Tuesday, November 22, 2011
I went and hugged Stephanie tightly and let her cry on my shoulders. I was prepared to hug her all day and just be silent. After some time, I tried to squeeze some comforting words to her, “Step, your hubby died a righteous man and God would be please with him.” “Where…where was God when my husband was in trouble?” She retorted. I knew I was caught in this age old question. “I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t understand everything about what God is doing, but I know that no righteous lives would be wasted in His sight,” a sudden burst of wisdom came to my mind. Stephanie was comfortable with me because she knew I was in mourning too. “I’m sorry. I cannot see anything positive at this moment,” she apologised. When she said that, I cried. I thought so. It was a long shot. Yet, deep within me, I still held on to this notion: if there is God, there is hope.
As Stephanie’s head still rested on my shoulders in sorrow, another friend came over and gently nudged me. Erin put her hands around us and said softly, “There’s a man of God who’s going around doing great miraculous works. The whole village is exploding in excitement over this. They said it is like God sending a prophet directly to visit us”. Stephanie raised and tilted her head a little on hearing those words. My heart skipped a beat and I felt a little awkward. Erin’s excitement caught both of us by surprise. It was unlike Erin as she herself was fighting a deadly disease in her body. “Us?” Stephanie asked sarcastically. “Yes. Us,” Erin spoke confidently. “This man of God healed my disease,” she broke the news. I inched closer to Erin to make sure I got her right. “You mean he healed you. You are completely healed. It was a miracle,” I pressed. Stephanie and I watched in amazement as Erin twirled her body in a dance move which was impossible just the day before. Our moment of mourning was slowly melting away. Erin saw into our eyes that we wanted more. “He would be at this place afterwards. He said something about the kingdom of heaven. Some people said he could be…,” she said with tears in her eyes. “Could be what?” we asked simultaneously. “The Messiah!” Erin said with a tinge of awesomeness. I could feel my legs giving way. “Am I hearing correctly? Messiah? If he’s ‘The Messiah’, then change is coming?” I reasoned. That was huge news to Stephanie and me. We were witnessing right before us, a walking living miracle. I want justice for my best friend. With tears dripping down my face, I want justice for my son.
The good news Erin told us provided the extra strength for Stephanie to walk a long distance to where the man of God was. When we arrived, there was already a large crowd, all charged up to hear him. I had never seen such electrifying atmosphere in our village and the surrounding villages for God knew when. “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” they chanted in unison. “Save us, Son of David,” someone from the crowd cried in a loud voice.
Finally, my eyes saw him. This Jesus, Erin’s healer, stood with great confidence, exuded an aura of a powerful authority. He motioned with his hands to silence the crowd. And the words came, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Every word was crisp and clear. He paused and the words hung in the air, as if waiting for them to accomplish a purpose. They shot right into our very soul like flying arrows. I saw Stephanie knelt and then laughed. When she confided with me later, she felt the touch of God in those words. The Messiah’s words were like fresh bread from heaven. It was a comfort for her present mourning as well as a future hope. “We are not just dwelling in an earthly kingdom with earthly things. Now I believe that there is really a kingdom of heaven! Something eternal,” she shared with me. What she said next startled me. “Remember what you said to me, ‘If there is God, there is hope!’ I got it now! Thanks!” Yes, I did say that but I was only hoping then. After meeting with Jesus, I was sure!
I hugged Stephanie again but this time, we were breathing a sigh of relief. Thank you, Jesus!
The second beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount suggests a God-sent comfort in response to a heart of tenderness of a person who is afflicted with grief. Suffering, pain and death are part and parcel of this world infested with sins. No one escapes the trials and tribulations of life. There are two major reactions to suffering. One person falls into depression and hardens up. Another person ponders over everything with God on his mind. The former cries for attention selfishly while the latter reaches out to God. The one who thinks of God does not mean he will not grief and mourn. He will but his process could be easier or perhaps shorter. The Jewish audience that Jesus ministered to and Matthew, the gospel writer, wrote to could have been well-versed with prophet Isaiah’s proclamation of the coming Messiah and that He would comfort all who mourn hundreds of years before (Isaiah 61:1-3). Not long after the prophet Isaiah died, the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The Jewish people were taken into exile. The words of the Prophet Isaiah became especially precious after that. Subsequently, many other voices of the prophets came after him. The people of God literally survived holding on to the promise of God! Many who suffered because of sin did not repent. There were those who gave up and assimilated into the culture of the Babylonians. But there were also many who continued to hold on to God and His Word!
