Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pray for Laos: "Ministry of Healing and the Word"


Many people in Laos have become believers because they were healed or because they have seen other people get healed. I barely need to go out and evangelise because people come to me for healing or to hear more about Jesus,” says Beun* (name change for security reason), a believer in Laos with an incredible healing ministry – he’s the man pictured above with the notebook, although we can’t show his face for security reasons. Not everyone in his community has been happy about Beun’s work sharing the gospel.

Beun became a Christian after he met Christians who cared for his dying brother. “When I heard that Jesus is the King of Kings, and when I heard that Jesus is love, I immediately decided to follow Him, even though this was the first time I had ever heard about Jesus,” Beun says. Later, when his wife became ill, he took her to meet those same Christians, who prayed for her healing. She was healed, and also decided to become a Christian.

Been then began to pray for healing for others. On one occasion, Beun prayed for a man with a brain tumour. He had suffered with pain in his head for eight years, and had visited several hospitals and doctors, but everyone told him the same thing: they couldn’t help him. He had advanced cancer, and not much time left to live. “I do not want to die, can you help me?” he asked Beun. Beun told him that there is just one person that could help him, and that he needed to accept Christ. They prayed together, and then Beun told him to go home. One week later, all the pain in the man’s head was gone and he was healed. To this day he is a follower of Jesus, and the pain has never returned.

However, Beun has also experienced persecution because of his ministry. The government of Laos sees Christianity as a Western religion, and Christians are seen as enemies of the state. Local authorities wanted to capture Beun, so they posted photographs of him in the region and asked people to contact the police if they saw him. Last year, Beun was sentenced to five months in prison. The prison cell was very small and 22 people, including Beun, shared a room of just four square meters. Beun says. “But even when I was arrested, I felt that it was a part of God’s plan.” His neighbours have also been unhappy about Beun sharing his faith with others. Beun’s animals were attacked. “Someone poisoned my chickens. They all died. A week later someone shot my buffalo.

Along with several other pastors and leaders in the area, Beun and other Christians travel to distribute Bibles, teach and hold worship meetings in other villages. His new house is also going to be used to train others. “We are going to teach young pastors to grow mushrooms, while at the same time they receive training in the Word of God. Then they can become self-sufficient while sharing Christ with others,” he says.

Pray now:
§  That God would continue to work through Beun to bring healing and the good news of the gospel to many
§  For protection and provision for Beun and other believers in Laos.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Monday, August 21, 2017

Pray for North Korea: "The Gospel Cannot Advance Without Sacrifice"


Recently Open Doors, a Christian organization, spoke to Brother Simon* who works for them with North Korean believers. Simon has worked with the North Korean underground church for many years. He knows exactly how deadly working with Christians in North Korea is. Here I summaries this interview:

Kim Jong-Un’s government has sent hundreds of security officials along the North Korean border with China. The aim – to kidnap, and now kill, missionaries and others helping North Korean refugees.

In April 2017, a Chinese Pastor, Han Chong Yeol, was murdered by suspected North Korean agents. It was a warning to everyone helping North Korean refugees in China, and in particular Christians. Brother Simon is aware of the risks and lives everyday knowing the danger of this ministry.

Brother Simon, how did you find out about what had happened to Pastor Han?

I heard from a person who lives near the Chinese-Korean border that his friend was called in by the police. They showed him CCTV footage of four people crossing the river: one lady and three men, one of them very muscular. They carried some sort of box. The lady was later recognized as someone who had been in touch with Pastor Han a year ago. She probably knew Han and made a phone call to him. They agreed to meet in the woods. Pastor Han fell into the trap and was brutally killed. The assassins left China before the murder was discovered.”

In recent years, missionaries and church workers have been kidnapped by North Korean secret agents. The risks are real, including for people working with Open Doors. Is this sort of ministry just too dangerous?

No. We are a risk-taking organisation and we will never abandon the North Korean Church. God has called us to do this work. Besides, the North Korean Christians are far more dedicated than us. In a sense, they are spiritually much stronger than we (are). Yes, it’s true that perhaps some of them – especially young believers – don’t know the Bible that well. Their understanding of the Bible may be limited, but their faith runs deep. There are so many unknown heroes in North Korea and they are able to withstand torture.”

What happens when a North Korean Christian refugee is captured in China?

When a person is captured in China and brought to North Korea, it usually doesn’t take long before there are a wave of arrests. The people this person was connected to, are then taken to prison and tortured as well. But usually they don’t arrest new people. That means the North Korean Christians didn’t talk despite the torture.”

The North Korean church has little or no access to the Bible. It seems that though they lack Biblical knowledge, they remain faithful?

Yes, but you have to understand that when the Bible speaks about possessing knowledge, it means ‘living knowledge’. In other words, knowledge and action. We often separate Biblical knowledge and daily living. The Bible and the persecuted church cannot afford to separate the two. We still operate safe houses in China where we disciple North Korean Christians. I can’t share with you how many exactly, and I hesitate to say this because I don’t want to boast, but we are successful. Those disciples, when they are arrested, don’t collapse but remain faithful.”

In Simon’s mind, the gospel cannot advance without sacrifice. After all, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) North Korea’s underground Christians are even more than friends, they are our family in Christ. To support our family, we may need to sacrificially lay down our lives through speaking out, prayer and giving.

