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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Romans 1-5 ~ Faith and Righteousness

Last Friday marked the end of our Romans Bible studies series for the year. Here is a brief summary of the essentials on faith and righteousness as presented in the first five chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans:

Romans 1 & 2: All people are sinful and without excuse. All will be judged by God.

Romans 3: There is no one righteous. That said, the righteousness of God is manifested through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 4: The object of faith is Jesus. Faith (and not works) leads to righteousness. It is a promise given, received by faith, for everyone.

Romans 5: Being justified by Christ's blood, we are now reconciled to God. We can rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that it ultimately leads to a hope that does not disappoint. Much more than the hope of salvation, this hope is the hope of the glory of God itself.

How great God's love is for us indeed that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! May we be spurred on to live a life truly pleasing to Him, giving Him all the glory that He deserves...

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Haggai 2:10-23 ~ A Lesson on Holiness

This last talk on Haggai focuses on the problem of an unclean people as exemplified in verses 11-14. It demonstrates how very hard it is to be holy yet so easy to be unclean and hence, be unacceptable. To be holy, one needs to obey God's Word for behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).

Let us rewind a little. Revisiting the previous passages, the context of this passage is in relation to the reconstruction of the temple. What the Israelites have yet to realize was that the temple would be (is now) replaced by 3 groups of people:
  1. Jesus, who is the dwelling place where God dwells among His people and reveals His glory (John 1:14; Titus 2:13)
  2. The individual Christian, whose body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within that person (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
  3. The community of Christians, who are members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19-22)
Similarly, God exhorted His people to work on the temple even though the glory was not yet seen. God's people need to ask what it was that lifted the curse up from Israel, which subsequently led to the blessings referred to in verses 18-19. What YHWH wants is the faith (and repentance) of His people, which is expressed in the works prompted by it.

While the illustration in Haggai 2 shows that touching something holy does not purify someone but touching something unclean will defile someone, we see quite the opposite in Jesus. He, the Holy one, was not defiled when He touched unclean things (e.g. the bleeding woman, the leper, the dead boy) but instead, purified what (or in this case, who) He touched. This fulfillment of how the Lord purifies His people is further explained in Hebrews 9:13-14: "For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

Friends, it is time for us to "rebuild" the temple, stone upon stone, as we continue to repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus as we patiently await His promised return with future glory.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Haggai 2:1-9 ~ A Lesson on Patience

In today's world where "quick, fast and instant" becomes a "good" virtue, what then happens to the virtue of patience? Is that virtue lost? If so, we also lose the virtue of Christian discipline that comes with "long suffering".

How then does this come into context with Haggai? The first lesson here is to not compare. As Ezra 3:10-13 pointed out, the elders who saw the glory of the former temple compared it with the foundation that was being built, leading them to disappointment and despair. Being impatient, they resorted to other "instant" constructions such as the paneled houses mentioned in Haggai 1. Now that they were continuing to construct the temple, God feared that they may start comparing again and experience the fright of failure. As such, God told them that it mattered not in His eyes but encouraged them to continue to "work, for I am with you" (verse 4).

God had to keep reminding them by emphasizing that it is Him who made all the promises. The natural disasters and global financial crisis we face today is nothing when God shakes the world on judgment day. God's people are instructed to then be patient and to keep trusting Him. He will fulfil His promises that "yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens" (Hebrews 12:26) - as it is not yet the time, it is alright for us to keep going with enduring patience...

The lesson for us is then to start small yet finish great, and in order to do so, we need to ask ourselves these questions: Will we wait? Will we work as we wait?

Will you wait patiently just as the Lord is patient?

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Haggai 1 ~ A Lesson in Prioritizing

Haggai 1 kicks off with a date: the second year of Darius the king (of Persia) i.e. 520 BC, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month (approximately 29th August in today’s terms) (verse 1). The Israelites have been back in the promised land for 15 years by this date. They were formerly in Babylon where they were held captive because they failed to trust God and so, disobeyed Him. The first batch of those who exiled from Babylon had attempted to rebuild the temple. This enthusiasm, however, soon died out for 15 years until this second year of Darius, where the story of Haggai began.

The Israelites claimed that the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord (verse 2). Such an excuse seemed to indicate that the people had other more important and urgent matters to attend to. God pointed out that they have instead busied themselves building and living in their ornate and luxurious paneled houses (verse 4). Closer to home, where do our priorities in life lie? Like the Israelites, do we also sometimes think, “Not yet, God”?

From verses 5 to 11, the people were challenged to consider their ways. They need to deny self-glorification or else, face God’s judgment as has so often happened around them in the past. That said, the Israelites were not left to their own means. The remainder of chapter 1 shows the Lord declaring, “I am with you” (verse 13) and He stirred up the spirit of all the people that they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God (verse 14).

As we would later come to appreciate, Jesus is the one who fulfilled rebuilding the ruined “temple”. In John 2:19, Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”. He was, of course, not referring to the physical temple here but His own body, which He broke for us that He may pay the price of our sin yet later resurrected to ascend to His heavenly glory.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:44-45)

With the kingdom of heaven being so priceless, what else could possibly compare? Treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, (Matthew 6:19) do not last – we cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). Neither should we be anxious about our life, food, body nor clothes for God knows we need them and will provide (Matthew 6:25-33). We should instead seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33) – that is where our priorities should lie.

Where do your priorities lie?

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Friday, October 08, 2010

Mission Minded Network: Convictions

Attending the newly launched Mission Minded Network over the long weekend has been a most fruitful experience for me. I have learnt so much; it is hard for me to summarize everything in a single blogpost. Rather than attempting to do so in vain, it may be more helpful for me to list down some of the points that got me thinking further or issues that challenged me:
  • Our conviction in Christ's saving grace should shape our lives to be Christ-centred and set us apart from this world with its worldly convictions.
  • It is when we understand who Jesus is and why He comes that we may understand what He requires of us (i.e. die to our lives for Christ) is so appropriate.
  • One only bears witness in the context of opposition in order to profess the truth in the face of disagreement - witnessing Christ does not come without suffering or persecution (after all, the Greek word for "witness" means "martyr").
  • The Holy Spirit comes to continue the work of Jesus and not start another work.
  • While Saul's conversion is the most famous in Acts of the Apostles, Cornelius' conversion may well be the most important as it marks how Gentiles can now receive God's saving grace as well.
  • Christians are on a journey to enter a world led by God: a glory to head for, a rest to strive after, a city to enter.
  • Jesus is God's final song that keeps us on our journey to the end as we avoid letting the voices of this world drift us away.
  • Will we live by the present world that we can see or by the future that we hear about from God? (i.e. Will we live by sight or by faith?)
  • Life is filled with littered unfulfilled dreams and disappointments; it is a fast march to death - will we be patient for the future world than the world in this life?
  • If our convictions as Christians are similar to the convictions of a minister (e.g. desiring salvation for others, serving others, being above reproach, thanksgiving, prayer, role-modeling, resisting temptations, etc.), what is stopping us from doing full-time ministry?
  • Where can one best live for the sake of gospel work instead of comfort or convenience?
  • Are we willing to put aside our day job for ministry?
Hopefully some of these thoughts will similarly challenge you to reconsider how you can best serve the gospel and perhaps sign up for next year's MMN on the theme of Character... =)

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