God never denounces grief. He knows we need to mourn as humans in the flesh. But in our mourning and grief, we need to continually look to God as our healer and a source of comfort. Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died. His flesh cried for relief from the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the cross, He cried, “God, God, Why have you forsaken me?” Yet, in every occasion, He trusted God, the Father. He knew God would never abandon Him!
The principles that Jesus preaches in the Sermon are kingdom of heaven’s values. In the world, usually mourners blamed and cursed, exacerbating whatever bad that had occurred. Sometimes it caused untold suffering for many more people when uncontrolled revenge was to be exacted. An injustice would then breed many more injustices. Innocent parties dragged in as collateral damage. The comfort God brings to mourners results in reconciliation and freedom! Lessons, however bitter, if learnt God’s ways, will heal, bringing out only the good, or even the best of people in grief.
Next: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
“I am not going!” I protested. Jerry had been convincing me to hear out this great famous healer who happened to be in town. “So what, can he give me some money to ease our burden a little bit?” I was not in mood for anything. Dad told me to gather some woods for him. He wanted me to cook a little broth for him as he was having a bout of stomach cramps. Jerry showed me his usual facial displeasure. My life was all about surviving. Poverty had taken a toll of some of my family members. Dad and mom woke early and for a meagre sum, they toiled from dusk till dawn in a farm. Deep in my heart, I resented the owner for his arrogance and condescending attitude toward all his workers. His motto, “If you don’t work hard, you get out.”
“I heard from a friend that this guy did fantastic miracles! Must be someone blessed by God to do such things. Don't you think so?” Jerry kept hounding me. Maybe it was the word, ‘God’ that caught my attention. “Could be?” I answered calmly. Somehow, there were some mixed emotions within me. On one hand, I wished God would hear my cry for relief but on the other hand, I blamed Him for my predicaments. “But God’s got bigger things to do than noticing us,” I shrugged him off. “Okay, I help you with the woods and you accompany me to the hill on the other side,” Jerry rumbled on. I was taken in by his persistence, as usual. A friend since childhood, Jerry lived in poverty too but he was much more optimistic than me.
We kept the woods near my house and sauntered off to the hills. Laughing and joking along the way, we met many people, mostly poor peasants trudging in the same direction. Most of them kept conversing about that man from God. Few ladies rushed in front of us, almost knocking Jerry down. “Hey, look where you are going,” I shouted. “Sorry, I want to get a better glimpse of my healer afterwards,” one lady said excitedly with a wide grin. Did she say, “my healer”? Jerry and I ran along to catch up. “Hi, why are you girls so excited about that man?” I asked as I ran, panting for breath. “Oh, didn’t you know that Jane was healed of a skin disease by this man of God?” one of the ladies chipped. Evidently, Jane had brought friends to hear her healer out.
I stopped to take some deep breaths. “So the stories were true,” Jerry said in amazement as he leaned against a tree. Still unconvinced that God would do anything for me, I pushed on. When we arrived, a big crowd had already occupied almost the entire place below the hill. It was difficult even to go near where the famous person stood. All we saw was some of his disciples getting the people in order. It was very noisy but the excitement was electrifying. His presence exuded an aura of a King from God which our people had not experienced for a long time. Then I heard his name for the first time as the people cried for him.
My heart mellowed as I waited with bated breath for him to speak. I wondered seriously whether this so called man of God was able to change the down-trodden poor out of their severe poverty. And then he spoke, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” His words were penetrating and my soul reverberated with a sense of awe. That one sentence was filled with such power. “Was he talking about me?” I reasoned. “You mean I can be blessed and happy when I possess nothing more than simply surviving,” I talked loudly to myself. Jerry’s eyes locked mine and I saw tears. Nudging him, I asked why? “I heard stories of foreign domination of this land and atrocious things being done here. And today, for the first time, I heard that I could belong to the Kingdom of heaven,” Jerry spoke and wiped his eyes. Both of us saw hope and future with this man. Perhaps he was a prophet who healed like Elisha. Maybe even the Messiah we heard so much about. Jesus paused and I cried. God created the whole world and He 'came' to this remote place. I got a feeling that Jesus was directing his words to people like me. As we walked home that day, things would not be the same anymore. Our eyes began to look up. Our lives started to feel hope. “Thanks Jerry!” I whispered. And he turned around and said, “Thank God!”