Pray now:
§  Pray for North Korean believers and those ministering to them.
§  Pray their faith and trust in God would grow, and many new believers would be added to their numbers.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Pray for India: "Sharing Jesus in Prison"


The villagers crowded around us and started punching and kicking us, all over our bodies. They asked us to praise Hindu gods and goddesses. We refused. They kicked us harder.”
(Sohan, Indian Pastor)

This is what happened to Sohan (not his real name), pictured below, after he decided to follow Jesus and began sharing the gospel with others. His story isn’t unusual. Last year in India over 800 Christians were physically attacked, and this year that number is likely to be even higher. The rise of Hindu extremism means Christians are facing increasing levels of discrimination and attack.

But God is at work. Many are coming to faith after experiencing miraculous healings, and imprisoned believers have seen God use them to reach their fellow prisoners with the gospel. After Sohan was beaten, his attackers called the police and accused him of converting people to Christianity; there are anti-conversion laws in five of India’s states, and they are frequently abused in order to harass and arrest minorities, including Christians. “I was shivering with fear, but I was praying,” says Sohan.

He was imprisoned for four days, but he saw God work in amazing ways. Sohan says, “I preached the gospel and prayed for an inmate who was sick. He was healed and believed in Christ instantly. My other cell mate was a person suffering from intense depression. He kept saying that he wanted to kill himself. I prayed for him and the suicidal thoughts left him. He also accepted Christ. The third person I met was a young man falsely accused of raping a woman. He also used to remain very upset and felt hopeless about his life. I shared the gospel with him, and he also accepted Christ inside the prison. This way I saw God’s immense power and deliverance.”

A Christian organization help bail Sohan out of prison, and are helping him to fight the false claims filed against him. He has returned to his village, and lives among the people who beat him so brutally and had him arrested. Despite everything he has been through, he is determined to continue following Jesus. “I suffered with many physical ailments and financial troubles before I became a Christian. Now I have freedom from all those problems and have a new life. This new life I will live only for Him, even if it includes persecution,” he says.


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Yeremia dan Pengharapan: "Semuanya Baru Setiap Pagi" (Ratapan 3:19-27)


Ingatlah kesengsaraanku dan pengembaraanku,
pahit getir dan racun itu.
Aku terus mengingatinya
dan jiwaku tertekan dalam diriku.
Tetapi inilah yang kuperhatikan,
lantas kuperoleh harapan:
Kerana kasih setia Tuhan tidak pernah lenyap,
belas kasihan-Nya tiada akan pudar.
Semuanya baru setiap pagi.
Besarnya kesetiaan-Mu!
‘Tuhan ialah Pusakaku,’ kata jiwaku,
‘sebab itu aku berharap kepada-Nya.’
Tuhan itu baik bagi orang yang menanti-nantikan Dia,
bagi jiwa yang mencari hadirat-Nya.
Baik jika seseorang menanti dengan tenang akan penyelamatan daripada Tuhan.
Baik jika seorang lelaki menanggung beban kuknya pada masa mudanya
(Ratapan 3:19-27,
AVB)

Nabi Yeremia, penulis (atau pemilik karya) Kitab Ratapan, diberi gelaran Nabi Yang Meratap oleh orang Yahudi. Bila saya membaca kisah tentang dia, kadang-kadang saya berasa kasihan dan bersimpati terhadap apa yang dilaluinya. Dia bernubuat tentang kejatuhan Yerusalem, dan kemudian dia meratap dan menangis bila ia benar-benar terjadi.

Namun begitu, bagi saya Yeremia bukanlah seorang yang pesimis. Disebalik tragedi yang menimpa umat TUHAN, Allah telah mempercayakan Yeremia untuk menulis isi hati TUHAN di dalam Kitab-Nya: Harapan yang Teragung di dalam Perjanjian Lama. Kerana apa yang terjadi kepada Israel, hati Yeremia sendiri hancur dan semangatnya lemah, tetapi dia tahu bahawa “kasih setia Tuhan tidak pernah lenyap, belas kasihan-Nya tiada akan pudar. Semuanya baru setiap pagi.” Harapan ditengah-tengah tragedi.

Bila Yeremia bangun setiap pagi, Yerusalem masih lagi reruntuhan. Tapi dia tahu bahawa Allah itu baik – Dia tetap setia. Ada ketika bila impian untuk Israel kembali semula hampir tiada, seperti tidak akan kembali lagi, Yeremia bernubuat bahawa mereka yang dalam pembuangan di Babel akan kembali semula selepas 70 tahun (Yeremiah 29:10). Melalui Kitab Ezra dan Nehemia kita tahu bahawa nubuat TUHAN telah digenapi… umat Israel telah kembali semula.

Yeremia merupakan nabi yang benar dan tidak dinafikan seorang nabi yang meratap. Dia berhati lembut tetapi luaran dia begitu tegas. Dia dikuatkan oleh TUHAN tetapi dia juga pernah mempersoalkan rancangan Allah. Kata-katanya boleh dikatakan sangat keras dan tragik kerana dia bernubuat bagi Allah yang ingin memanggil umat Israel yang keras hati untuk kembali semula kepada-Nya. Tetapi kerana Allah itu suci, adil dan juga kasih, Yeremia bukan hanya menyampaikan mesej penghakiman dan pertaubatan, dia juga – diakhirnya – menyampaikan mesej yang penuh dengan pengampunan dan pengharapan.

