..........Myspace Codes An Extraordinary Life: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Ephesians 1:3-4 ~ Chosen

This week's service ran a little differently. As Josh was away, Charles (our other pastor) gave us a sermon on being Chosen. We were asked if Christians are more blessed than the non-Christians. And if we know how we can be blessed as Christians.

In Ephesians 1:3, bless appears 3 times, showing us that the one deserving praise is God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for He is the source of blessings who has blessed us in Christ and given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Jesus is referred to as our Lord, indicating His Kingship over us, and so, He rightfully deserves our praise and submission. The spiritual blessing in the heavenly places acknowledges that we are in relationship with God.

Verse 4 tells us that we are chosen before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Being chosen by the blessed God is indeed a blessing itself! It informs us that our relationship with God is no longer dependent on our feelings or our performance, neither is it based on our circumstances. God's commitment to us is not a "Gen Y" kind of commitment like how we click "Maybe Attending" in our RSVP on a Facebook event page rather than a definite "Attending" or "Not Attending". His commitment is not "STABO" (Subject To A Better Offer) but one that began even before we came to our being. And all these that we may appear unblemished before Him because Christ first died and sanctified us!

Now, the question is no longer how we can be blessed but the realization of how we have already been blessed! What a privilege it is indeed for us to be chosen as Christians!

Thank you, Father, for choosing me despite the wretched sinner that I am...

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

James 1:19-27 ~ Hearing and Doing the Word

The second half of James 1 extends on from the idea of the word of truth discussed about in James 1:18. In verses 19-27, we learn how we are to respond to this word of truth: to receive with meekness the implanted word (verse 21) and to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (verse 22). This doer (and hearer) of the word is also the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres (verse 25). Again, the idea of remaining steadfast during trials (as we have seen last week) is repeated here. The perfect law, the law of liberty refers to that of Jesus Christ who has died on the cross to free us from our bondage to sin - contrast this new law to the old Mosaic law where man's sinful nature makes it impossible to fully obey all ten commandments.

The use (or rather warning) of the tongue is also introduced in this first chapter (with more emphasis later in James 3). The reader is cautioned to be quick to hear but slow to speak, slow to anger (verse 19) and to bridle his tongue (verse 26).

The two main ideas of "doing the word" and "bridling the tongue" are interlinked in verses 26-27. Pure and undefiled religion (or rather the outward expression of our faith) as James pointed out is to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. In the days of James, orphans and widows are the most neglected members of the society who have no one to fend for them or to rely on. What verse 27 is trying to teach us is to remember to care for those who are less fortunate or privileged than us i.e. those who are in need. Keeping oneself unstained from the world can be related back to the idea of resisting temptations (discussed last week) and also setting the right priorities in life with God first above all things including riches, which is consistent with the earlier teaching to care for the needy and also flows onto James 2 that opens with lessons on riches and partiality (more on that next week).

A few questions to reflect on then:

  1. How do you put into practice the concept of hearing and doing the Word?
  2. What have you done or can do to help the "orphans and widows" in our world today (starting from your own congregation)?
  3. What are some of the things of this world that may potentially "stain" you and how do you avoid them?

The study on James continues next Friday in IBF as we begin exploring Chapter 2... ^_^

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Revelation 6:1 - 8:1 ~ Breaking the Seven Seals

This passage in Revelation looks at the opening of the seven seals by the Lamb. The first four seals reveal four horses of different colours and riders. The first is a white horse with its rider coming to conquer (verse 2). The second is a red horse signifying blood and strife (verse 4). The third is a black horse indicating famine (verse 5-6). The final horse is pale and is ridden by Death (verse 8). This sequence plays out history where dictators of the world are followed by war then famine and finally death. The horror of it all is that these horse riders were "given" (their crown, sword, authority, etc.) - someone is behind this series of events. It is horrendous to think that it IS God who has "given" but we need to acknowledge that this is part of His judgment on a sinful humanity.