The Sermon on the Mount is a series of preaching or teaching by Jesus during his earthly ministry. He proclaims to them the Kingdom of heaven* and all the values associated with it. This Kingdom is both now (as God gathers the believers) and future (when Jesus comes again to reign as King of kings on earth literally). It is filled with God-given principles or laws that anyone who follows them would be blessed. The Latin word for blessed is beatus, from which we get the word beatitude. ‘Blessed’ in Greek language here denotes a happy state of a person, an innate experience regardless of outward circumstances.
Jesus’ preaching opens with the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” His audience is mostly poor peasants in the Roman world, the rich are very rich while the poor suffer greatly. When God includes them into His kingdom regardless of their status, they are overjoyed. Many sick people are ‘untouchables’ (unclean according to Jewish laws) and all of them feel a sense of hopelessness. When healings take place, imagine the joy of being accepted back into society and family. The only requirement for ‘membership’ into God’s kingdom is a heart of humility. Obviously, the poor are much more receptive to Jesus than the rich. With that opening beatitude, Jesus opens up a world of hope and future for people who think that God has abandoned them. Thus, Jesus begins the restoration of the world he loves and he comes to die for.
*The gospels of Mark, Luke and John referred mostly to the Kingdom of God which is equivalent to Kingdom of heaven because Matthew's gospel was directed to the Jewish audience where God's name was still too sacred to utter from the lips of man. Perhaps Matthew tried to evade controversy at this point of time.
Next: Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
This is a very different Max Lucado’s book that I have read. Indeed, it is a much needed book in a society which is getting more complex and difficult. The author did the right thing (and a right time too) to come out with a reference sort of a book like this as ‘real’ people are asking real questions more and more today. He did cover wide range of issues that anyone of us are bound to ask from time to time if we are still breathing in this world. So, this book is not primarily for others only or only for those who think that they are the “answerman” or “answerwoman” but for all of us.
I like especially the author’s terse answers for difficult questions on every issue. People who are suffering need precise and pertinent answers from God’s Word. No beating around the bushes. While the questions are often hard and challenging, the answers are comforting, frank and honest.
I believe it has been quite a while for me to have read a questions and answers book and truth be told, it was both enriching and refreshing. And the answers are not only doable but quotable too. Well, I enjoyed it and highly recommend to all who are still breathing now.
I wish to thank BookSneeze program under Thomas Nelson publishers for giving me this free e-book for the purpose of this review. I give this book 5 stars!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Reverend Alvin pushed himself to wake up almost every morning. It was Saturday and having a late night Friday’s celebration in a five-star hotel for a member’s new business didn’t help. He had enjoyed all kinds of celebrations over the years as a pastor in this classy church located in a famous boulevard. His favourite theme of all his preaching series was “God is Rich and Able” and he presented them ever so convincingly. It was not a warm church as it used to be when it was first started. As church goers began to prosper and their lifestyle changed, the members began to disassociate themselves with the poorer section of the community. They came only for the positive messages that Alvin expounded with the help of some selected Bible verses to suit their rich and exquisite taste. Reverend Alvin even declared in the pulpit one time that the poor people really had missed God, just a little short in saying that God had judged them for their lack of faith. Some pastors around the vicinity had spoken and advised him but all to no avail. Alvin had a group of powerful rich deacons with him who gave him advice even on what to share on Sundays.
As he was about to freshen up in the bathroom, a bright light shone on him. He quickly covered up his nakedness and knelt down shivering.
A strong voice spoke…
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."*
Alvin clasped his hands to his face in shame. He felt so awful that he cried in repentance. It was more of tears of relieve that God showed him his disastrous faults. He began to confess his sins before God and promised to make it right. That day, he read the Bible to purely build relationship with God again rather than dissecting them for his preaching. And his eyes fell upon Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
*The verses above are taken from Revelation 3:14-22.
This ends the series, The Seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. Please feel free to check out the previous stories of the six other churches in this series.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Reverend Kenny came back from a meeting exhausted. He had been the director for “Pastors Fellowship” for many years, planning and coordinating spiritual direction for hundreds of members all across the province. Hailed as the “leader of leaders”, yet he often humbled himself and carefully gave all glory to God. Never once did he boast about his own ability as he knew that everything was from God’s grace!
Lately, there were squabbles in the Fellowship in regards to moral issues. Some leaders had argued away some major principles of the Bible and became bitter towards him. They claimed to stand together with him and his biblical principles but acted very differently outside. He stood firm and endured bitter attacks both from within and without.