Baca dan hayatilah kebenaran tentang Pengharapan ini:
Kasih setia Tuhan tidak pernah lenyap,
belas kasihan-Nya tiada akan pudar.
Semuanya baru setiap pagi.
Besarnya kesetiaan-Mu!
Kawan, adakah Dia pengharapanmu?
Jika ia, maka jiwa kita akan berkata, “Tuhan ialah Pusakaku”
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

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Pray for Eritrea: "The Closure of Churches... A Time of Intense Purification of Believers"


As Christians we are required to love our enemies even though it is very difficult to do that when they make you suffer, or when they harm or kill your loved ones!
(Esther, Eritrean believer)

Eritrea is one of the worst places in the world to be a Christian, acts of violence and oppression happen daily. When Esther from Eritrea came to Christ, persecution began immediately. Her parents refused to accept her new faith in Jesus. She couldn’t attend church or Bible study.

When local churches began to close, many Christians like Esther were forced to live as secret believers. It taught them that Church was not a building, but God’s people.

The closure of churches may not make sense to us humans, but it has become a blessing as it has been a time of intense purification of believers… Forgiveness is vital. If we do not forgive, our relationship with God is hindered… Please pray that the churches in my country come to understand this forgiveness, reconcile and work with one another.”


THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP. 
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: North Korea's Hidden Revolution (2016) by Jieun Baek


North Korea's Hidden Revolution:
How the Information Underground is Transforming a Closed Society
(2016)
by Jieun Baek

After conference at Incheon, South Korea, I and my friends stayed for two more nights at Seoul. As I walked around the city area, I stumbled upon second-hand bookstore and bought this book (after I browsed books for only God know how long!). One of the talks that I could never forget during the conference is when a student shared about some issues in North Korea. I’ve watched documentary about North Korea before, but this personal story goes deeper into my soul. Since that day, I wanted to know more about North Korea… and thank God I found this book. Lord, saves North Koreans!

 This book is an insightful look into North Korea today and how the people are slowly getting information about the outside world at the risk of harsh punishment. The author also interviews some North Koreans who have defected to South Korea and a few to the U.S. It is fairly easy to cross at certain times at narrow points of the Tumen River into China, but there are armed guards on both sides (Google it!). Some of the guards can apparently be bribed to look the other way, though (because of the economic crisis).

‘The Information Underground’ refers to the illegal radios that allow North Koreans to listen to broadcasts from South Korea and other parts of the world in addition to USBs and DVDs that are smuggled in from China into NK with South Korean movies and television shows that have enlightened many to the fact that they have been brainwashed and not allowed to know anything about the rest of the world. Young people like the fashions that they see on South Koreans in the movies and soap operas, but dare not be caught trying to emulate them.

A bit of capitalism has entered the country in the form of small markets where people sell food, clothing and other items, even illegal ones. These black markets are far from Pyongyang, the capital city, place where most elite citizens live. During the famine in the 1990s, housewives would make anything they could such as rice cakes or cookies, and sell them to make money to buy more food for their own families. These little home-grown markets have become bigger with more items for sale and the author tells about one woman who gets used clothes in bulk from China to sell.

Overall, most people in North Korea are living in fear, communism/dictatorship and delusions (for examples, a defector once believe that “Kim Il-Sung was the greatest ruler in the world” or that “our Dear Leader will save us”). But not without hope. The people – especially young people – are becoming more open minded and more connected to the world as ever before.

Jieun makes an interesting observation that there are no experts on North Korea, and she considers herself a North Korea watcher. The country is so closed off from the rest of the world that it's impossible for an outsider to study it from the inside. The prison camps are still in operation and school children are taken to watch public executions. The Kim regime governs with fear. But there is hope. Kim Ha-Young, a student-defector, told the author:

People say mountains change in about 10 years. If something as stubborn and mammoth as a mountain can change in a decade, the hearts of ordinary North Koreans can change. I’m sure of it. I’m living proof. I’m from North Korea. North Korea is my home, and I revere the soil that my family tilled. But I grew to embrace democracy over time as I settled in my new home in South Korea. It’s hard, and lots of things are still confusing in a democratic country. But if mountains can change, humans can change. North Koreans are humans too, you know. Just like me, and the reader. North Koreans can and will adapt to newer, better circumstances. I’m sure of it.”

Oh, pray for North Koreans!

Contents:

#1 Immortal Gods: Why North Korea Is Such a Durable Regime
#2 Cracks in the System: An Information Revolution
#3 "Old School" Media: From Trader Gossip to Freedom Balloons
#4 The Digital Underground
#5 A New Generation Rising
#6 Implications, Predictions, and a Call to Action

[This is quite a well-written book and allows the reader to learn about a changing society whether the regime knows it or not]
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pray for Egypt: "Persecution is Bringing Believers Together"

This Egyptian church met in the desert after their church building was attacked and destroyed.

What we are seeing happening in the Middle East is bringing us all together. We churches do not have the luxury of staying separate any more. We have realised that what we have in common far exceeds what separates us.”
(Egyptian church leader)

War doesn’t discriminate against denominations, a church leader in Egypt has discovered. People have died for their faith, regardless of what church they go to. The persecution is bringing believers together as they share in their suffering.

In Aleppo, 12 bishops from different denominations came together to pray. It was the first time something like that has happened in centuries. The church in the Middle East is becoming more united and looking outwards.

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.

