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

Sunday, May 30, 2010

James 4:13 - 5:6 ~ Boasting about Tomorrow and Warning to the Rich

How many of us make plans for the future? I daresay, all of us. But how many of us acknowledge God's sovereignty in our plans?

The last segment of James 4 teaches us that planning without including God in the picture is a form of arrogant boasting. Such boasting is evil as one fails to understand that all things, including these future plans, happen according to God's will. Those who plan as such with a future profit in mind have also forgotten what James taught us in James 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. This planner neglects to acknowledge that God is the source of all good things including the future profit that he has planned for - he is not to claim credit for whatever profit he makes and demonstrate self-centredness by so doing.

Chapter 5 continues on the theme of profit by warning the rich not to self-indulge at the expense of oppressing others. They are told that their earthly riches are not eternal and the irony of fattening oneself in a day of slaughter (James 5:5) points towards impending judgment.

How about us? How do we fare? Do we store up treasures for ourselves that do not last? Or do we lay our treasures in heaven as we seek the riches of His Kingdom first?

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Streetdance 3D

Acclaimed as the first 3D dance movie in the world, Streetdance 3D was a film that I very much anticipated to watch. And watch I did in a special preview screening several weeks ago before it opened in theatre recently. While the storyline is predictable (as most movies are today) except for perhaps a minor twist (minor coz some may not even regard that as a twist), that was not my main focus (though a movie's plot usually is for me) - I was there to see what difference 3D can make to a dance movie. Sadly, not much. But for a few added realistic effects, 3D or no 3D - it does not matter as much. 3D still works better for action and fantasy genres - 2D alone is sufficient for the dance genre. That said, Streetdance 3D still hosts some pretty well choreographed dances and boasts a cast who know what they're doing, slash that, dancing - featuring stars from Britain's Got Talent. The final verdict? Still a movie worth watching - if not for the plot or 3D effects, at least for the dance moves itself. I'm giving it a 7/10 overall...

Still curious? Here's the trailer for the movie:

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Revelation 10-11 ~ Delay of the Seventh Trumpet

Revelation 10-11 finally reveals the seventh and last trumpet. As the seventh angel blew his trumpet, the twenty four elders worshiped the Lord God Almighty and the flashes of lightning and rumblings paint a similar picture of God's presence at Mount Sinai (Revelation 11:15-19). This is the final reign and judgment for destroying the destroyers of the earth (Revelation 11:18) but is delayed (for reasons that we will discuss later).

But even before this seventh trumpet was blown, we rewind back to the scenes of the little scroll in Revelation 10 and the two witnesses in Revelation 11. Contrasting the previously mentioned seven unbroken seals with this little scroll that is already open, comparisons can be made with the quote from Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.". In other words, this scroll contained what is to be said and told. The instructions to eat it symbolizes the act of internalizing the contents of the scroll.

This is the Word of God.

The message of forgiveness that the gospel shares is sweet as honey (Revelations 10:9) but the words of lamentation and mourning and woe described in Ezekiel 2 makes it a bitter and hard-to-swallow message. It is only good news to those who respond to the gospel appropriately.

The scene of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 begins with the measurement of the temple of God and those who worship there i.e. God's people (Revelation 11:1). What the measurement here refers to is to know the details of and to care for that which is measured. As such, the court outside the temple (those not belonging to the spiritual temple i.e. those who are not God's people) is not measured but given over to the nations to be trampled (Revelation 11:2).

The idea of two witnesses was formerly introduced in Deuteronomy 19:15 where only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. This is also the reason why Jesus sent out his apostles in twos that should they be rejected, they may shake the dust off their feet as a testimony against those who rejected them i.e. a sign of condemnation to the coming judgment.

The two olive trees date back to Zechariah 4 where they refer to two particular people doing God's work: Joshua and Zerubbabel, while the two lampstands are representative of the church or God's people as alluded to previously in Revelation 1. We may teach God's Word but we can also expect others to reject or accuse us.