Famous for his no nonsense preaching, he implored all his members to suffer like Jesus if need be. His church grew in greater numbers as people saw the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in his ministry. Many doors were open for him and his church to influence VIPs in government circle, even foreign ones. Due to envy from leaders of other faiths and also opposition groups, the pressure to bring him and the church down was immense. Many times Kenny wondered how he could survive such an onslaught if it wasn’t for God!
Kenny bowed before God knowing that whatever he did didn’t belong to him in the first place. It was all about his ultimate BOSS, God Himself! As tiredness began to bear a heavy burden upon him, he saw a bright light shining into his room.
A strong voice spoke….
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars--I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.*
He felt like his body being ‘electrocuted’ with strength from on high! Crying unashamedly, he sang softly and slowly, “I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.”
*These verses are taken from Revelation 3:7-13.
Next: THE CHURCH AT LAODICEA: THE DECAYING CHURCH
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The principle of the path is a simple concept yet so powerful. I believe many readers initially would say, ‘Andy, can you write something new?’ but as they read on, they change to ‘Andy, can I have more?’ Andy Stanley, like any great writer would, presented to us concise unambiguous principle of life. This is a complicated world and people make difficult choices and this book if carefully adhered to would be life and destiny changing! In fact, not only Christians can benefit from this principle but everyone should get a hold on it. This book has disturbed me in a good way as I now have to think through every path I take. I highly recommend this book to everyone who is serious about life and destiny. I give this book a five-star!
I wish to appreciate Thomas Nelson’s publishers for their program Book Sneeze for providing this book free for the purpose of this review.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Reverend Douglas just came back from a retreat with a bunch of leaders in a famous hill resort. His church was growing leaps and bound, many of them were mainly Christians from other denominations. He reckoned that believers were free to change churches as they like to get the most of what they felt was best. Introducing the latest technique in media ministry and state of the art sound system, services were jam packed with people. Douglas and the board had started two services on Sunday and thinking of a third. Turnover of staff was great as pressure to be successful went up several notches. Preaching must centred on prosperity as Douglas believed in financial health to influence people of his generation. That was also the in message of the masses!
As he sat down, after his wife and three children had gone to sleep, Douglas was excited having a sermon propped up on his mind. “More is good as God is more than enough!” screamed his head. Grinning, he felt this title should excite the church even more. Although he had ‘success’ as far as he was concern, there were some people who felt he had gone far off from the original vision of the church. They had forgotten when was the last time he spoke of the danger of sin and the wrath of God. He paid no attention to them as he felt these days were different from years ago. As he shrugged off the thought of those ‘old-fashioned’ ones, a bright light shone on his face. He quickly knelt down and shivered in the presence of God.
A strong voice spoke…
“These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”*
Douglas felt a chill up his spine as those words were spoken. He was stunned. Embarrassed, he lifted up his hands to ask for forgiveness. Deep in his heart, he knew pride and success had gone into his head. God reminded him of the simple vision given to him years ago of doing the Great Commission.
That Sunday, he changed his title of his sermon to, “More or Less, give All Glory to God!”
*The verses above are taken from Revelation 3:1-6
NEXT: THE CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA: THE PERSERVERING CHURCH
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Reverend Steve had just finished counselling with a member of his flourishing church. The person’s relationship with his wife had been estranged and on the verge of divorce. His children had begun to deviate from godly living to immorality. Deep down in his heart, Steve knew this would happen eventually as that counselee had been visiting prostitutes and living in sexual immorality. Lately, this man had contacted sexually transmitted disease which doctors said was very serious. All Steve could do was to pray for God’s mercy upon this broken family.
The church that Reverend Steve led was a hive of activities. As far as the community was concerned, the Christians in the church were greatly admired and enamoured for being genuinely caring like Christ did. The people felt safe with the church as the pastor would not even speak on sin at all. Many members felt ultimately people were responsible for their own actions. Everyone was welcomed with open arms. Steve would call members to serve God to the best of their abilities regardless of any background they might come from.
As it was late in the evening, Steve sat down to evaluate his day as he normally would. But his mind couldn’t shake off the meeting just now with that member. He knew that some cell supervisors especially a woman nicknamed, Jezebel, in the church had influenced greatly that broken man and also many others like him. Have I overlooked some sins and wrong teachings? He reasoned within himself. Due to great success in the church, he had concentrated too much on programs that he neglected to address sins and strange doctrines being perpetuated by some cell leaders. Already many sicknesses had been reported and also an increased of divorces and separations.