Source: http://www.opendoorsyouth.org/
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Allah Tetap Mengasihi Walaupun Umat-Nya "Seorang Balu" dan "Isteri yang Berzina" (Ratapan 1:1-3)


Betapa sunyinya kota itu, yang dahulu ramai penduduknya! Kini kota itu bagaikan seorang balu, padahal dahulu besar dalam kalangan bangsa! Ratu antara wilayah itu kini menjadi buruh paksa! Sedu-sedan tangisannya pada malam hari, air matanya meleleh di pipi. Di antara semua kekasihnya, tiada seorang pun yang menghibur dirinya. Semua sahabatnya mengkhianatinya, mereka kini menjadi musuhnya. Yehuda kini dalam pembuangan kerana kesusahan dan perhambaan yang berat…
(Ratapan 1:1-3,
AVB)

Yerusalem merupakan Kota Suci, Kota Daud. Ia ialah tempat dimana Rumah TUHAN dibina. Allah pernah berkata, “Nama-Ku akan tinggal di sana” (baca 2 Raja-Raja 23:27). Sekarang kota Yerusalem rosak teruk, runtuh dan mundur kerana ia merupakan tempat umat Allah melakukan kekejian dan menyembah pelbagai berhala. Ini merupakan tempat dimana segala kemurahan dan kebaikan Allah ditolak dan Firman-Nya dilupakan – malah mereka meninggalkan Allah Israel.

 Disini nabi Yeremia menggambarkan Yerusalem sebagai “seorang balu.” Personaliti yang diberikan kepada kota ini menunjukkan bahawa apa yang terjadi kepada Yerusalem bukan kerana kota itu sendiri, tetapi kerana umat yang tinggal di dalam kota itu. Dan ianya bukan hanya terjadi kepada umat Yerusalem, tetapi disebabkan oleh umat itu sendiri. Kelakuan dan perbuatan mereka menjadikan mereka seperti “seorang balu” yang ditinggalkan suaminya – iaitu, Allah Israel.

Hati Bapa hancur bila Yerusalem dimusnahkan. Allah menyeru untuk mereka kembali, tetapi mereka tidak mengendahkan-Nya; Allah mahu mereka balik, tetapi mereka terus-menerus berbuat dosa; Allah ingin mengampuni tetapi mereka tidak mahu bertaubat. “Balu” yang kehilangan suami; “Balu” yang menangis sendirian; “Balu” yang mulanya ratu kini menjadi hamba. Salah siapa? Umat-Nya sendiri…

Namun, Allah sungguh-sungguh mengasihi umat-Nya. “Pada waktu itu [bila Israel kembali] engkau akan memanggil Aku, ‘Suamiku’…” (Hosea 2:16). Bila Allah menyuruh nabi Hosea berkahwin semula dengan isterinya yang curang, ia sebenarnya menggambarkan kasih Allah yang setia: “Pergilah, tunjukkanlah cintamu kepada seorang perempuan yang berzina dan juga dicintai lelaki lain sama seperti TUHAN mencintai orang Israel sungguhpun mereka berpaling kepada tuhan-tuhan lain…” (Hosea 3:1). Wahai kamu yang seperti “seorang balu”, seperti “isteri yang berzina,” kembalilah kepada TUHAN Allah!

Biar tangisanmu menjadi sukacita,
Biar musuhmu menjadi sahabat,
Biar kamu tidak diperhambakan lagi oleh dosamu.
Kembalilah…” (Yeremia 3:13, 14)

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Monday, August 14, 2017

Pray for Saudi Arabia: "It's Too Risky"


It is unnatural – maybe even wrong – to keep one’s love for Jesus entirely to oneself. I cannot tell my wife. Or my children. Or my parents. I found Christ in a dream, and only He knows I follow him. But I have to, or I’m dead.”
(Saudi Christian)

A Saudi man found Christ while making the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Jesus appeared to him in a dream. He travelled abroad and secretly read the New Testament. He gave his heart to Jesus. Even taking the Bible back into Saudi Arabia could cost him his life.

In Saudi Arabia, converting from Islam is illegal and carries the death penalty. Unable to share their faith with family or friends, new believers feel very alone.

It’s too risky. If the authorities find a Christian Bible on my person, they will interrogate me, and I will not lie, so my new faith would be exposed. I do not know how long I can go without fellowship, without witness, living a lie.”

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
[Source: http://www.opendoorsyouth.org/article/five-quotes-from-persecuted-christians/]
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Pray for Syria: "For Those Who Are Bold for Jesus"


I am going to grow my beard even longer, and I intend to look like an Islamic State fighter. It is time to be smarter than Islamic State
(Syrian priest)

Impersonating a member of Islamic State isn’t something many people would choose to do. In Syria, a priest risked his life to rescue Christian prisoners from Islamic State. He grew his beard and went into prisons, pretending to be a member of the terrorist group. He was instrumental in the release of 220 Christian prisoners in 2016 alone.

I just got fed up hearing of killings and fleeing. It was time to break the mould, and do something daring like Jonathan, the son of Saul, and go into the camp of the Philistines. There are many more of us. Wait a few more years, and you will praise God when you hear how God has made a way for those who are bold for Him.”

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.


