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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Luke 4:16-30 ~ Israel's Messiah for the Nations

This semester's CBS Churches Celebrate (used to be known as Unichurches Together) sermon looks at the Nazareth manifesto i.e. Jesus' public declaration of His 'policies' in Luke 4. Jesus was finally at home and was spending the Sabbath in the synagogue (not a temple but a gathering place for Jews who could not get back to the temple to offer their offerings; a place where the Jews gathered to read the Scripture). Jesus was reading Isaiah 61 that prophesied the coming of the Messiah, an event that Jews have put their hope in for over 700 years (from the time Isaiah 61 was written until the reading by Jesus).

Sitting down (this was the mark of the start of teaching), Jesus claimed to be the Messiah that Isaiah prophesied by saying, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (verse 21). He claimed to be Israel's anointed one in being God's chosen one to rule and lead God's people, who are spiritually blind and oppressed and are spiritually lacking a place in God's Kingdom. The Messiah is needed to bring God's people under God's loving kingship and rule.

But just how did the Jews respond to such a huge claim? While all spoke well of him (verse 22), Jesus saw through their 'fake' praise at the sarcastic hint in the form of the question: "Is not this Joseph's son?" (verse 22). Jesus then proceeded to state the obvious, that no prophet is acceptable in his hometown (verse 24). He knew that they would challenge Him to prove Himself (verse 23).

Jesus then quoted two examples of rejected prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who lived during the 3.5-year God-sent drought in the dark days of Israel under evil King Ahab. While there were many Jewish widows and lepers, none were assisted or healed. Instead, Elijah helped sustain a Gentile widow, Zarephath (1 Kings 16), during the great famine while Elisha healed the non-Israelite Syrian army commander, Naaman, of his leprosy (2 Kings 5).

When Israel rejects God's prophets, God shows His grace to other nations instead - Israel has no right to monopolize God's grace. Simeon's prophecy in Luke 2 on how Jesus will be opposed and yet lead to the fall and rise of many in Israel begins to take form here in Luke 4. The Jews' attempt to throw Jesus down the cliff in verse 29 marks the start of the prophesied opposition. Despite their murderous intent, Jesus managed to save Himself and escape from the Jews (verse 30) - it is not yet time to lay down His life.

It is in the cross of Jesus where we see Israel's greatest rejection of the Messiah. The cross is the place where God's grace through God's Messiah overflows to us all over all nations (the Gentiles) because of Israel's rejection. We all need what He is offering: forgiveness by His atoning sacrifice. It is a great privilege indeed that God should extend His salvation to people from all nations - us who are not originally God's chosen people.

While the Messiah's manifesto may be 'grace going out to the nations', what would be our manifesto? What will it reveal about our life and commitment? Do we share the Messiah's manifesto? Indeed, our manifesto should be influenced by the grace that the Messiah has shown us. We are now made God's people as part of Jesus' mission and God's plan right from the very beginning.

Will you proclaim a Christ-centred manifesto in your life?

Ps. Heartiest congratulations to all those who were baptized on Sunday, including dear Xin Hui and Roong Jien - keep on growing in Him!

PPs. Will be away to be challenged about full-time ministry this coming long weekend (1st-4th October) at the October Conference... =)

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The Loved Ones

When I first watched the trailer of The Loved Ones, I figured this film was just another typical "crazy stalker" prom horror that crossed paths with the "zombies" genre. Man was I wrong when I attended the exclusive free preview screening of TLO (thanks to Contagious Network)...

Winner of Midnight Madness Cadillac People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, TLO proves its claim to take the conventions of horror and run them off the rails. The plot centres around Brent (Xavier Samuel) who is haunted by the guilt of causing his father's death in a car crash. He finds solace in his girlfriend, Holly (Victoria Thaine), whom he has promised to take to the school dance. His plans, however, are thwarted when a girl he has rejected, Lola (Robin McLeavy), exacts a revenge so truly demented it is beyond plain simple evil.

Gore-wise, the movie does an average job (the med student inside of me couldn't help but kept analyzing how impossible some "situations" portrayed in the movie are in real life, hehe). That said, the film compensates by delivering a double thumbs-up performance in the "comic psycho" aspect - pure sick and twisted perversion.

Due for release in Australia on 4th November, 2010, here's a trailer you can dance your way into getting psychotically thrilled...

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Revelation 22 ~ The Next Attraction

Do we really desire the return of Jesus?