As Steve bowed his head to pray, he felt a warm sensation. He opened his eyes and a light shone on him. He knelt down and attuned his ears to hear.
A strong voice spoke….
"These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan's so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come. To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.*
Reverend Steve cried in hearing those words. Jesus did not forget all the works the church had put in to serve Him although as a pastor, he had tolerated some people’s sins. He vowed to make it right. From then on, Steve addressed sin in its rightful place as he kept on serving God with love and perseverance!
*The above verses are taken from Revelation 2:18-29.
Next: THE CHURCH AT SARDIS: THE DYING CHURCH
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
As a Pentecostal, I have learned spontaneity in all my praying life. This book has opened a new dimension to my praying world in the ‘daily office’ prayer. After finishing the book, I must confess that I know little of praying the ancient prayer and the power contains therein. Therefore, it has been a difficult read but nonetheless, enriching. I admire Robert Benson in writing this book that he never did criticise any other forms of prayer but only to present his best know how of prayer to the world. He was transparent throughout his book and with this; he has already won and warmed my heart. This book is for everyone who has lost the burden of daily prayer life and desires to come back to a fixed time of communion with God. I give this book a three-star.
I want to thank Thomas Nelson publishers for giving me this free book for the purpose of this review. I really appreciate it.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Reverend Eddy was disturbed after receiving a call from a frustrated member of his church. She complained that the spirit of wickedness had wormed its way into the church. A prayer group she set up had begun to intercede for God’s intervention. Eddy was exceedingly grateful to them for being faithful members. Even though much persecution had come upon them, they boldly soldiered on for God! He remembered how Antipas, a previous great leader of the church was martyred for Christ, they stood alongside him and were willing to die even for their faith.
As Eddy pondered over what had been said through the conversation on the mobile, he was unsure how to deal with few leaders of the church who had different viewpoint regarding certain theology. He felt so helpless. They were quite convincing with their words as most of them were highly educated in many areas. Teaching the members that only their spirits were saved and in Christ, the body was therefore immaterial. Many church goers who went along with their doctrine had committed adultery and some even went to prostitutes. They just ate anything that was placed before them; even foods they knew were offered to idols. Arguments between members had caused dissension and disunity, bringing shame to the name of Jesus.
He knelt down and prayed, asking God to give him the right theology and the boldness to do the right thing. Deep down he knew that God was displeased at how he handled His church. And even before he finished praying, a bright light shone in front of him. He prostrated in deep reverence to God, waiting for the instructions from Him.
A strong voice spoke…
"These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live--where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city--where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”*
Eddy got up and lifted up his hands in surrendering to God. Tears of repentance flowed freely. He vowed not to be cowed with the crowd who was against the teachings of God. No ungodly doctrines would be able to stand with the raised S(Word) of God, he reasoned! He asked God to give him wisdom and strength to make things right! No matter what!
*The above verses are taken from Revelation 2:12-17
Next: THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA: THE COMPROMISING CHURCH II
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Reverend Albert went to the little man-made basement to have his usual study of the Bible. This was kind of a hideout in his friend’s single story house, far away from town. His underground house churches, which were growing like tentacles all over the province, had authorities wanting his head. It was not that bad that he lost his house confiscated by the government but the grief was about his two boys languishing in jail for preaching Christ. He hoped God would see all these and respond appropriately. He always knew his turn will come. It was not a matter of if but when.
What saddened him a lot these days was the members of his house churches, who had lived not only in abject poverty but also in danger everyday from being captured. If imprisoned, they would most probably be tortured for their faith. Some were reportedly executed without proper trial. He prayed everyday for them as he preached and taught in secret meetings all over the place. To evade detection, Albert would shift from house to house to stay. Once, he was almost captured by the secret police when a family from the neighbourhood betrayed him. They purportedly wanted to hear the gospel but reported him to the authorities instead. God planned the escape when Albert’s friend came back in the nick of time and swiftly ferried him elsewhere. The friend lost his property as he couldn’t go home either.
In the stillness of that humid basement, he knelt down and cried. He told God to help him not to entertain the temptation to give up. He needed divine strength. Then he saw a bright light shone towards his face. Although he shielded himself with his hands, he could see it was an angel.
A strong voice spoke…
“These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty--yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.”*
Albert’s fear turned to faith in God. He cried with tears of joy, not because God took away the problems of persecution but that he was in the centre of His will. That day, he rejoiced that God saw the works all His suffering children did. Deeply encouraged, he told God that he was ready for anything. Then he heard a commotion outside the house followed by loud knocks on the door. Reverend Albert got up and said, “Lord, I am ready, even to die!”