Revelation 11:3 reveals an interesting note of the two witnesses prophesying for 1260 days. This is equivalent to forty-two months (the same period of time that the court outside the temple will be given over to the nations to be trampled on in Revelation 11:2) or 3 1/2 years - similar to that predicted in Daniel 12 concerning a time, times and half a time, where times equals two times, making it a total of 3 1/2 times = 3 1/2 years!

Again, the two witnesses change identity when Revelation 11:6 demonstrates the powerful testimony via the very Word of God itself where they have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying (a reference to Elijah predicting a drought in 1 Kings 17-18, one that too lasted for 3 1/2 years), and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire (a reference to Moses inflicting upon the Egyptians the ten plagues in Exodus).

The remainder of the first half of Revelation 11 before the seventh trumpet is blown continues to paint a picture of persecution against these two witnesses by those who dwell on the earth (as in previous sermons, a reference to those who are not God's people), who will rejoice and make merry and exchange presents, gloating at the fall of the two witnesses. This, however, only lasted for 3 1/2 days when a breath of life from God entered the two witnesses, initiating a sequence of events that forced the rest to give glory to the God of heaven as great fear fell on them.

Returning in a full cycle onward to the seventh trumpet, we now analyze why this has been delayed. Revelation 10:7 tells us that it is delayed until the time when the mystery of God would be fulfilled. Ephesians 3 explains to us what this mystery is: Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The delay of this final judgment then is to allow people to hear the message of the gospel and respond appropriately.

Question is: Have we responded to the gospel message appropriately and how are we faring in terms of sharing this message with others who have yet to hear it?

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

James 3:13 - 4:12 ~ The Christians in between God and the World

The series on James continues with the issue of wisdom and worldliness. The second half of James 3 differentiates false wisdom from true wisdom. False wisdom is earthly while true wisdom comes down from above. The unspiritual and demonic characteristics of false wisdom is contrasted with that of true wisdom: pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reasons, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. As such, it is predictable that false wisdom produces jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder and every vile practice, while true wisdom sows a harvest of righteousness. Such wisdom and understanding is demonstrated in him who shows his works in the meekness of wisdom by his good conduct and in him who seeks to make peace.

James continues his letter by warning his readers against worldliness in chapter four. Due to passions, desire, covetousness and friendship with the world, quarrels, fights, murder, enmity with God, and adultery with the world happen. What should rather be happening is for God's people to ask correctly i.e. seek wisdom from above (relating back to James 1 and 3) and seek contentment and peace instead.

James goes on to explain how this can be done in verses 7-10. One should submit to God and resist the devil. He should draw near to God - Jesus has provided the access we need and the act of drawing near indicates the direction of submission to God. Rather than sinning, one should repent and cleanse his hands. Rather than being double-minded, one should purify his heart. He is also to be wretched, mourn and weep (mirroring the beatitudes and woes in the Sermon on the Mount). Humility is also a key element in submission itself that God's people may then be exalted, being rich in faith and co-heirs with Christ of God's Kingdom. One should also be wary about judging others for there is only one lawgiver and judge: God, who is able to save and destroy. Again, James is repeating himself here with what he has warned his readers previously in James 2.

Now equipped with the understanding of this passage, where do you see yourself standing? On God's side or with the world? Or perhaps a little double-mindedness as you shift to-and-fro between both sides? Which characteristics described in this passage do you identify best with, and is there a need to change? It's time we reflect the intentions of our hearts and seek His wisdom first...

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Revelation 8-9 ~ The Trumpets of Heaven

While the wall of Jericho came falling down after the 7 trumpet sounds (held by the 7 priests), we see a similar picture in Revelation 8-9 where the 7 trumpets are now held by the 7 angels. These 7 trumpet sounds occur simultaneously with the events revealed by the 7 seals (recorded in the prior chapters of Revelation). It is interesting to note that because of the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:4), the response that followed was one of thunder, rumblings, lightning and earthquake (Revelation 8:5). A little more on this later...

