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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Psalm 2 ~ The King of the Nations

Psalm 2 is a psalm recited at a king's coronation ceremony. The first 6 verses are recited by the prophet who anoints the king. It tells of how the Gentiles plot to break the bonds between God and Israel and subsequently free themselves from Israel's rule, hence, acknowledging that God is the ultimate power behind Israel's authority over them. God, however, laughs and mocks them for He knows this will not happen, having set His King on Zion.

The next 3 verses are then recited by the incoming king who tells of the decree that he is of God who has promised rulership over all nations. Throughout Israel's history, we see that this has not been fulfilled, king after king, until the first coming of Jesus Christ, who is no doubt the true King of the nations.

Verse 10 is recited by the prophet again to warn all kings and rulers to be wise. The rest of the congregation at the coronation then voice out the last 2 verses as a reminder to serve the Lord with fear as those who do not follow His way will perish in His wrath, yet rejoicing, being assured that all who take refuge in Him will be blessed as He is the Lord's anointed.

Recognizing now that Jesus is the Lord's anointed and the King of the nations, how will you respond?

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Revelation 15-16 ~ Armageddon

Revelation 15 opens with seven last plagues indicating the very end of the world or judgment day itself. It starts when God's people celebrate the victory of conquering the beast by singing the song of Moses (similar to that in Exodus 15) and the song of the Lamb while playing the harp. Angels then carry out the plagues from the sanctuary and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished (Revelation 15:8) i.e. no one can enter heaven until judgment is complete.

These seven plagues are detailed in chapter 16. Similar to those that struck the Egyptians in Exodus, these plagues consist of sores; death; water turning into blood; fire and scorching heat; darkness, pain and sores; drought and unclean spirits like frogs; and earthquake and hailstones. And just as how the Egyptians were made the earlier targets, these seven plagues target people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image (Revelation 16:2), who have shed the blood of saints and prophets (Revelation 16:6) by persecuting them. It is a final plague and there is no escape as martyrs are avenged for to fulfill their call for judgment in Revelation 6. It is the final battle as the demonic spirits assemble kings of the whole world on this great day of God the Almighty, but those on the dragon's side are defeated and destroyed. Despite these agonizing plagues, verses 9, 10 and 21 tell us that they continued to curse God, unrepentant of their deeds.

This Armageddon is God's righteous anger demonstrating His power, justice and glory. Matthew 10:28 tells us to fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. This beckons the question: whose side will you be on? God's side with His saints who will no doubt win or the dragon's side? Remember what Revelation 16:15 and 2 Peter 3:10-12 warn us: the day of the Lord will come like a thief - we need to repent before then or it will all be too late. So as we wait for His coming, let us continue to be in lives of holiness and godliness.

This coming Sunday, we will be taking a short break from Revelation to explore 2 Thessalonians for the next 4 weeks before returning from winter break to continue our series on Revelation. Be sure to join us every Sunday at Keith Burrows Theatre, UNSW for FOCUS PM church service at 4.30PM! =)

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Psalm 1 ~ The Blessed Man

Last Friday marked the start of IBF's series on the Psalms. We explored Psalm 1 that taught us the way of the righteous and the wicked. A godly person is one who does not follow the wicked in their acts but instead reflects constantly on the law of the Lord (referring to God's commandments), which he takes delight in by living out His Word. The streams of water in verse 3 symbolizes the law of the Lord that sustains this person as he grows spiritually and bears fruit unlike the wicked who will not stand but perish in the judgment like the chaff driven away by the wind.

Which way will you follow? The way of the righteous or that of the wicked?

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Revelation 14 ~ A Tale of Two Wraths

There are two kinds of contrasting wraths in this world. The first is an evil wrath, a form of sinful anger. It is malicious where we put others down to exalt ourselves. The second type is the righteous wrath. It constitutes retribution by paying back those who deserve it. We shall see how these two types of wrath are interspersed in Revelation 14.

The chapter opens with the picture of the Lamb standing on Mount Zion. Psalm 2:6 tells us that God has set His King on Zion, which is His holy hill - a similar image to that in Revelation 14. This is a vision of victory of the Lamb of God contrasting the earlier vision of defeat of the beast with its number "666". And this victory is shared by those who had been redeemed from the earth (Revelation 14:3) as opposed to those who dwell on the earth i.e. those who are not God's people (as previously illustrated in other parts of Revelation). The virgins in verse 4 are contrasted with sexual immorality in verse 8 - it is not merely the issue of physical sex being dealt with here but also seduction by the pagan ways of Babylon and the subsequent question about faithfulness to Christ (a similar idea of being presented as a pure virgin to Christ is introduced in 2 Corinthians 11:2).