Last Sunday marked our finale on the Revelation series as we explored the very last chapter of the Bible itself: Revelation 22. This chapter predicts the close arrival of the second coming. It is what must soon take place (verse 6) for the time is near (verse 10). And Jesus repeats three times, saying, "I am coming soon" (verses 7, 10, 20). Some may then question, "How soon is soon?" Mark 13:32-33 tells us that no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father, and so warns us to be on guard and keep awake.

The garden city described in this chapter also illustrates the beauty of heaven itself. Here flows the river of the water of life (verse 1), reminding us of the river described in Genesis 2 and Ezekiel 47. This is a river flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb (verse 1), reiterating that the source of life comes from God (as previously alluded to in Revelation 21:6 and repeated in Revelation 22:17).

Also, while man no longer has access to the tree of life in Genesis 3 (also described in Ezekiel 47), it now makes a 'reappearance'. This time, we are told of the fruits that it yields, which will no doubt satisfy us. The leaves are also used for the healing of the nations (verse 2) from the curse of God to start a new heaven and a new earth. Unlike how man is cursed in the garden of Eden, no longer will there be anything accursed (verse 3) for God offers forgiveness. All His worshiping servants will reign forever and ever (verse 5), being kings and rulers together with the Father and Jesus.

Unlike Moses, we will be able to see God face-to-face in heaven, standing forgiven as He provides us with the good things in heaven. It will be far better that the garden of Eden for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which opens up the possibility for the fall of man, will be absent. Man's fall in Genesis 3 will not be repeated. Instead, we will be perfect forever, being led by the new Adam: Jesus Christ. We do not relate to Him as our creator but as our Saviour. It is a garden city of perfection beyond Eden.

The God-given prophecy of Christ's second coming is made to give us the right view on how to interpret the things happening in this world and to also give us a view of the future. It is a certain event that will happen so soon that there is almost no time to repent, as described in verse 11. Contrasted with the events that transpired in Daniel, John is told in verse 10 to not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. And just who exactly is coming again? No one else but Jesus who is judge (verse 12), God (verse 13), the root and the descendant of David (verse 16), and the bridegroom (verse 17).

This prophecy then serves as an encouragement for us to keep staying firm in Jesus even in persecution, suffering and repentance, for He will repay everyone for what he has done (verse 12). It also warns us not to be like the dogs (symbolizing the pagan world) and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (verse 15) who are outside the city of heaven, or those who deliberately distort the gospel message by adding to it or subtracting from it (verse 18). It is only those who wash their robes in Christ's blood that may have the right to the tree of life and enter the city by the gates (verse 14).

Back to the opening question: Do we really desire the return of Jesus?

Perhaps we are too satisfied for life now seems too good? Maybe we are too complacent with the things of this world to really care? Do we care enough to see Jesus named as Lord? Is God's glory seen to be right by everyone? Is it likely that we want people we love to become Christians and so, secretly hope for His return to be delayed? It is time we shift the way we think. The desire to want God's name to be honoured should far exceed our other desires (including desiring our non-Christian acquaintances to become Christians).

Sometimes we can be a little too short-sighted. We may feel the period of over two millennia since His first coming to be too long to think that His second coming cannot be that soon. What we fail to recognize is that the 'soon' here should be defined theologically in God's perfect timing. If with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8), why should we perceive 2000 years as too long a time? His return is so 'soon' - it is, as one calls it, 'the next big thing'. Nothing else of major theological consequence has to happen before Christ returns.

So just as how we would say the Lord's prayer, praying, "Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come." (Luke 11:2), shouldn't we mean what we ask for, that God's name be glorified and that Christ returns? It is time for us to examine our true desires, aligning them with those of God's good will, that we can sincerely echo John's response in verse 20 most jubilantly: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Revelation 21 ~ Heaven: the Revolution

If heaven was a city, which city would it be? While everyone may come up with a different reply to that question, the Old Testament saw Jerusalem as the great city of God, one that was even visited by the great Queen of the South herself during the reign of King Solomon. In Revelation 21, two visions were recorded regarding the new Jerusalem (i.e. how it will be like when Jesus returns). This creation today will be no more for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away to be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth (verse 1). The sea was no more (verse 1) as well - everything represented by the sea has now vanished: the chaos and wickedness brought on by the beast of Revelation that arose from the sea and the self-centred greed of merchants with their trade. What takes place instead is the comfort offered in verse 4 where there will be no more tears, death, mourning, crying nor pain.

The Babylon and great prostitute described in previous chapters will cease to exist as well. Babylon (the symbol of man's wickedness) was described as the great city but in chapter 21, it is now contrasted with the great city of the new Jerusalem. It is a holy city that is coming down out of heaven from God (verse 2). In the same verse, the great prostitute is also now contrasted with the bride adorned for her husband.