*The above verses are taken from Revelation 2:8-11
Next: The CHURCH AT PERGAMUM: THE COMPROMISING CHURCH http://psbible.blogspot.com/2011/07/church-at-pergamum-compromising-church.html
Monday, July 11, 2011
Reverend Johnny leaned back on the revolving chair in his church office and grinned. Delighted to have finished the latest one year plan for next year although it was only July, he whispered a soft, “Thank you, Lord.” He felt a vibration from his side pocket that held his one of the two hand phones. He glanced and saw several missed calls from home. Delighted that he had a fantastic meeting with a large committee for a big conference coming up entitled “Either you build or you will be torn!” he called home reluctantly, slightly agitated by the disruption of his time spent in the glow of success.
“Hi Honey! Still haven’t slept yet?” Johnny said softly. “I have been calling you. Our son is not feeling well and I need you back. Anyway it is okay as I had taken him to clinic already. I am tired. I need to go,” Irene, his wife, answered. He could hear the frustration in her voice. “Okay. Should be back real soon,” he chipped. Johnny felt that a little sacrifice from the family should be alright for the work of the ministry. “God would bless my family as I serve Him,” he would often think.
He closed his eyes and began to journey back his many years of serving God. In the stillness of his office, he reminisced how he had success after success in handling the work for the Almighty. He often preached about the fear of God in not serving Him. Out of the many subjects he preached, his favourite theme was, “Either shape up or ship out!” For Reverend Johnny, there were no two ways about it. Always the either or! Through the years, the church had been filled with activities of either or!
He too had many share of oppositions and difficulties in the church as a pastor. He remembered how he had to excommunicate some false apostles who were out to cause dissension. Those were friends and it was a hard decision. He reasoned that the church belonged to God and every life must not be wasted with infighting! Every church member must be seriously living for God!
Then he thought about a group that called itself, the Nicolaitans. They did not believe in living for Jesus. Having the spirit believed would be enough to attain salvation. Johnny hated their idea of “You can then sin up a storm!” He had to dissolve two house groups and kicked out few leaders from the church. He gave them the ultimatum, “Either you change or you leave!” All those incidences had toughened him quite a bit.
Over the years, due to busyness of the ministry and the increase of activities in the church, he became disinterested in counselling problems with either leaders or members. “I think everyone should know how to live for Jesus and serving God by themselves,” he often thought to himself.
As he began to lift himself up from the ‘success’ chair, he saw a white bright light shone directly at him. A figure looked like an angel stood beside him and he quickly knelt down, waiting to receive a message from the throne room of God.
A strong voice spoke,
“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”*
Reverend Johnny almost could hear Jesus said, “Either you shine with love or you shine not at all”
Fear of God rushed into his every vein. Tears began to flow like something in him had turned the tap on. He couldn’t remember when the last time he cried like this. The message directly from heaven had softened his insensitive heart towards intimacy with God and His love. When he was able to calm himself down, his next thoughts were his wife and his children. He rushed home, driving and saying “God, I am sorry” incessantly. For the last couple of years, he had often come home finding his family asleep. He intended to make it right this time. He got home and found a note on the dining table. When he read it, he slumped onto the sofa, covering his face with his palms. The wife and children had left him. That night was the last straw for Irene.
*The verses above are taken from Revelation 2:1-7.
As we inch closer to the coming of the Lord Jesus to take control of this broken world, we must be prepared to live righteously before Him so that when He does appear, we will not be ashamed. PS Bible Ministry takes a fresh look at the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. They reveal to us many aspects of today's churches. Here, the Jesus we are so accustomed to as the loving Saviour now speaks as Christ the Judge. He speaks not only to the churches as a whole but also to everyone of us in every generation, how we ought to be watchful so that we will not turn away from God, thus escaping the wrath of Him that will come upon the sons of disobedience.
In the time of the apostle John, whom the visions and words of the book of Revelation were revealed, the churches mentioned were real, functioning churches in Asia Minor, under the Roman Empire. Although all we see are ruins of these churches in modern day Turkey, churches obviously as a whole have not been obliterated, only changing and evolving with environments and times.
(Rev 1:20) The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
This verse reveals how close churches are to the heart of Jesus! A lamp does not have light in itself, it is only the instrument of giving out light, and it must receive both oil and fire before it can shine; so no Church shines on its own. It must receive all from Christ as head, or else there will be neither light nor life.