The fifth seal reveals martyred souls questioning God how long more before they can be avenged. Consistent with Romans 12:19, it is all left to the wrath of God for it is His vengeance to repay. It is interesting to note that unlike some false teachings that promote nothing but blessings and prosperity, verse 11 tells us to expect that more Christians will be persecuted and killed.

The final judgment occurs with the opening of the sixth seal. It is noteworthy to see in verses 15-16 that these people including the dictators themselves would rather have the mountains and rocks fall upon them than to face the wrath of God for who can stand?

Chapter 7 opens with an interlude that no harm is to be done until the servants of our God are sealed on their foreheads (verse 3). The number 144,000 is symbolic of a great number i.e. a huge group. Once again, as formerly portrayed in previous chapters, victory is symbolized by the white robes and palm branches in verse 9. Contrasting with the idea of judgment in chapter 6, verse 10 introduces the concept of salvation. In verses 14-17, we see how the great tribulation revealed by the sixth seal is overcome by being washed white with the blood of the Lamb (i.e. the violent death of Christ). There is also a role reversal where the Lamb is now the shepherd who guides His people to springs of living water.

The seventh seal is finally broken in chapter 8. Contrasted with all the other "noises" from chapter 4 onwards such as weeping, singing, worshipping in loud voices, crying, etc., complete silence fills heaven for a good half hour.

So, after all seven seals have been broken, the question still remains: Who can stand? Seeing how it is the Lamb who is considered the only worthy one to break the seals and how it is His blood that sanctifies His people, the wrath of God is now rightfully the vengeance of the Lamb. Hence, those who have been washed by the blood of the Lamb i.e. Christians can now stand blameless and unblemished before God because of Christ's death on the cross.

To those who have yet to call Jesus their Lord and Saviour, may I encourage you to remember that the final judgment, death, is yet to be upon us, but will befall those who choose to reject the gift of eternal life, the gift of salvation, that He offers us by His amazing grace and loving mercy. There are only two ways to live: either you are for Him (and will so be promised the crown of life) or you are against Him (and will so be punished with death for your rebellion).

How will you live your life?

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

James 1:2-18 ~ Acting in Adversity

Looking at this first half of James chapter one, our group discussed that it was possible to further divide the passage into the following sections (with their corresponding themes):

v1: Greetings
v2-4: Steadfastness (idea repeated in James 5:7-12)
v5-8: Wisdom (James 3:13-18), Prayer (James 5:13-18)
v9-11: Humility (James 3:5, 14; 4:6, 10, 16), Riches (James 2:1-7; 5:1-6)
v12-15: Steadfastness, Temptations (James 4:2-4)
v16-18: Gifts from God (James 5:7-11)

This part of James focuses a lot on trials and temptations. How are we to respond correctly when met with trials? Verse 2 tells us to count it all joy (which may be linked with the promise of the crown of life in verse 12) while remaining steadfast (verses 3 and 12). We may also ask God if we lack wisdom (verse 5) to handle such trials.

A vast amount of God's character is also revealed in this passage. Verse 5 demonstrates how God is full of wisdom that He may give it generously. Verse 12 points out that He is faithful in keeping His promises and that He is a life-giver. The following line in verse 13 illustrates His holiness as He cannot be tempted with evil just like how He tempts no one. In verse 17, the gifts He gives are good and perfect and we also see that He is a Father of lights and is unchanging in character. His sovereignty is implied in the opening words of verse 18 and we see that He is the word, the truth, and also our creator.

Bearing in mind the ideas discussed in the above two paragraphs, we can be encouraged to persevere with patience when met with trials or suffering as our faithful, unchanging God who gives good gifts promises life to those who love Him and who stood the test.