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Allah itu Baik dan Setia, Jadi Berdoalah untuk Kesejahteraan 'Babel' (Yeremia 29:4-7,11-11)


Beginilah firman TUHAN alam semesta, Allah Israel, kepada semua orang buangan yang Kubuang dari Yerusalem ke Babel, ‘Binalah rumah dan hunilah… Bernikahlah dan milikilah anak lelaki serta perempuan... Biarlah bertambah ramai jumlahmu di sana, jangan berkurang. Ikhtiarkanlah kesejahteraan kota tempat Aku membuang kamu. Berdoalah kepada TUHAN untuk kota itu, kerana kesejahteraannya ialah kesejahteraanmu’… Beginilah firman TUHAN, ‘Apabila telah genap tujuh puluh tahun di Babel, barulah Aku melawat kamu. Aku akan menepati janji-Ku yang baik itu kepadamu dengan mengembalikan kamu ke tempat ini. Aku tahu rancangan-rancangan yang Kubuat bagi kamu,’ demikianlah firman TUHAN, ‘iaitu rancangan kesejahteraan, bukan malapetaka, untuk mengurniakan kepada kamu masa depan dan harapan…’
(Yeremia 29:4-7, 10-11, AVB)

Umat Israel telah berdosa dan meninggalkan Allah. Lalu mereka ditawan dari Tanah Perjanjian dan dibuang ke Babel. Kepada bapa Abraham, TUHAN telah berjanji akan memberikan Tanah Kanaan untuk umat-Nya. Tempat itu kaya dengan susu dan madu, subur dan diberkati. Ia merupakan tempat Raja Daud, raja yang disegani oleh umat Israel memerintah. Ia juga tempat dimana tersergamnya suatu masa dahulu Rumah TUHAN yang dibina oleh raja Salomo. Ia menjadi tempat tinggal tetap bagi orang Yahudi selama berabad-abad. Bila Allah menghukum mereka, mereka bukan hanya kehilangan tempat tinggal, tetapi mereka juga telah hilang identiti sebagai umat Allah.

Tetapi TUHAN itu baik. Dia akan “melawat” mereka semula; Dia akan “menepati janji-Nya”; Dia akan mengurniakan mereka “masa depan dan harapan.” Oleh itu, Allah menyuruh nabi Yeremia menghantar surat kepada orang Israel yang dalam pembuangan di Babel. Secara ringkat, mesej yang diberikan Yeremia ialah: Teruskan dengan kehidupan kamu seperti biasa. Kamu bukan lagi berada di Tanah Perjanjian, kamu berada di Babel. Jadi, terus tinggal di Babel. Bina rumah, bernikah, bertambah dan berdoa untuk keamanan dan kesejahteraan kota Babel! Bila tiba masanya – iaitu genap 70 tahun – mereka akan kembali semula ke Tanah Perjanjian yang diberikan Allah kepada Abraham dan keturunannya.

Penghukuman dan kegagalan tidak bererti dunia kita akan menjadi gelap selamanya. TUHAN Allah itu baik dan setia walaupun kita sekarang berada dalam keadaan yang susah dan ditimpa masalah. Kita meratap kerana kehilangan. Kita bertaubat kerana dosa. Kita berdukacita kerana Allah murka. Kemudian… teruskan dengan kehidupan kita seperti biasa. Tidak ada faedahnya jika kita terus menerus meratap dan mengenangkan tragedi lama. Ya, belajar dari penghukuman dan hidari dosa, kembali kepada Allah dan bertaubat. Kemudian… teruskan dengan kehidupan seperti biasa. Adakah kamu berada di ‘Babel’ sekarang? Jadi, berdoalah untuk kesejahteraan ‘Babel’ dan jadikanlah ia tempat (atau keadaan) yang diberkati TUHAN dimana sahaja kamu berada.

Jika kamu berada di ‘Babel’ sekarang,
Berdoalah untuk keamanan dan kesejahteraan tempat/keadaan kamu.
Dia mempunyai rancangan kesejahteraan, masa depan dan harapan bagi kita semua,
TUHAN akan menepati janji-janji-Nya, Mahukah kamu terus percaya?

THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: C. H. Spurgeon and the Modern Church: Lessons for Today from the ‘Downgrade’ Controversy (1985)


C. H. Spurgeon and the Modern Church: Lessons for Today from the ‘Downgrade’ Controversy (1985) by R. J. Sheehan

I’ve read many biographies of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and I love this man of God. His faith, zeal and tenacity are admirable (not to mention his genius and productivity in one lifetime). He was respected among the Independents, converted under the Methodists and ministered primary among the Baptists. He holds Calvinistic beliefs, committed evangelical and nonconformist. He loved the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures to the core. He was the leading preacher of the 9th century and one of the greatest preachers of all time… in my opinion.

In summary, let me explain the background of this controversy: During the last 8th to 9th century, England and the world was in fluxed by modernism – “the age of reason” – that penetrated into theological institutions and churches. Human reason was put primary at the heart of Christian theology. The historicity of Christianity slowly being attached and denied. Mysterious doctrines such as the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and supernatural events in the Scripture were dismissed as irrational. Errors were treated lightly and the fundamentals of the faith were doubly questioned. Thus, it was called the ‘Downgrade’ Controversy. At the end of this book, I concluded that modernism, rationalism and scepticism were the three major “ism” behind Satan’s evil schemes that weaken and paralyse the church during that time (How about now?).

While unorthodoxy, religious tolerance and doctrinal compromises were occurred rampantly in many churches, and when most evangelicals remained cowardly silent or at best raised feeble objections, Spurgeon led a courageous attack on the new heretic. At the time when humanism dominates all the major denominations (especially in the Baptist Union, where he first warned the leaders), it is necessary for Spurgeon to stand firm in the faith and defend the truth. He became the “prophetic voice” of his generation while many ministers kept quiet in the name of ‘unity’. I believe that love and truth must come together. Without love, truth is cold; without truth, love is empty. Love and truth are essentials to true unity in Christ. Spurgeon believes this too.