In other words, churches need to stay close to Him. In Rev. 1:13; 2:1, Jesus walks among the lampstands where He takes care of and provides for the churches! Every church and every member of its family are His heartbeat and He loves them fervently!! Not only that, Jesus wants the lampstands (churches) to shine brightly!! All Christians to be witnesses for their Saviour! And Jesus gives us power so that the churches (hence every individual) are influential in whatever they say and do, wherever they may be.
Next: CHURCH AT SMYRNA: THE SUFFERING CHURCH
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
“Lord, the one you love is sick,” the messenger says in an urgent tone. Lazarus, the handsome and the likeable brother of Mary and Martha, must be very sick to press Jesus to go over. The sisters are almost like personal friends of Jesus, having had close contact with him several times. Expecting their Master to quickly move on, the disciples are surprised when he says, “We shall stay put for two more days.” “Huh? Master, Lazarus is very sick,” Matthew protests. He knows that His Lord’s relationship with the boy is close.
“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” Jesus speaks confidently. The disciples are encouraged by the first sentence and cannot figure out the second. But no death is good enough for them.
Two days later…
“Let us go back to Judea,” Jesus tells his followers. “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” John says, reminding his Master of the danger. Why the hurry? Anyway, he reasons that Lazarus is going to be alright.
“Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light,” Jesus responds, slightly agitated. Obviously, whenever one does what’s right in the eyes of God, wouldn’t there be simple protection from Him up above? Remember how I walked on the treacherous water just the other day? Jesus prays that they would trust God for simple matters like that.
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up,” the Son of God adds. “Er…Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better,” James utters. “Lazarus is dead!” Jesus clarifies. The eyes of the disciples widened. “And for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him,” Jesus explains further. The “dead” word hits them like a sudden twister. And the “wake” word sounds too far fetch for a dead person.
“Let us also go, that we may die with him,” Thomas says sadly to the rest of the disciples. Jesus shakes his head and waves them on.
A little later…
“What a shame to die so young!” Jesus and his disciples have overheard the commotion about Lazarus being buried in the tomb four days ago.
“Lord!” Martha cries and runs toward Jesus. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” she says in between sobs. “Perhaps, two days ago, there may still be hope as the body has not decomposed yet but now, I really don’t know,” Martha thinks to herself. She struggles between belief and unbelief.
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus says authoritatively. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Martha says, showing sign of resignation. But deep in her heart, how she wants to hold her cheerful brother in her arms again right now.
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus says gently to her. With the Son of God, there will always be life!
“Yes, Lord. I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world,” Martha answers. She is theologically right but practical wise, as every human is, she struggles to the fact of actually believing in an extraordinary miracle like this.
Martha is greatly consoled at the words of Jesus. Seeing Jesus turns his head around, her mind suddenly thinks of Mary, her sister who needs the touch of grace from the Master too. She runs to get Mary.
“The Teacher is here. He is asking for you,” Martha tells Mary. The name of Jesus is like a healing balm to her dejected body. She feels enlightened already at his call for her. The Messiah is all she wants to talk to at this moment. She has been hearing cries of disappointment and despair and now, all she needs is a word of God! Mary dashes out of the house like a desperate woman. The mourners in her house follow suit trying to help her cope with death. But their words are not enough to console her.
When Mary sees Jesus, she falls down at his feet. She says the same thing to the Messiah as her sister, Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus senses a deeper hurt in Mary than in Martha. Jesus thinks about his own violent death not many days from now and that another Mary, his own mother, will have a deep cut in her heart too.
“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asks. One of the mourners answers “Come and see, Lord.” The Son of God looks at the tombs all over the place and begins to weep. He knows everyone who buried in these tombs by name and how some who had rebelled against God and rejected His love. How he wished he can just call everyone to come out of the tombs, giving some an eternal second chance.
“See, how he loved him!” they exclaim. They see Jesus crying for the first time. And they say dejectedly, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” They look at Jesus with eyes of you-could-have-healed-Lazarus-and-not-hurt-the-sisters look.
With tears still streaming down his face, Jesus says, “Take away the stone.” Martha protests gently, saying, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Jesus knows Martha has accepted the fate that death is part of life and she will see her brother again when the time comes. Who wouldn't, as Lazarus' case is like beyond the grave! “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” the Son of God says. Words of life always proceed from the mouth of the Saviour of the world. Jesus waves to the caretakers to roll away the stone. He looks up and prays in a loud voice, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” The people turn to look at each other. They are surprised that no bad odor seems to emanate from inside the tomb.