Verses 6 to 13 bring forth messages from three angels of coming judgment. The first angel proclaims an eternal gospel to those who dwell on earth i.e. non-Christians. Every nation and tribe and language and people are told to fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come (Revelation 14:6-7). In line with Jeremiah 51:6-9, the second angel in verse 8 warns against worshiping materialism, consumerism and all that is mighty of man's power, riches and wealth (as symbolized by the paganism of the evil superpower of Babylon) but to instead worship the one true God. And keeping consistent with Jeremiah 25:15-16, the third angel tells us that those worshiping the beast will be judged as he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger and there is no rest for the wicked (Revelation 14:9-11). To summarize this three-point gospel message, it can simply be summed up like this:

  1. God is Creator.
  2. Whatever you trust in will fail you.
  3. Judgment calls for the need to turn back to God.

Echoing the previous chapter, again the saints are called to endure and keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus (Revelation 14:12).

The second half of the chapter shows how one like a son of man (alluding to Jesus as also illustrated in Daniel 7:13-14) has been given authority (together with the help of the angels) to reap for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe (Revelation 14:15), to gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe (Revelation 14:18). This is the fulfillment of the vision of judgment played out in Joel 3:9-13. One can be sure that the awful picture of judgment as illustrated by the blood flowing from the winepress (Revelation 14:20) is not a pretty one.

Back again to the main tale of two wraths, we have seen evil wrath as portrayed by the dragon's wrath in Revelation 12. How then are we to respond as Christians? The Bible tells us to endure and to defend with the gospel, the blood of the Lamb, the truth. On the other hand, we have righteous wrath in God's wrath. There is zero tolerance of sin because of His holy nature. That said, He waits for the harvest to be fully ripe - He is slow to anger and patient to wait for the right time of judgment. So for those who are yet to be Christians, may I strongly urge you to consider the consequences of your actions if you are to continue rebelling against God? While the harvest is yet to be fully ripe, repent of your sins and turn to God for forgiveness instead before judgment day comes and it becomes too late...

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Can't Take My Eyes Off You

Two Fridays ago, IBF hosted an ACHOC (Asian Chicks Humbly Obeying Christ) seminar on lust and purity with the theme "Can't take my eyes off you". It was a good solid discussion with other sisters on what lust means, what the Bible says about it, and how we are dealing with the issue at hand.

By the end of the night, we unanimously agreed that lust does not equal sexual desire (which can be something good seeing that it is God-given). Rather, lust is the act or thought of seeking to entertain or fulfill sexual desire outside the context of marriage. Various Bible passages including (but not limited to) Matthew 5:27-30, Romans 1:18-25, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, Colossians 3:1-6, Ephesians 4:17-24 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 tell us that lusting is similar to committing adultery. It is a sinful nature that does not bring glory to God subsequent to rejecting God. Such a sin is a form of idolatry that causes the wrath of God and is punishable as those who sin against their own body will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The body is meant for the Lord as it is a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit within. We are not our own but have been bought with Christ's blood and as such, we are to glorify God in our body. Titus 2:11 motivates us further by saying that the grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness. Some of the measures we can take to help us not to satisfy lust is through God's Word and prayer, reading good Christian books on the topic, having an accountability partner (such as using programmes like the freely available Covenant Eyes), not putting ourself in a position that makes us vulnerable to the temptation of lust, bouncing our thoughts and reflection on our weak areas.

We also discussed on the general differences between men and women in terms of sexual desire. Here are some key points on the comparisons we made:

- Sexual initiator
- Stimulated visually
- Excited to pursue
- Sexual desire is often more physical

- Sexual responder
- Stimulated by touch
- Excited to be pursued
- Sexual desire if often rooted in emotional longings

We then discussed some of the ways we may be tempted to lust as women, what our brothers-in-Christ can do to help us not to lust, as well as what we can do as sisters in return to help our brothers and not cause them to stumble. We later convened in a different room with the brothers who had their AH-BENG (Asian Hunks Being Evangelical N Godly) seminar on the same topic and shared the things we have talked about as well as those last three points discussed above.

So dear brothers and sisters, let us help one another as we work on our godliness not to cause others to stumble nor be stumbled ourselves but always to reflect on Christ and follow His ways...

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Revelation 13 ~ The Beast and 666

Revelation 13 flows on from the battle fury of Revelation 12 and discusses about two beasts and the ever popular number "666". As we would have deduced by this stage, the book of Revelation is one filled with apocalyptic symbolism and it should not surprise that the number "666" is just a symbol for the beast (or you can argue that "6" is one number short of God's perfect number "7").

The first beast is a sea beast and its description of having ten horns and resembling a leopard, a bear and a lion paints the image of the four beasts described in Daniel 7. We learn from Daniel 7 that these four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth (Daniel 7:17) and the fourth beast shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25). That said, we can be assured that this only lasted until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:23). Verse 2 and 4 shows us that it is the dragon i.e. Satan who gave these nations the power and authority. This sea beast, or "the government" as we have now come to deduce, even pretends to have the same power of resurrection as Jesus did when one of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast (Revelation 13:3). The people are caused to think of the government as God as they worshiped the dragon and the beast (Revelation 13:4). And as previously illustrated in Daniel 7, the beast was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them (Revelation 13:7) but here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13:10) as they suffer persecution.