At the heart of the controversy, Spurgeon called on the preachers – most are practical to all of us Christians today to take heed – to: #1 Have as their chief end the glorying of God; #2 Have an intense desire to build up the church; #3 Be better men; #4 Get clearer views of what they believe; #5 Have more faith; #6 Have more love for souls; #7 Have a more thorough spirit of self-sacrifice; #8 Go over the fundamental truths with their hearers very carefully; #9 Labour distinctly for the immediate salvation of their hearers; #10 Inculcate with all their might the practice of holiness; #11 Be careful about the admission of members into the church; #12 Separate entirely from those likely to cause spiritual injury; #13 Bind themselves together more closely; #14 Remember that past bad times have been followed by good times; and #15 Make the most of prayer.

In the end, Spurgeon fight with all of his God-given strength and seem ‘losing’ the battle. He was misunderstood and rejected even by his own brother. He continued to preach and write about the ‘Downgrade’ but he did so as a man with few real supporters. He died with little success (not as preacher of God’s Word but as defender of this controversy). But for me, his boldness and firmness are forever become my inspirations to do the same. In my mind – oh, in God’s opinion – he won the battle! “I have raised my protest in the only complete way by coming forth,” Spurgeon writes, “and I shall be content to abide alone with the day when the Lord shall judge the secrets of all hearts.”

Even if you stand alone, fight!


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Book Review: Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (2015) by Gretchen Rubin


Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (2015)
by Gretchen Rubin

I think the book can be summaries in three sentences: #1 "A behaviour becomes a habit when it no longer requires a decision from you"; #2 "To change a habit effectively, you need to understand your ‘tendency’"; and #3 "Scheduling is one of the most effective ways to building better habits".

About the "tendency", Gretchen Rubin divides people into 4 kind of tendencies:

§  #1 Upholders. Respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations.
§  #2 Questioners. Question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.
§  #3 Obligers. Respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations (my friend on the track team).
§  #4 Rebels. Resist all expectations, outer and inner alike. The Five Big Ideas

I'm more to Questioner and Rebel, but sometime an Upholder. Identify which tendency am I majoring now is important for me to understand myself and thus it will affect how I create good habits and stop bad habits. Gretchen Rubin writing is very interesting: lots of examples, useful practical advises and the way she presented her researches is amazing and simple. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

"The biggest waste of time is to do well something that we need not do at all.”

"I should pursue only those habits that would make me feel freer and stronger.”

“We won’t make ourselves more creative and productive by copying other people’s habits, even the habits of geniuses; we must know our own nature, and what habits serve us best.”

“There's a great satisfaction in knowing that we've made good use of our days, that we've lived up to our expectations of ourselves.”

“The desire to start something at the 'right' time is usually just a justification for delay. In almost every case, the best time to start is now.”

“In the chaos of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters, and I can use my habits to make sure that my life reflects my values.”

“How we schedule our days is how we spend our lives.”

“I should make one healthy choice, and then stop choosing.”

“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It is always the same step, but you have to take it. —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars”

I don't know of any season in a person's long life when we aren't trying to figure out how to start a new habit or break the hold of an old one. This book is insightful and inspiring in getting us there, in my view. There might be a little too much material, but then again, the bits that helped me and the bits that help another person might be different... I recommend this book :)


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Book Review: A Biography of John Sung (2004) by Leslie T. Lyall


A Biography of John Sung (2004) by Leslie T. Lyall

John (‘Ju-un’ in Chinese meaning ‘God’s grace’) Sung was born in the Hinghwa district in Southeast China in 1901. During the great Hinghwa revival in 1909 – often called the ‘Hinghwa Pentecost’ – young John Sung was converted. Though only nine years old, he “was so convicted by sin that his tears of remorse soaked right through his outer coat as his head was bowed is a spirit of contrition.

To cut the story short, John wanted to study oversea so he travelled to America. In 1923, he graduates from Ohio Wesleyan University. But he is not finished with Ph.D in chemistry, he wanted to further his study in theology, so he enrolled to Union Theological Seminary. There he became acquainted with liberal theology. The seminary was so bad that they taught that the Bible cannot be trusted, that the Creation account was a myth and that the miracles of Jesus was fanciful tales told by disillusioned disciples. As a man of science, he soon found himself doubting the very Word of God that had once empowered him. I understand that feeling… I do.  

Leslie Lyall wrote, “Not many days after this tremendous crisis, John had a strange dream. Looking into an open coffin, he saw that the corpse was himself, dressed in academic cap and gown and holding diplomas! He heard a voice say, ‘John Sung is dead – dead to the world!’ Then the corpse began to stir and awaken and angels above began to weep, until he called out, ‘Don’t weep, angels! I will remain dead to the world and to self!’” The brilliant scientist had died, the new John Sung was alive to preach the gospel! It was like a second conversion for him.

This is amazing, John Sung set all of his liberal theological textbooks on fire and began reading only the Bible. Because of his ‘strange’ behaviour, he was admitted to psychopathic ward. For more than 6 months he was confined unwillingly, but fruitfully, it has become for him his own personal theological seminary. He read through the Bible 40 times! During this time too, God “called him to the task of preaching the Gospel in China.” When he went back to China, he said to the missionaries, “China does not need the teaching of [Harry Emerson] Fosdick or [Mahatma] Gandhi. The teaching of Confucius is far better than theirs. What the Chinese need is Jesus Christ and His Cross.