Not only is wickedness and suffering extinct, the construction of this new Jerusalem is nothing short of awesome. It is strategically located on a great, high mountain (verse 10) i.e. Zion, that all nations may see the glory of this city. Verses 12-16 illustrate the majestic structure of this city while verses 18-21 describe the numerous precious materials used to build and adorn the new Jerusalem. It is also a giver of life and light. The spring of water of life in verse 6 should remind us of the living water that Jesus referred to in the four gospels. The city shines with such radiance (verse 11) that there is no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb (verse 23). Such bright glory draws everyone including the nations and kings to it (verse 24). The city is so secure that there is no need to ever shut the gates by day, and there will be no night there either (verse 25).

What matters more though is the very presence of God Himself with His people in this new Jerusalem. Verse 3 tells us that the dwelling place of God is with man. There is no physical temple or tabernacle anymore - that was just a symbol for the reality revealed in God and the Lamb. This same verse also echoes God's new convenant made in Jeremiah 31 where He declared that "I will be their God, and they shall be my people". We belong to Him. We are not just in the city - we ARE the city. Heaven reflects the perfect relationship between God and us. It is by His action and not of our own works. Just as how verse 10 has clearly pointed out that the new Jerusalem is coming down out of heaven from God, it contrasts the story of Babel where the people tried to build their way up to heaven. Everything we do here on earth is "Babel" in the end. We cannot bring heaven into earth - only God can. That is why it is God who will wipe away every tear in verse 4. It is God who declares in verse 5 that "I am making all things new". It is God who rejoices in verse 5 saying, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end".

It is all God.

A word of caution though. While we have been focusing so intently on the city and what is in it, let us not forget what lies outside the city. Verse 27 tells us that nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false. These people are those referred in verse 8: the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars. In other words, none of mankind actually deserves to be in the city, if not for Christ's saving grace. Those who do not turn to Christ will unfortunately face the same ending as Satan himself in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (verse 8).

Here comes the revolution in the question of heaven itself. If we return to the very first question I posed earlier, did we have the right mindset of what heaven is when we were choosing which city will best resemble it? Just as how Copernicus revolutionized the idea that it was earth that revolves around the sun (and not the other way around), similarly heaven does not revolve around us (what we like or dislike) but around God Himself. Consequentially, where do we see ourselves in eternity? The question is not where we are living here on earth itself but where we will be spending eternity in. Verse 6 explains that we do not pay our way into heaven but access is given to only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life (verse 27).

In conclusion, this view of heaven should shape the way we live our lives now. Look far ahead into the vision of heaven and go into the straight and narrow path. Verse 5 confesses that these words are trustworthy and true and it is high time we heed God's Word as we seek to be the people He has called us to be...

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Revelation 19:11-20:15 ~ The Millennium

The account of Satan's binding for a thousand years recorded in Revelation 20 has created several controversies regarding this millennium. Essentially, Christians believe 1 of 3 different views: pre-millennialism (Christ's second coming before this period of a thousand years), post-millennialism (second coming after the millennium), and amillennialism (the thousand years being a symbolic number and identical with the current church age).

To help us deal with such controversies, the millennium needs to be viewed in context. The two battles described in Revelation 19 and 20 are essentially two visions of the same event i.e. not two different battles but two perspectives of the one same battle. The visions in Revelation are not recorded in a chronological sequence of how the events will eventually play out in reality as we can see how this one same battle has been previously mentioned before in other chapters including Revelation 16 and 17. The thousand years where Satan is bound and saints reign and the time after when Satan is released to deceive the nations happen concurrently now (Christians are still victoriously spreading the gospel while opposition still remains) - it is an overlap of the ages, hence, lending a little more credibility to the amillennialistic view. The rest of Revelation 20 describes the final judgment, which echoes the vision in Daniel 7.

That said, are we sometimes too distracted by the question as to which millennialistic view is the correct one? Perhaps Pastor Joshua's "new" idea of pan-millennialism holds more water - whichever view one believes is of little consequence and what matters more is the bigger picture of judgment itself. The vision of Satan being bound for a thousand years is a symbol of the delay of the judgment to come. In previous talks, we have seen the cosmic battle brought on by the dragon beast, the false prophet and the prostitute. Jesus rides in on a war-horse and brings justice at last. He mops up the mess sinful humans have created: His enemies are destroyed by the fire they deserved while the martyrs are vindicated. Everyone will be held accountable.

But what is the criterion of this judgment? Nothing but the blood of Jesus that saves! His sacrifice on the cross is the basis of our salvation while our faith in Him is merely the instrument...