And what an encouragement that is for us when acting in adversity! =)

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Revelation 5 ~ The Roaring Lamb

What makes you cry? Do you weep at the slightest thing or do you hold your fort? For a strong character like the Apostle John to weep, it must have been a really sad matter of no small importance. In Revelation 5:4, we see that John began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or look into it. Also, this scroll is miraculously written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals (verse 1) - seven once again being the number of completeness. Clearly this is no ordinary scroll!

So what exactly is this scroll all about? Ezekiel 2:9-10 talks about a scroll of a book that similarly had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe. Further on in Daniel 12:1-4, the time of the end is described as a time of trouble, and everyone whose name shall be found written in the book (which Daniel is instructed to seal) shall be delivered. This is a scroll of destiny, an outworking of human history resulting in a sad end of the world including the present times: war, famine, death - a sad reality of life itself. And it is jammed in the reality of the times now - no one can open it. Grim unyielding despair lies ahead...

But wait! There is someone, after all, who IS worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals - here is a list of His characteristics:

  1. v5: Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered
  2. v6: a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain
  3. v9: by your blood you ransomed people for God

From these 3 verses and Old Testament references like Genesis 49:9-10, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 53, as well as various New Testament passages, we know that this "someone" is none other than Jesus Christ! He is the one to whom they sang a new song in worship and who is considered worthy for you were slain (verse 9).

This is the turning point of all histories: Christ's death on the cross provides us salvation and redemption from our sins.

It then becomes a matter of inclusive exclusiveness. Inclusive as His blood has ransomed all. Exclusive as He is the only one worthy to open the scroll and hence, the only way by which we can be saved. It calls for our repentance as we turn to be a kingdom and priests to our God (verse 10) that others too may hear of His gospel as we share it with them, and if it's His will, be saved as well.

The series on Revelation continues this Sunday but don't forget our James Bible Studies series in IBF continues tonight! ;)

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Letter of James: An Overview

We started our Bible Studies series on James last night. Instead of our usual approach, we adopted the "manuscript discovery" method. Do I see a big question mark flashing right next to your head? What "manuscript discovery" involves is pretty much getting an entire Bible passage "unadulterated" i.e. without the chapter numbers, without the verse numbers, without the title headings - in other words, the way the Word (or manuscript) is before anyone broke it down into chapters and verses. The "discovery" bit came in when we hunted for repeated words/phrases/ideas and attempted to break down the whole chunk into sections and give them relevant headings based on the concepts we understood from the passage.

So, what were some of the key ideas our group came up with as we did a quick overview of James using "manuscript discovery"?

  1. Steadfastness and patience
  2. Hearing the Word and being doers of the Word
  3. Faith and works
  4. Taming the tongue
  5. Humility and submission
  6. Judgment and partiality
  7. Prayer

Next week onwards for 7 consecutive weeks, we'll be looking at James section by section. So if you're not already joining us, how about giving it a go as we share the joys of reading God's Word together? International Bible Fellowship (IBF) meets every Friday, 7PM, at Level 2 Squarehouse, UNSW - all are invited! Hope to see you there! ^_^

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kNOw suffering, kNOw glory

Yes, that's the theme of this year's FOCUS church camp: kNOw suffering, kNOw glory. It was a great 4 days 3 nights at Port Hacking Conference Centre. Studying God's Word, fellowshipping with other brothers and sisters-in-Christ, good food (both the physical food as well as the more important food for the soul: the Bible), great environment (in the middle of a wonderful national park with the bushes and beaches beckoning) - what more can one ask for from church camp?

For the Bible Studies sessions, we focused on Romans 8. It was really encouraging and reassuring to read how God has adopted us as His sons (wretched sinners as we are) that we may be co-heirs with Christ and be glorified with Him. But as Christians, we can expect suffering. After all, Christ suffered first when He was persecuted and crucified on the cross for our sins. Our suffering may vary from a simple teasing by a non-Christian friend to a death threat for what we believe in but patience and endurance are quintessential for we have a greater inheritance awaiting us in His Kingdom.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)

So, stand firm in Him and persevere for the sake of the Gospel - it IS worth it.

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