For the next few years John worked closely with the Bethel Mission but he could not be confined to one organization. I think partly because he was so fire up that people couldn’t catch up with him. And partly because he was not easy to work with. “He had a strong will and a hot temper. He was independent to the point of being sometimes stubborn. A rebel as a boy, he remained an individualist all his life. He could be abrupt and even rude,” explained late John Stott. Regardless of these weaknesses, God is pleased to prosper his ministry! He led thousands of people to Christ through preaching, teaching, training and healing ministry. My colleagues and friends also have told me personally that I’m a bit proud and stubborn (no wonder I also admire Steve Jobs), but Lord, continue to use me for your ministry! Amen.

In 1942, after 15 years of exhausting ministry, Sung retired due to ill health. He died in 1944, at the age of 42. “Never in the history of Chinese Church had someone touched so many lives in such a brief period,” said Bobby E.K. Sng. “His sacrificial and total disregard of himself is perhaps most clearly illustrated by his death,” writes Hwa Yung, “his active ministry ended only when his health finally broke... Although his ministry ended too late to save his life, his sense of God’s timing was perfect.” Three most important things in my life and ministry that I learned from the life of John Sung: #1 The Love for God’s Word, #2 The Power of the Holy Spirit and #3 The Work of Prayer.

“For a servant of God to have authority in every sentence he utters, he must first suffer for the message he is to deliver. Without great tribulation, there is no great illumination.”

“Man’s works do not even come close to the works of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit does not work, all the efforts of man will come to naught.”

“China needs Christ!”


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Book Review: The Confession (2001 Translation) by St. Augustine


The Confessions [Everyman's Library] (2001)
by St. Augustine translated by Philip Burton

Great are you, O Lord, and worthy of high praise. Great is your strength, and of your wisdom there is no counting. Even man is, in his way, a part of your creation, and longs to praise you; every man, who carries in himself his own mortality, that testimony of his sin, that testimony also that you resist the proud; for all that, man is part of your creation, and longs to praise you. You stir us up to take delight in your praise; for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless till it finds its rest in you” (Book 1.1.1). With that, St. Augustine of Hippo begins his confessions.

It is said that Augustine’s Confessions are our most brilliant evidence for the spiritual and intellectual progress of a man in the ancient world. Indeed, this autobiographical work is one of the most read books in the ancient time since it was written in Latin between AD 397 and 400… but not so today (maybe in the theological schools?). The works outline Augustine’s sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity, sex life and immorality, his friendships and godly mother, his inner struggles with the Truth and Meaning of life, God’s hiddenness, mercy and grace. What unique about this book is that it is written as prayers or conversations with God – Augustine is a rhetorician by training – and actually meant to be read out loud.

[The word ‘confessions’ here come from the Hebrew word meaning ‘praise.’ ‘Confession’ can be understood in two ways: with reference to our sins, or as praise to God.”]

Augustine quoted lots of Bible verses especially the Psalms of David, and few pagan writers and works. Philip Burton, translator of this book, done a great job at translating this work and noted from which verses and books Augustine quotes. Confessions is not an easy read, but this Everyman’s Library translation is better than Penguin Classic’s, in my opinion. This book consisting of 13 smaller books (first nine actually autobiographical and the last four are commentary):

Book #1 Our Heart is Restless
Book #2 Sinner Without a Cause
Book #3 The Love of Wisdom
Book #4 Half My Soul
Book #5 The Flight from Carthage
Book #6 Farewell My Concubine
Book #7 Not in Our Stars
Book #8 God’s Civil Servants
Book #9 Monica
Book #10 Remembrance of Things Present
Book #11 ‘In the Beginning…”
Book #12 ‘Heaven and Earth’
Book #13 ‘Let there be Light’

Once I talked with a self-claimed Reformed Christian and asked him, “Have you read St. Augustine?” “Who?” he puzzled. “Okay, do you know who St. Augustine is?”No… who?” “Never mind,” I said. In the area of God’s grace and salvation, the church and sacraments, predestination and freewill, famous Reformers like John Calvin, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, John Owen, and Jonathan Edwards were greatly influence by Augustine. Augustinian Theology influence the Reformation. Either you’re Reformed (or Reformed in theology but doesn’t realized it) or not, read Augustine.

To me, what make Augustine’s story compelling is that it’s our story too. In a world where morality is generally low and lack of spiritual sensitivity, many of us wanted to pursuit God but don’t know where to start. This book can help you. The sovereign grace that he describes in this book is the same sovereign grace that lost and thirsty souls need today.

Oh yeah :)

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Book Review: Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Biography of the Remarkable Indian Disciple of Jesus Christ (1992)


Sadhu Sundar Singh: A Biography of the Remarkable Indian Disciple of Jesus Christ (1992)
by Phyllis Thompson

What a man! What a book! Biography is one of my favourite genres, this one is superb! Dr. Thomas Chung came to my office one day, and said, "You got to read this biography [together with a biography of John Sung]. You gonna love it!" I've read it, and I love it. This week is very heavy for me, lots of issues burden by heart, mind and emotion. The life of Sundar Singh is like a God-given encouragement and inspiration for me to not give up on life and ministry and to turn my eyes once again upon Jesus Christ, the Lord.

I'm gonna make it a must to read this biography (and those of Charles H. Spurgeon’s, my favourite) every year. Rev Dr. Hwa Yung, bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia, writes, "Sundar Singh... read the Bible through Asian eyes, took the supernatural and the Holy Spirit seriously, and the rest followed. His ministry was marked by regular contact with the spiritual realm through visions, angelic encounters and the miraculous."