On that final day, will you be able to stand before God, confident that your name is victoriously written in the Book of Life as you believe in the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice alone?

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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Revelation 17:1-19:10 ~ The Prostitute, the Beast ... & the Lamb

With the Leviticus series wrapped up, we resume our series on Revelation. Chapters 17-19 contrast the marriage of the Lamb with the prostitution by the great prostitute. Marriage and prostitution are similar in terms of the union involved being an expression of a sexual relationship. While marriage is a good gift from God, it differs from "cheap" prostitution that is the moral distortion of this good gift.

How does Revelation describe this great prostitute? Revelation 17:4 observes her seduction and passion - this is a prostitute who adorns herself with expensive, attractive dresses. While the golden cup she holds may seem attractive externally, the interior is nothing short of ugly for it is full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. She is seated on many waters (Revelation 17:1) where there are peoples and mutitudes and nations and languages (Revelation 1:15) - this covers an international scope involving both kings of the earth and dwellers on earth (Revelation 17:2), where the dwellers on earth are those whose names have not been written in the book of life (Revelation 17:8). Her clients have become drunk (Revelation 17:2, 18:3), losing all sense of good judgment. Revelation 18:7 also reveals the prostitute's pride as she glorified herself and lived in luxury - she boasts, "I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see". The beast that carries her is a picture of power and authority (Revelation 17:13).

Who then is this great prostitute? Revelation 17:5 identifies a name of mystery: Babylon. Babylon is set on the same land as Babel, which is described more extensively in Genesis 11:1-9. It is a symbol of human power and authority as people want to make a name for themselves and have security by staying put in a single place. By extension, the great prostitute does not just refer to Babylon solely but is a symbol of the love of money and riches as well as power and authority. While she boasts, thinking she would never fall (Revelation 18:7), we have seen God's judgment in her destruction throughout history, from the fall of Babylon to the ruins of the Roman empire and even the September 11th tragedy of USA's World Trade Centre. Passages like Matthew 6:19-24 and 1 John 2:15-17 warn us that we cannot serve God and money at the same time and to not love the world or the things in the world for these will perish and do not last unlike laying up treasures in heaven.

It is then a welcome change as we read about the contrasting marriage of the Lamb. It is a long-awaited event as Paul pointed out how the church is betrothed to Christ and presented as a pure virgin, culminating in the two becoming one flesh (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:31-32). This marriage has finally arrived as the Lamb will conquer the great prostitute and her beast (Revelation 17:14). The Bride has made herself ready and is clothed with fine linen (i.e. the righteous deeds of the saints), bright and pure (as opposed to the prostitute's scarlet linen) (Revelation 19:7-8). Christians are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

Given such significant contrast between the marriage and prostitution, it is high time for everyone to heed the call in Revelation 18:4: "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues". Practical implications of these include using God-given resources such as time, abilities, and assets with 'Jesus and the future' in mind rather than the self-centred approach that focuses on the 'prostitute and now'. Truly we can rejoice at the fall of the prostitute described in Revelation 19:1-2 and desire God's honour and the justice that comes. Let it be known that these are the true words of God (Revelation 19:9) for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Revelation 19:10).

Will you heed the call in Revelation 18:4?

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Easy A

A rumour that begins innocently enough can easily spin way out of control, especially when the setting is your typical American high school. And that's precisely what Olive faces when she faked losing her virginity to help a gay classmate gain acceptance from his peers. Other male schoolmates soon heard about Olive's "kindness" and begin soliciting her assistance that they too may gain popularity. It isn't long before Olive gets labelled as the school whore and adulterer. What happens next is... well, I shouldn't be spoiling it for you, should I?

Thanks to Contagious Network, I caught the preview screening of Easy A with Evelyn. A light-hearted comedy, Easy A takes on a slightly different plot from your usual romcoms with the added bonus of a popular cast line-up. Just a note though that the supposed "Christian" students portrayed in the movie aren't exactly that "Christian" as they portray the "holier than thou" personality (a common misconstrued stereotype) - Christians, of all people, should understand that they are just as sinful as anyone else and the only way they are supposedly "holier" is solely based on Christ's saving grace which sets them apart for God (the word "holy" simply means "set apart" and not necessarily "being goodie-goodie"). I just pray that the non-Christian viewers wouldn't leave with a negative impression and that those who are Christian will learn to apply from His Wisdom not to act or behave like the "Christian" students in the movie...

Overall, I'll give Easy A a 7/10. Here's the trailer to "seduce" you to an "affair" at the theatres... ;)

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