“Lazarus, come out!” Jesus shouts. The crowd is hushed and a sense of fear hovers all around. A sound of breathing can be heard from the inside the tomb. Everyone tries to hide behind Jesus. Then the figure covered with white linen from head to toe starts to hop out, like "it" is asking the people to unbind him. Shrieks of fear and anticipation from the crowd inch up few decibels. Mary and Martha are now on their knees praying that the walking, breathing white ‘figure’ is their brother.
Then, the air of confusion is torn away by the words of Jesus, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Many people in the crowd are stunned and astounded follow with tears of joy. Before the caretakers can release the resurrected Lazarus completely from the wrapped linen, Mary and Martha already hanging on to him tightly.
“Hey, sisters, let me breath or else…” Lazarus says in between wonders. His eyes lock on Jesus’ and Lazarus gives the miracle worker the widest grin of his life. It's like Lazarus is saying, I-knew-you-can-do-it. The three in the family quickly kneel before Jesus and worship him. The crowd follow suit. The disciples, seeing all that is happening, kneel before their Master, believing that indeed, Jesus is truly God!
The story above is taken from John 11:1-44. This is the last story of Jesus’ seven miracles in the Gospel according to John. Although I added some words into the stories, it is in no way deviated from what God wants to teach us. What I do with PS Bible Ministry is turn readers back to the Word of God, the Holy Bible and find for themselves what God is saying there. And I believe that God’s Word is always fresh for all generations!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
His ears listen intently at the commotion. Some big-shot must have arrived to the street of beggars. He can hear of much excitement of a man named Jesus. Some are arguing among themselves too. “Anyway, who will even think of this dirt-filled blind man?” he utters to himself frustratingly. Before he can call for alms, he senses a gentle pat on his shoulder. For a long time, he has been untouched in this sort of a way. He can feel love flowing from whoever this person may be.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind,” Peter asks quietly.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life,” Jesus answers him.
“Huh?” The blind man scratches his head. “Oh..” Peter nods, trying to readjust his theology.
“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world,” the Messiah adds.
Before the disciples can respond, Jesus bends down and scoops some hard soil onto his hands. He wets it with his saliva and manages to make some mud. He proceeds to break them into half and applies them to the eyes of the blind beggar. The urgency of Jesus has taught the disciples another dimension in serving the plan of God. That ‘night’ for Jesus is indeed coming. In fact, all the disciples will have their ‘night’ coming, soon. Therefore, the light of the world must shine, now!
“Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam,” Jesus orders the blind man.
“Unlike other men who are often harsh and confusing, the voice of Jesus is so soothing yet authoritative. Of course, the rest see my condition as a curse,” the beggar speaks to himself as he gropes along those familiar steps leading to the pool.
The Son of God smiles as he sees this man’s faith and obedience. The blind man steps into the cold water, squats and washes his eyes. He senses ‘something’ being added inside his eyes as if somehow the mud has gone into them. It has been impossible to open those eyelids that were shut since he was born but he feels it is possible now. His head throbs painfully as the sunlight penetrates his eyes. He squints and sees light for the first time. Then he opens them wider and witnesses the colours of the world. Although everything seems so confusing around his new found sight, he still kind of remembers his way home as he has done that every day.
The family shouts in jubilation to the extraordinary miracle on one of its sons. Tears flow freely. They think they will lose him to beg but God begs to differ. He was blind but now he sees! The same day, they offer a toast to his bright future.
“Jesus! It was Jesus! He healed me!” the once-blind man shouts those words everywhere he turns.
The disciples of Jesus marvel at the awesome miracle. In fact, some of them are discussing about the creation of the eyes of this blind man with mud. “Remember, God created Adam from mud,” James adds to the excitement. “And our Master made mud to……”
The man who now can see is determined and desperate to find Jesus. He prays that he can bump into Jesus again and asks this ‘man of God’ about the Messiah that was promised to Israel. "Maybe Jesus is the One," he thinks loudly to himself.
Meanwhile, Jesus thanks the Father for the gift of sight to the blind man, who was extremely happy to receive it. He rejoices that he comes to this world so that the blind can see. Ironically, the Son of God also knows there will be judgment for some who can see, that their eyes would be blinded to the truths of God.
This story is taken from John 9:1-41
Next: The Raising of Lazarus from the dead