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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Psalm 73 ~ God is My Strength and Portion Forever

This psalm of Asaph (King David's chief musician) initially reflects the psalmist's envy of the prosperous wicked, which nearly stumbled him. The psalmist believes that he has acted righteously in vain as he cannot understand why the wicked are prospering instead. It is only until he went into the sanctuary of God (i.e. God's Word) that he begins to understand that the wicked will eventually be destroyed and perish. The psalmist also comes to realize that he is not as righteous as he first perceived himself to be - he repents of his old ways where he had rebelled against God like a brutish and ignorant beast. Knowing that God is his one true desire who guides him with His counsel and afterward will receive him to glory, the psalmist concludes that it is good to be near God, whom he has made his refuge and the strength of his heart and his portion forever...

Will you make God your strength and portion forever?

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 ~ Against Idleness

This last chapter of Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonians begins with Paul asking for prayer as they suffer persecution from the Jews whilst expressing his confidence in them obeying his command (verses 1-4). This is an intelligent lead-in to verse 6 onwards, which describes this command that Paul expects them to obey. He further explains the authority behind this command in the expression of "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (verse 6).

So, what is this command? From verses 6 to 15, we see Paul asking the Thessalonians to keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and let him not eat. These idlers are instead encouraged to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Such an idler is to be taken note of that others may have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. The term "brother" used in verses 6 and 15 shows the identity of this idler as a fellow believer. Idleness is defined as walking not in accord with the tradition received (verse 6), not willing to work (verse 10), or not busy at work, but busybodies (verse 11).

Paul's reasoning behind this command is so that the idler may be ashamed (verse 14). This is to help the idler repent. The idea is similar to that of Paul's instruction to the Corinthians to deliver the sexually immoral to Satan for destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5). Such excommunication from the church is actually a form of love to help the idlers (or sexually immoral) understand that they have been sinning and so repent. This also serves other purposes such as not destroying others' good works (e.g. feeding the poor rather than financially supporting an idle brother who is not willing to work), discarding a poor example to the rest of the church, removing bad testimony to outsiders, and deterring others from idling.

That said, we need to first examine ourselves first before examining others. As Matthew 7:1-5 points out, we need to first take the log out of our own eye before we take the speck out of our brother's eye. We need to understand that behind our intentions and actions in rebuking others is the underlying great commandment of love and not self-righteousness...

Ps. If you ever see a speck in my eye, will you please show your love towards me by taking it out? ;)

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MYC 2010: Holy Spirit - God in Us

This year's Mid Year Conference (MYC) at Merroo Christian Conference Centre was an absolute blast. We explored God's Word to better understand an often-debated topic: the Holy Spirit. We certainly learnt a lot (and left with more questions!) from Genesis to Revelation over the 5 days of seminars, Bible studies, talks, electives and fellowship with over 500 other brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Here are just a few points learnt over those five amazing days of MYC:

  • The Spirit is the paraclete who works in us and convicts us of our sin and dwells in us when we become Christians i.e. the Spirit and gospel work hand-in-hand
  • Living by the Spirit involves putting to death things of the flesh and suffering first before sharing in His glory as we become children of God by the Spirit of adoption and co-heirs with Christ
  • All laws are ultimately fulfilled in one word: love

Bible Studies (Colossians)
  • Paul expounds the gospel of Christ to the Colossians as a basis for them to renounce self-made religion and earthly things but to instead seek things from above, put on love, and to stand firm in the gospel
  • Further exploration of Paul's accompanying letter to the Ephesians reveals that the mystery of gospel is that Gentiles are now included as fellow heirs in Christ through the gospel
  • God's Spirit is in man - we can lead a new life with a new God-centred heart

