysterious (different but similar from Allah of Islam). In the Incarnation, however, God “became a human being and lived here on earth among us” (John 1:14). If you want to know what God is like, look to Jesus!

I’ve been thinking and praying about this statement from Jesus: “From now on you know [the Father]” What does it mean? I think, from that time forward – the moment Jesus said it – people could know the Father personally and intimately through the Son. Jesus is “the way” to God (14:6). This is strikingly amazing! God has revealed Himself generally in nature and specifically in the Scripture. But now – in the New Testament period – God has revealed Himself perfectly in His Son. If you want to know what God is like, you need only look at Jesus.

When you struggle with doubts about God and His love for you, look at Jesus.
When you need to get your values and priories straight, look at Jesus.
When you desire hope for the future, look at Jesus.

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TUHAN, Mengapakah Engkau Menyusahkan Musa Hamba-Mu? (Bilangan 10)

Musa mendengar ratapan umat itu, semua orang daripada kaum masing-masing menangis di depan pintu khemah mereka. Maka menyalalah murka TUHAN yang besar, tetapi Musa berasa tidak senang. Lalu kata Musa kepada TUHAN, “Mengapakah Engkau menyusahkan hamba-Mu ini? Mengapakah tidak ada rahmat bagi hamba di mata-Mu, sehingga beban seluruh bangsa ini Kautanggungkan kepadaku? Adakah hamba yang mengandung seluruh bangsa ini? Adakah hamba yang menjadikan mereka sehingga Engkau berfirman kepada hamba, ‘Bawalah mereka dalam dakapanmu seperti seorang pengasuh menggendong anak yang sedang menyusu,’ ke tanah yang Kaujanjikan dengan bersumpah kepada nenek moyang mereka? Dari manakah hamba dapat memperoleh daging untuk diberikan kepada seluruh bangsa ini? Mereka menangis di depan hamba sambil berkata, ‘Berilah kami daging untuk dimakan.’ Hamba tidak dapat menanggung beban seluruh bangsa ini seorang diri, kerana hal itu terlalu berat bagi hamba…
(Bilangan 11:10-14, Alkitab Versi Borneo)

Setelah apa yang TUHAN sudah lakukan kepada mereka, orang Israel beranggapan bahawa Tuhan itu seorang yang kedekut dan pelupa kerana tidak menjaga keperluan dan makan minum mereka. Seperti mereka sudah lupa bahawa Tuhan sudah menyediakan mereka makananan “manna”, mereka menginginkan makanan yang mereka makan ketika mereka menjadi hamba di Mesir. Mereka sentiasa merungut dan tidak berpuas hati.

Musa sudah mula jemu dan letih dengan karenah mereka. Dia sangat pasrah dengan rungutan orang Israel. Oleh itu, dia meluahkan hati dia kepada Tuhan. “Mengapakah Engkau menyusahkan hamba-Mu ini?” dia ingin tahu. Musa sekarang bersikap pesimis. Dia juga sudah menjadi seorang yang pandai merungut (apabila kita selalu bersama dengan orang yang suka merungut, lambat laun kita juga akan menjadi begitu). Tetapi apa yang baik yang saya belajar dari Musa ialah dia seringkali membawa beban dan masalah (dan rungutan) dia kepada Tuhan dengan jujur. Musa banyak mempersoalkan Tuhan tetapi dalam kata-katanya ada iman dan percaya hanya Tuhan sahaja yang boleh menyelesaikan masalah itu. Musa tidak menyorok daripada Tuhan, atau berpura-pura untuk berfikiran positif dan menyelesaikan masalah itu tanpa pertolongan Tuhan. Dia seolah-olah berkata: “Tuhan, mereka ini ialah umat-Mu, lakukanlah sesuatu.”

TUHAN hanya boleh bekerja dalam kehidupan kita sekiranya kita jujur dihadapan-Nya. Bila kita berdoa, “Tuhan, saya sangat kecewa dan marah dengan apa yang berlaku sekarang. Saya memerlukan mukjizat daripada Engkau,” Dia akan melakukan sesuatu. Bila Yakub mengakui bahawa dia seorang yang penipu, Allah bukan sahaja menukar namanya menjadi Israel (Kejadian 32:22-32), tetapi dia diubah oleh Dia dari hari ke hari. Bawalah segala yang baik, buruk dan teruk kepada Tuhan dengan penuh kejujuran… Dia akan melakukan perkara yang hebat!


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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jesus' Exclusive Claim is the Evident of Grace

[Jesus said] ‘You know where I am going and how to get there.’ ‘No, we don’t,’ Thomas said. ‘We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus told him, ‘I am the Way – yes, and the Truth and the Life. No one can get to the Father except by means of me. If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him – and have seen him!’”
(John 14:4-7, The Living Bible)

I like this, Thomas verbalised what all the disciples must have been thinking but reluctant to ask (One day, one of my student said ‘Amen’ to my Scripture background sharing, so I asked him, ‘Can you repeat what I had just said?’ He don’t know). The disciples couldn’t understand Jesus’ words about “going to prepare” a place for them (v.2). Jesus answered by identifying Himself as the very means for them to see the Father. He claimed to be the unique and ultimate resource when He said: “I am the Way… no one can get to the Father except by means of me.” Jesus’ response also showed that the destination is not a physical place but a Person (the Father) and that the way to that destination is another Person (the Son, Himself).