Throughout the first six trumpet blasts, we see a sequence of attacks on creation. Hail and fire (Revelation 8:7) marks the general physical natural disasters happening around us while economic downhill takes place as ships were destroyed (Revelation 8:9). The "a third" references made throughout the passage symbolizes something significant. The turn of events in chapter 8 can be compared to that of the ten plagues recorded in the book of Exodus - and plagues show judgment on people...

The blast of the fifth trumpet unfolds an even worse plague of an army and battle imagery of locusts. These, however, are no ordinary locusts. They were told not to harm the grass or any green plant or any tree but were allowed to torment those who are not God's people yet not kill them (Revelation 9:4-5). The locusts are a metaphor for the things of this world that give people so much pain to the extent that they would rather seek death (Revelation 9:6). While Christians can similarly suffer, the pain experienced is different than that described here as 1 Thessalonians 4:13 comforts us that we do not grieve as others do who have no hope, but we have our hope in Jesus.

The sixth trumpet heralds the release of four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates (a border of evil that separates barbarians from the civilized world), who similarly killed those who did not belong to God by the plagues of the four horses and riders previously discussed in Revelation 6 (Revelation 9:13-19). The selective focus here is that those killed are not God's people.

A note that those killed (as well as those who were not) were destroyed because of their various sins such as idol worship, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality or thefts (Revelation 9:20-21). As we can see from the list, it begins with idol worship itself - putting trust in our own works and achievements rather than in God. The irony is that even the best idols cannot see or hear or walk (Revelation 9:20). It reveals the very nature of self-centredness rather than God-centredness. 1 John 2:15-17 warns us: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with irs desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

This passage (as well as others) in Revelation shows us that all the plagues and tragedies that happen have multiple causation: nature, Satan, God (the idea of "given" and "allowed" in Revelation 8:2; 9:1, 5 and 13), sin (we all deserve judgment), and interestingly (as foreshadowed earlier), prayers of God's people. The infamous line of "hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come" from the Lord's Prayer should shed some light as to why this is one of the causes - it is a prayer that asks for God's justice to be revealed!

More importantly, are we heeding to the call of the warning trumpets? Or are we recalcitrant and unyielding to repentance? Friends, let us not be like those who did not repent of their sins. Instead, we should turn to God and ask Him for His forgiveness as we start a life anew in Christ.


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

James 3:1-12 ~ Taming the Tongue

The first half of James 3 sees the tongue as a small yet powerful member of the body that is able to curse with evil intent. The teachers of the faith have been warned that they will be judged with greater strictness (verse 1) as they should display exemplary character for those whom they teach to follow. Yet verse 2 tell us that despite this, many still stumble as no one is perfect. While the many analogies James put forth may at first glance point to the tongue being the member that controls the rest of the body, we need to remember that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34) and by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:37).

Just as how James questioned the logic to have a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water (verse 11), likewise it ought not to be so to have from the same mouth come blessing and cursing (verse 10). As we have learnt earlier that it is ultimately our heart or inner desires and intentions that shape the things we say (and think and do), our response should be one of repentance and a change of heart. We have the perfect man (verse 2) in Christ who models to us how we should align our desires to that of His will that we may grow in our godliness in thought, speech and action. Being sinful in nature, it is acknowledged that no human being can tame the tongue (verse 8) - it cannot be denied that we can still stumble but at the very least, we can still repent and seek to follow His ways.

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Ephesians 1:5-6 ~ Adopted

What does it mean to be adopted? WordNet by Princeton University defines adoption as a legal proceeding that creates a parent-child relation between persons not related by blood; the adopted child is entitled to all privileges belonging to a natural child of the adoptive parents (including the right to inherit).