  • Jesus Christ is God's exalted Messiah who is the Spirit-empowered King, prophet and servant - He is how we are to be born of water and Spirit
  • The Bible has dual authorship: God has written His Scripture through His apostles who are inspired by the Spirit
  • Subsequently, it is also the Spirit who provides illumination for the understanding of the Scripture, which would otherwise appear as words of folly for we have a spiritual disability (hardness of heart, blind eyes, ears that fail to hear, darkened eyes of the heart), which is both the expression and punishment of our sin
  • In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places - we need to understand that suffering comes before glory and there is contentment in waiting for the hope to come, hence the need to beware of spiritual experience traps where we may begin to try and manufacture the experience (e.g. speaking in tongues), interpret the experience incorrectly, or give the experience too much authority (when the ultimate authority lies in the Scripture)
  • By God's grace, He has given us all gifts for the common good - the list of individual gifts is endless and should not be our main focus but rather be the means of unification for His whole church as we ask, "What does the body need?" instead of "What are my gifts?"
  • Every Christian has been equipped by God to serve so we should not be self-centred in our thinking i.e. "I have nothing/everything to offer..."
  • The most excellent way to use gifts is love with the goal of edification and building one another up to maturity in Christ
  • We need to exercise prophetic enthusiasm in communicating the Scripture to others but also prophetic reluctance in claiming to speak God's Word beyond the Scripture
  • Participation in the Spirit (or fellowship of the Holy Spirit) allows us an intimate connection with both Father and Son as we participate in God's promises because the Servant King fulfilled the promises and now pours out His Spirit on us - we are then encouraged to emulate and glorify Christ (just as how the Spirit glorifies not Himself but Christ)
  • Suffering comes before glory - we are all united in suffering now but we will also be united with Jesus in glory in the future

As mentioned, this is just a "quick list" of concepts covered (when there is actually so much more than meets the eye). Felt like you've missed out by not attending this year's MYC? Fret not, as MYC will be back again next year with a fresh new other topic from 11th to 15th July, 2011 - mark these dates down in your calendar!! ;)

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 ~ All You Need to Stand Firm

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 provides a "toolbox for comfort" for Christians to stand firm. Verses 13-14 give us the four main "tools" in this "toolbox":
  1. The love and election of God: God chose us as the firstfruits to be saved as we are beloved by the Lord
  2. Sanctification by the Holy Spirit: Jesus' blood washes us of our sins; we are set apart from the unbelievers (in terms of relationships, attitudes and responses); we are bound together with other believers for an exclusive relationship with God
  3. Belief in the truth: where God is behind it all
  4. Sharing in the glory of Jesus: as we are called through the gospel
Given such invaluable "tools", it is no wonder Paul urged the Thessalonians (and us!) to stand firm in verse 15 and hold fast to the gospel preached by the apostles. This second chapter is beautifully concluded on a note of prayer for comfort, hope and action as Paul prayed that the readers may be established in every good work and word (verse 17), just as how this section is joyfully opened with a word of thanks to God (verse 13) that we may not forget to be grateful for what God has done and provided us with...

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Psalm 51 ~ Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Psalm 51 is a psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba - the account of the incident is recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12. It is David's plea to God for mercy and forgiveness that he may be cleansed from his sin. The basis for his plea is solely God's steadfast love and abundant mercy. While 2 Samuel 11-12 may indicate several sins such as adultery, murder and irresponsibility (in not fulfilling the king's duty of going into battle), David recognized that ultimately these are all just subsets of one singular sin: despising God's Word. Similarly, while some may say that David has sinned against people like Uriah, David acknowledged that ultimately it is only against God that he has sinned.

David also realized that there was nothing he can offer in return for God's forgiveness, being the sinner that he was. He, however, responded that he would teach transgressors God's ways that sinners may return to Him. David was aware that God does not take delight in mere animal sacrifices or burnt offerings but seek that of those with a broken and contrite heart who are repentant of their evil ways.

A relevant passage in Hebrews 10:1-18 also discusses that with the Old Testament sacrifices came a reminder of sin every year. Christ, however, came into this world and abolished that by becoming the ultimate single offering for sin, once for all, who perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

How will you respond? Will you come to God with a contrite heart and acknowledge Christ who has come to save?

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ~ Beware of Lawless Men

One of the reasons Paul wrote a second letter to the Thessalonians was to clarify a rumour that the day of the Lord has come (verse 2). But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Matthew 24:36). As such, all predictions regarding the end of the world are merely false reports.

Paul went on further to point out that this day has yet to arrive unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (verse 3). This man of lawlessness is a false Jesus who claims divinity as he opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or onject of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (verse 4). This is supposed to be the honour belonging to the one true Jesus, and so, it is just when we read on in verse 8 that the Lord Jesus will kill the man of lawlessness with the breath of his mouth and bring him to nothing by the appearance of his coming.

This man of lawlessness is one empowered by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders (verse 9) - these are done to remind people of Jesus Christ, but it is no less than mere trickery as these signs and wonders are performed with all wicked deception (verse 10) that people may be taken away from the truth to follow Satan instead.