I will not write a lengthy summary of this book, for I think the Sadhu's life and ministry is too amazing to describe in less than 1,000 words. All I can say for now is, read, search and discover about this man of God. Not so much of knowing him per se, but so that by knowing him you may know the God of Sadhu Sundar Singh, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Before the mysterious disappearance of Sadhu, he quoted Acts 20:24 to his family and friends, as a summary of his mission: "I consider my life as worth nothing to myself, in order to finish my mission and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

Amen :)


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Book Review: The Joy of Sin (2012) by Simon Laham


The Joy of Sin (2012) by Simon Laham

I’ve experienced moments when people misunderstood me especially from the books that I read. Close mindedness is the enemy of intellectual life. Once I read Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion, I was accused as experimenting with atheism; I read Who Speaks for Islam?, some of my students thought that I wanted to convert to Islam; and when I read Yuval Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, a well-meaning minister questioned my believes in the existence of God and the doctrine of creation (and many other controversial books that I’ve read). I just finished reading The Joy of Sin, do you think it’s because I enjoy sinning?

This book is written from the perspective of experimental social psychologist not from religious authority. As such, the definition of ‘sin’ here is not thoroughly Biblical but ‘sin’ in a sense of human social behaviour. Even so, Simon acknowledges that “we all ‘sin’ and we do it all the time.” (Confirmed what Paul wrote in the Letter to the Romans). This book is divided into 7 chapters which follows Pope Gregory the Great’s 7 lists deadly sins that was written in AD 590, entitled Morals on the Book of Job. He writes it for the purpose of “maintaining the social order within [monk] ascetic communities.” For Pope Gregory, these deadly sins can literally lead people to hell. “In psychology,” Simon differs, “pride, lust, gluttony, greed, envy, sloth and anger aren’t considered ‘sins,’ or morally wrong, or even uniformly bad, but rather complex and largely functional psychological states.”

This is the classic example of psychologized sin. Simon continues, “When it comes to the seven deadly sins, the picture is a complex one.” It can be useful and of course it have its downsides too. As for these sins’ usefulness, the author suggest that “the seven deadly sins not only feel great but are actually good for us.” To be fair, Simon focuses is on the ‘good’ sides of each sin and at the same time warned his readers against extremism approached. This book is packed with array of physiological research. From a non-religious view, these sins are just “seven psychological characteristics of the human species.”

In summary, #1 Lust, Laham says, can jolt our creativity; #2 Gluttony can help us to connects with others; #3 Greed breed happiness; #4 Sloth can make us smarter; #5 Anger can make us fearsome negotiator; #6 Envy can actually bolster our self-esteem; and #7 Pride can boost our confident and will to success. “A sinfully delicious tour of human nature that reveals the bright side of our dark side,” comment Daniel Gilbert.

I read this book because I’m interested in how we humans think and behave. I believes that there is such a thing as ‘sin’ because I believe that our morality is define primary by God’s Law not only through our consciousness and social construct. I disagree a lots with how Simon Laham defines ‘sin’ and I also sceptic in how Pope Gregory defines it too. But I learned a great deal about the complexity of sin and why it is so ‘joyful’ to do. To me, reading this book enable me to understand social issues around me (and in Malaysia, generally) from the psychological perspectives.

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Book Review: The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow


The Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

We each exist for but a short time, and in that time explore but a small part of the whole universe. But humans are a curious species. We wonder, we seek answers. Living in this vast world that is by turns kind and cruel, and gazing at the immerse heavens above, people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator? Most of us do not spend most of our time worrying about these questions, but almost all of us worry about them some of the time.”

Good introduction, fair questions. The last book I read by Hawking is A Brief History of Time which primary dealing with how did the universe begin and what made its start possible, does time always flow forward, is the universe unending or are there boundaries, are there other dimensions in space, and what will happen when it all ends. In The Grand Design, Hawking (and Mlodinow) writes a sequel which try to explore deeper questions such as the above quotation. Both authors explain why, according to quantum theory, “the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously.”

They question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a "model-dependent" theory of reality (which I’m not so clear about). “We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse – the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature,” explained Hawking. “And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete ‘theory of everything’” (the unified theory that Albert Einstein was looking for even on his deathbed).

I think one particularly controversial claim that both authors wrote in this book is the idea that the universe can be explain without God. “Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? Some would claim the answer to these questions is that there is a God who chose to create the universe that way. It is reasonable to ask who or what created the universe, but if the answer is God, then the question has merely been deflected to that of who created God. In this view it is accepted that some entity exists that needs no creator, and that entity is called God. This is known as the first-cause argument for the existence of God. We claim, however, that it is possible to answer these questions purely within the realm of science, and without invoking any divine beings.

I say that the fact that M-theory, the Theory of Everything, the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find, cannot be found until today or ever will be, is because to understand the universe, we cannot depend on physical evidences and observable experiments alone. The grand design come from the Great Designer, the Living God. My interest in science and theoretical physics especially, does not need me to ignore the existence of God, but rather, because God is the grandiose Designer, I want to understand the world (and remain curious) both in physical and spiritual perspectives.

[This book is for general readers, but some terms and theories are so hard for me to understand. So I need help. I watched Lawrence Krauss - Physics Made Easy on YouTube and Discovery Channel Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design: Documentary. And to detox my mind from the ‘denial’ of God, I listened and watched John Lennox, scientist and apologist, counter argument in God and Stephen Hawking on YouTube]


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