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!