While there are many speculations out there as to who this man of lawlessness may be, we do not yet have sufficient information to accurately point out any individual. It suffices to say that the identity of this man of lawlessness is not the most important of matters but what is more crucial is the right response. Paul warned the Thessalonians (as well as us, the readers) to not be deceived while taking pleasure in unrighteousness but to instead love the truth and so be saved (verses 10-12).

The lesson here is to pick the right Jesus. There is no assurance of knowing what exactly will happen if we use the buffer of the appearance of the man of lawlessness before deciding whether to follow Christ. It could be that this individual may never appear at all during our lifetime here on earth. Our hearts may also be hardened to make any changes after waiting for a long period of time. And even if the man of lawlessness is to appear anytime soon, Paul forewarned us that his appearance will be accompanied by a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false (verse 11) - such deception may prevent us from following the right Jesus.

Whose team will you be on? The true Lord Jesus Christ? Or the false Jesus in the man of lawlessness?

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Psalm 8 ~ How Majestic Is Your Name

Psalm 8 depicts David's awe at God's majesty. He acknowledged God as creator of heaven and earth who is strong to defeat His enemies. What amazes David more is that such a powerful and majestic God should be mindful of a small, insignificant creation that is man himself - God crowned him with glory and honor and have given him dominion over His creation (verse 5). While this reflects the authority God gave man to rule over His creation since the days of Genesis, it bears even more significance when we later learn from other parts of the Bible that the son of man (verse 4) refers to Jesus Christ himself whom God has given an everlasting dominion and a kingdom that shall never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14) - we are rulers of God's creation under Christ. It is no wonder that David should exclaim in verse 9: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 ~ Suffering and Perseverance: In God's Righteous Judgment

In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, he acknowledged their suffering in the face of persecution by their own fellow countrymen who were envious of their turning away from Judaism. Their steadfastness and faith (verse 4) is the evidence of the righteous judgment of God that they may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God (verse 5). This evidence may confuse some but verses 11 and 12 paint us the background that God first called the Thessalonians into His Kingdom and they subsequently need to walk in God's way.

Andy (an MTSer) who preached last Sunday explained this concept using this illustration: Imagine a class of students which a boy (we shall call him Johnny) belong to. Every year, the Most Loving Student award is presented to a student in the class as deemed right by the teacher. This year, Johnny's teacher selected him to win the award (the prize was a ticket to the World Cup finals in South Africa). Now, Johnny did not ask to be selected - it was his teacher who saw him fit to win and go to South Africa. His classmates, however, were jealous and started hurling abuse at him while some bullied him physically. While Johnny had many opportunities to retaliate, he did not but endured patiently instead, thus proving that he was indeed worthy of the Most Loving Student award.

Similarly, it was God who first chose the Thessalonians to inherit His Kingdom. Their fellow countrymen, jealous of the entire situation, began persecuting and afflicting them. The Thessalonians showed their outwardly love and endured with steadfastness and faith, hence proving that they were indeed worthy of the kingdom of God (i.e. the evidence of the righteous judgment of God).

As Christians, how do we deal with the issue of persecution? Just as how the Thessalonians endured, knowing that God will one day provide justice (i.e. no more suffering for them while their persecutors will be judged), so should we. Romans 12:14-17 and Matthew 5:43-45 teach us to not repay evil with evil but to bless those who persecute us. We are to love our enemies and pray for them - not for them to receive justice, but to pray for their salvation.

That said, do we modern Christians in religion-tolerating Australia (and in many other parts of the world) face the same kind of persecution as the Thessalonians or Christians living in anti-Christianity countries like North Korea? No? Why not? Perhaps we are reluctant to step out of our comfort zone in being more zealous in our sharing of the gospel? Maybe we dare not cross over the line that borders casual chat from a serious Christianity-all-the-way-in-your-face discussion? Could it be that we fear we may offend others by telling them that Christianity is the right way and all other belief systems have gotten it wrong as we are threatened by the idea of subsequent restrained relationships?

This is where the rest of this first chapter in 2 Thessalonians come in: Verses 8 to 10 tell us that vengeance will be inflicted on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus as they suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. Is this not enough motivation for us to be more bold in telling others about Jesus that they may not face the consequences described in verses 8 to 10? Simultaneously, it also comforts both us and the Thessalonians that any persecution we/they may face is worth the suffering as the kingdom of God is at stake. If we/they should give up, there will be worse judgment to suffer in the future. Furthermore, it challenges us not to succumb to the pressure to live like the rest of the world in pursuing the things of this world or to remain in our comfort zones (being a slightly different form of threat to our faith).

Are you for the gospel? If yes, what are you doing about it?

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