Jesus provides all we can know and need to know about God. He is “THE WAY” – our path, bridge, transport not just an example or road sign pointing the way. Jesus is the WAY. He is also “THE TRUTH” – our source of wisdom, intimate knowledge of the Father and the reality of all God promised. Jesus is THE TRUTH. He is “THE LIFE” now and forever – our only source of eternal life (Remember, eternal life in the Bible is mainly refers to knowing God intimately, the fullness of life not merely the length of life). He is THE LIFE.

Jesus’ exclusive claim is unmistakable. His self-description invalidates other ‘alternative plans’ of salvation – Jesus is THE ONLY WAY (“No one can get to the Father except by means of me”). Some say – maybe you now – that a single way is too restrictive, too narrow. But we must understand that the human condition is desperate. We are totally deprave and sinful. We are totally lost without Jesus. Think about this – Yes, think! – that God provide A WAY at all is the greatest evidence of God’s grace, love and hope! Hey, knowing that Jesus is the only way should encourage us to live boldly for Him, to share this Good News to others, and to continue living in gratitude, gladness and thanksgiving to God because Jesus came to our lives.  

Knowing Jesus should affect how we view our eternal future
and how we live our life here on earth.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Apa Yang Lebih Baik daripada Tiang Awan dan Api Untuk Mendahului Kita? (Bilangan 9)

Pada hari Khemah Suci didirikan, awan melitupi Khemah Suci itu, khemah kesaksian. Pada waktu maghrib sehingga pagi hari esoknya, di atas Khemah Suci ada sesuatu yang kelihatan seperti api. Demikianlah selalu terjadi: Awan meliputi Khemah itu, dan pada malam hari ada sesuatu yang kelihatan seperti api. Apabila awan itu terangkat dari atas khemah, maka orang Israel pun berangkat, dan di mana sahaja awan itu berhenti, di situ pulalah orang Israel berkhemah. Maka orang Israel berangkat berpandukan firman TUHAN dan mereka juga berkhemah berpandukan firman TUHAN. Selama awan itu tetap berada di atas Khemah Suci, selama itulah mereka terus berkhemah… Berpandukan firman TUHAN mereka berkhemah dan berpandukan firman TUHAN jugalah mereka berangkat. Mereka menunaikan kewajipan mereka terhadap TUHAN berpandukan firman TUHAN dengan perantaraan Musa
(Bilangan 9:15-18, 23, Alkitab Versi Borneo)

Ketika Musa memimpin orang Israel keluar dari tanah Mesir, mereka pergi dengan tergesa-gesa. 400 tahun perhambaan menyebabkan mereka begitu. Tanah Perjanjian seperti sangat dekat bagi mereka… sebenarnya tidak begitu. Berminggu-minggu berlalu, kemudian berbulan-bulan berlalu, kemudian bertahun-tahun berlalu. Pakaian mereka tidak menjadi lusuh dan kasut mereka tidak menjadi usang (baca Ulangan 29:5) dan mereka berharap suatu hari nanti sampai ke tanah yang berlimpah-limpah dengan susu dan madu (Keluaran 33:3). Tetapi buat masa sekarang – Bilangan 9 – orang Israel harus mendirikan khemah dimana awan berhenti dan berpindah dimana awan itu pergi mendahului mereka. “Berpandukan firman TUHAN mereka berkhemah dan berpandukan firman TUHAN jugalah mereka berangkat.”

Sukar bagi kita untuk mengikut TUHAN kerana Dia tidak kelihatan. Sekarang kita tidak dipimpin oleh mukjizat yang nyata pada pandangan mata seperti tiang awan dan api untuk menunjukan kita kehendak-Nya dalam hidup kita. Pada waktu malam, kita tidak melihat tiang api memimpin kita ketika kita bersendirian dan tidak tahu arah dihadapan kita. Tetapi kawan-kawan, kita tidak perlu mukjizat seperti itu kerana kita memiliki mukjizat yang teragung dalam sejarah manusia iaitu: Alkitab, Firman Allah. Jika kita hilang arah tujuan, kita ada Firman-Nya. Jika kita ingin pimpinan Allah, kita ada Firman-Nya. Jika kita ingin mendengar Dia berbicara, kita ada Firman-Nya. Apa yang lebih baik dari tiang awan dan api mendahului kita? Bila Tuhan Yesus dan Firman-Nya ada dalam hati kita. Hiduplah “berpandukan firman TUHAN.” Amen.


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