The second beast (the land beast) can be likened to a dragon in lamb's clothing (think of the analogy of the wolf in sheep's clothing). Verse 11 tells us that it had two horns like a lamb (a reference to Jesus in the previous chapters of Revelation i.e. it pretends to be the Saviour) and it spoke like a dragon (who tells lies, being the deceiver). The remaining second half of Revelation 13 goes on to describe this beast as false state religion i.e. not true Christianity. God rules the world in two ways via the State (through the sword) and via the Church (through His Word). It is when the religion comes to possess the sword that we need to be wary. The power of the government uses religion as its puppet. It even performs miraculous deceptions like imitating Elijah by making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people (Revelation 13:13) to make people worship the sea beast (i.e. the government), painting a most idolatrous image. Other parts of the Bible warn us of this as well. Matthew 7:22-23 says: On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'. Mark 13:21-22 warns: And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. Similarly, Deuteronomy 13:1-3 says: If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

As Christians living in this world, are we willing to be persecuted for His name's sake? Or have we subjected ourselves to be domesticated by the authorities of this world? Revelation 13 is a call for endurance and faith as we suffer persecution. It is a call for wisdom to realize that state religion is human - it is not God but merely workings of man. It is an assurance as we can be comforted by the knowledge that the dragon is overthrown and he knows that he has been beaten. So let us live out our faith in Christ with all endurance and wisdom...

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

James 5:12-20 ~ Pray, Pray, Pray and Save

The letter of James ends on a note of prayer. There is an emphasis of praying for the "sick". While some may interpret "sick" as physical illness, the original Greek translation tells us otherwise. "Sick" in verse 14 refers to astheneo i.e. "weak" while "sick" in verse 15 comes from kamno i.e. "weary". Seeing how astheneo is the negative form of the verb sthenoo ("to strengthen"), it is only appropriate to call the elders of the church to strengthen those who may be weak spiritually, in line with Paul's exhortation to those who are spiritual to restore those caught in transgression in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). This applies similarly to those who are "sick" or weary - kamno appears only one other time in the Bible in Hebrews 12:3 - an image of those who are weary from the suffering and persecutions they undergo (flowing on from the same thought in the earlier section of James 5). Just as how we are to pray for those who are "sick", similarly we should also endeavour to bring back a sinner from his wandering that his soul may be saved from death as he comes to accept Christ as His Saviour and Lord.

Have you been praying lately? What are you praying for? And what are you actively doing for those things that you've prayed for?

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Revelation 12 ~ The War in Heaven

Revelation 12 paints a most vivid battle between a woman undergoing labour and a dragon. The images of being clothed with the sun, moon under her feet and crown of twelve stars (verse 1) echo Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-10: a sign that authority has been given to this woman, who symbolizes the nation of Israel or God's people (especially those of the Old Testament era). On the other hand, the dragon that creates strife is described in verse 3 as being red (colour of war, fighting and conflict) with seven heads (it pretends to be God by imitating completeness signified by the number '7') and ten horns (similar to the much-terrifying beast described in Daniel) - this is a destructive dragon who swept down a third of the stars of heaven (verse 4).

Verse 5 tells us that she gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, thus fulfilling the prophecy of a Messiah in Psalm 2. The woman fled into the wilderness (i.e. desert), where she has a place prepared by God (a reminder of the great Exodus), in which she is to be nourished (a reflection of the manna God sent down from above) for 1,260 days (another repetition of the idea of 'a time, times and half a time') (verse 6).

The next section from verses 7 to 12 depict the defeat of the dragon and his angels by Michael and his angels. Cross-references from Daniel and Jude verse 9 tell us that this dragon is none other that the deceitful serpent of a devil called Satan. Luke 10:17-18 demonstrated the power of our Lord Jesus Christ over the devil, who also saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Satan is conquered by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (verse 11): the gospel message of Jesus Christ who was crucified for our sins saves. This act of God saving His people is further illustrated when the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent (verse 14), similar to how God has bore His people on eagles' wings to bring them to Himself in Exodus 19.

Just as how Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5 warn us to put on the armour of faith in resisting the devil, we can begin to understand that the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short (verse 12). The dragon's last days are days filled with attacks on Christians using its three weapons: persecutions, lies and accusations. 1 Peter 4:14 and Matthew 10:34-38 show us that persecutions can come in the form of insults as well as division in the family. The devil's lies began even in Genesis 3 with half-truths instigating God's people to claim self-government since God is trying to hold back something good (e.g. the forbidden fruit) and that there are no bad consequences, judgment or death. He also uses our sins to accuse us and make us unsure of our own salvation.

But fear not! We have our own courage to conquer this dragon and its weapons of attack. We need to embrace the truth that Jesus has come to be the King who conquers the devil by dying on the cross and will return one day to judge. We need to realize our identity as God's children. He has assured us of our salvation by the blood of the Lamb. We do not need to be alarmed but we certainly need to be alert of the devil's attack in these last days.

Let us put on our armour of faith in Christ!

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