Ephesians 1:5-6 talks about how we have been predestined for adoption through Jesus Christ. If we are the "child", who then is the "parent"? And into whose "family" are we adopted into? John 8 illustrates the example that if God is not our Father, then the devil is. It also says in Ephesians 2:3 that we were by nature children of wrath. But we also know that Jesus is the Son of God. Tying all these concepts together, we can deduce that while we once belonged to the devil, we are now adopted into God's family. He loves yet disciplines us as how a father should.

This new adoption now creates 3 main relationships: God as our Father, Christ as our brother, and other Christians as our brothers and sisters. The entry into such a family is only made possible because of Christ. As Ephesians 2:5 points out, even when we were dead in our trespasses, we have been saved by grace and made alive together with Christ.

How then are we to respond now that we have been adopted? To answer this question, we need to first understand the purpose of this adoption. Paul clarified this when he wrote to the Ephesians, telling them that they must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds (Ephesians 4:17). Instead, they are to be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1).

How blessed are we then to be adopted and now belong to God's family! Let's live the new life we've been given by obeying Him as our Father and follow His ways...

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Galatians 1 ~ The Fellowship of the Gospel

Last Sunday was a special Unichurches Together combined service. We looked at the 1st chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians back in 50 AD (such as those in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra). While Paul usually starts his letters off with a greeting followed by thanksgiving, the stark difference here is Paul's expression of his astonishment at the Galatian's turning to a different gospel so quickly (verse 6) in place of the usual thanksgiving. This different gospel (verse 6) is not another gospel but rather a "gospel plus" where rules such as circumcision, food laws, works, and tongue-speaking are added on to distort the gospel of Christ (verse 7). The problem becomes apparent when the gospel of grace is destroyed as gospel plus is added to it.

The dangers of such false teaching is that it has the basic truth i.e. salvation through faith in Christ, BUT regulations are added in, making it seem that faith alone is insufficient. Such disparity threatens to ruin the commonality of the gospel and disunite Christian fellowship. Paul warns us to shun away from such teaching, even if he was the one to preach the false gospel (verse 8). The gospel truth remains as the one first heard by the Galatians as Paul originally preached to them, as recorded in Acts 13.

Paul acknowledges that this truth is not man's gospel (verse 11) but one received through a revelation of Jesus Christ (verse 12). The truth is not an easy one to swallow and will not please everyone, being the sinful beings that we are. The temptation to water down the hard truth so as to make the gospel more attractive and to draw more people to it is in common existence but we must never resort to it - people need to learn AND accept the entire gospel truth as it is.

As Christians, how then do we let our lives be changed by this truth about Jesus? In Paul's case, we see how he formerly persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it (verse 13) but turned 360 degrees when he was called to be set apart for God by preaching the faith he once tried to destroy (verse 23). Such is the kind of change that we need to adopt now that we have been saved and are now His stewards charged with the responsibility to share this true gospel with others that they too may call Jesus their personal Lord and Saviour.

Will you be the change?

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James 2 ~ Dead or Alive?

The second chapter of James covers 2 main issues: (a) the sin of partiality; and (b) faith without works is dead. Partiality is an act of irony for such transgressors who have been shown mercy by God in His salvation plan through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory (verse 1) are now instead judging others and not showing them mercy. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy and mercy triumphs over judgment (verse 13). We need to remember that we will one day be judged under the law of liberty and therefore, should speak and act as such (verse 12).

While verse 26 tells us that faith apart from works is dead, it does not refute that we are saved by grace through faith alone and not by our own works so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). What James is telling us instead is that because of this faith that we now have, we are to outwardly express it in our works, consistent with the desire to live a life imitating Christ. This is how faith becomes active along with works and is completed by works (verse 22).

So friends, is our faith dead or alive? Are we living out our faith in the way we think, speak and act? Or do our deeds (e.g. showing partiality) contradict what we believe in?

Let's strive to live our lives for Him! =)

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