..........Myspace Codes An Extraordinary Life: March 2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Luke 3:1-37 ~ Clearing the Way

What does it mean to repent? Is it merely the act of apologizing and saying sorry? Or perhaps changing from bad behaviour to good behaviour?

So when the desert voice of John the Baptist called out for repentance in the wilderness (verses 2 and 4), he recognized that Israel was still a nation in exile. Theologically and spiritually, God's people were still in Babylon and not "home" despite the great physical exodus through the desert. The baptism of repentance (verse 3) is more than just an issue of heritage - it is not merely for the Jews alone, as implied in verse 8. Everyone is called to bear good fruit (verse 9) as the concrete evidence of the change in one's life, through various deeds including the act of sharing and generosity (verses 10-11). Even the tax collectors and soldiers were instructed on how they were to apply this in their profession (verses 12-14).

Question is, what is the motivation for this repentance? The answer lies in God's righteous anger and just condemnation and punishment. Verse 9 warns us that every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Wouldn't you do anything to flee or escape this wrath to come?

While John is the forerunner of Jesus (think of how the bridesmaid marches down the aisle before the bride does - and when she does, all eyes are on her now, not the bridesmaid!), verse 16 explains a different kind of baptism that Jesus will bring: a baptism of Spirit and fire. This paints a picture of judgment itself where the one baptizing will also be the one bringing in the judgment day.

More than just a baptist or a judge, Jesus is also heralded as God's Son in verse 22, when the Holy Spirit descended on Him. Psalm 2 reveals the wisdom of being on Jesus' side, who is the anointed Messiah. He is also the suffering servant (Isaiah 42:1, 52:13, 53:1-6, 53:11-12) who needs to suffer first before attaining victory. The way to kingship is through the people's rejection but He is going to win in the end. The genealogy recorded for us also implies that Jesus was not conceived as a natural conception with the tag "as was supposed" in verse 23. We can tell that He descended from the line of the great King David (verse 31) and father Abraham (verse 34) but Luke, unlike other gospel authors, went back further to point out that Jesus also descended from Adam himself (verse 38), illustrating that salvation is not just for the Jews but for everyone whom Jesus represents.

Genuine repentance is then a change of mind and will that bears fruit in one's life in one's actions. We are called to know the times where both salvation and judgment are certain, to know the Saviour King and change from "self-government" to "Jesus-government", and to know real baptism where baptism is the outward sign of the inward repentance that leads to bearing real fruit.

Who drives your life? Will you let Jesus take the wheel?

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Luke 2:1-52 ~ The One

Many infamous trilogies (e.g. Star Wars, The Matrix) usually have a similar plot where certain oracles are prophesied, looking for 'The One'. What about the oracles of the Bible? 'The One' is one who is filled with righteousness and wisdom (Exodus 13:15, Leviticus 12:7, Proverbs 3:3), bringing peace and light (Isaiah 8:13, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 52:9), and hailing from Galilee and Bethlehem (Isaiah 9:1, Micah 5:2).

The birth of Jesus was indeed a humble one. Joseph was originally from the city of David (verse 4) and it was there in Bethlehem that Jesus was born and laid in a manger (verse 7) since the family had no place to stay, being 'nobodies'. That said, His birth was celebrated by a multitude of heavenly host praising God (verse 13) and the angels even gave the shepherds the sign of a baby lying in a manger as the Saviour who is born into the world (verses 8-20). Up to this point in Luke 2, here are the oracles fulfilled thus far:

- v4: Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
- v4: Line of David (Isaiah 9:6)
- v10: Good news and joy (Isaiah 52:9)
- v11: Saviour born in city of David (Micah 5:2)
- v14: Peace on earth (Isaiah 9:6)

The rest of Luke 2 (from verse 22 onwards) describes Jesus' childhood. Various customs of the law (verses 22-24, 27, 39, 42) were observed and fulfilled by Jesus. Simeon the devout Jew and Anna the prophetess have both also praised God for Jesus, whom they knew would bring salvation and redemption (verses 25-38). It then comes as no surprise to note how Jesus grew in wisdom and favour, both with God and man (verses 40 and 52). The more significant highlight would be Jesus' own consciousness of being the very Son of God, even at so young an age, when he called the temple "my Father's house" (verse 49). The description of the childhood of Jesus has so far fulfilled the following oracles:

- v22-24: Sacrifice and redemption of firstborn and turtledoves for purification (Exodus 13:15 and Leviticus 12:7)
- v25: Simeon waiting for consolation of Israel (Isaiah 52:9)
- v29-30: Peace / salvation (Isaiah 9:6)
- v32: Light for Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6)
- v34: Fall and rising of many (Isaiah 8:13)
- v38: Redemption of Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:9)
- v39: Galilee their hometown (Isaiah 9:1)

God is indeed so sovereign that He should even control Caesar Augustus to make the decree that caused Jesus' earthly parents to move from one town to another, fulfilling some of the oracles made in the past. His salvation plan for mankind may have caused confusion in the past, experienced by different parties as wondering (verse 18), pondering (verse 19), marvel (verse 33) and the lack of understanding (verse 50). But unlike those living in Jesus' times, we are no longer 'short-sighted' as we now have the complete picture of God's salvation plan through Jesus Christ who fulfilled prophecies of the Scriptures by dying on the cross and resurrecting three days later that He may conquer sin and be ruler of not just Israel but the whole world (Luke 24:44-47).

Jesus Christ is The One.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Luke 1:39-80 ~ Songs of Hope

The second half of the first chapter of Luke's gospel records two songs of hope: Mary's Magnificat and Zechariah's Benediction. These are songs reflecting the fulfillment of the angel's words. In verse 39, we see Mary rushing to visit Elizabeth to confirm that Elizabeth is pregnant, as informed by the angel. It was at this point that the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaped for joy (verse 44). But more significant of this incident perhaps is Elizabeth's acknowledgment of Mary as mother of my Lord in verse 43. As for Zechariah, the foretelling by the angel that his wife would bear not just a child but specifically a son came to be fulfilled. It is with much wonder that Zechariah was suddenly able to speak after nine months of being mute the moment he indicated that his newborn son should be named John as instructed by the angel. In both cases, we see how Mary and Zechariah praised and glorified God as a God of promise through their songs.

On closer observation, the issue of salvation also surfaced through these songs. People are:

Saved from:
- v52: being 'nobodies'
- v71: our enemies and all who hate us
- v74: hand of our enemies
- v77: sins (forgiven)

Saved for:
- v74: serving God
- v75: living in righteousness
- v79: way of peace

Saved by:
- v47: God my Saviour
- v49: He who is mighty
- v51: He who has shown strength with His arm
- v52: He who brought down the mighty
- v69: He who has raised up a horn of salvation for us

Saved because:
- v54: of remembrance of God's mercy
- v72: to show mercy promised to our fathers
- v78: of God's tender mercy

God acts to fulfill His Word. While nationalistic Israelites may expect the Messiah to politically save their nation (and conversely, materialistic Gentiles may expect Jesus to bless them with physical riches and luxuries), the true way Jesus Christ saves His people is by dying on the cross and rising again three days later in order to forgive their sins (Luke 24:44-47). For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

What is your song of hope?

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Luke 1:5-38 ~ Impossible is Nothing

For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1: 37).

Really? Absolutely "nothing"?! No wonder it is such a common misconception for Christians to think they can ask God for just about anything, expecting Him to fulfill all their prayer requests. Verse 37 essentially applies only to what God has promised. If He hasn't promised it, it is only presumptuous for us to assume that God will do whatever we want Him to. In the context of this passage, verse 37 is a reminder to Mary that since Elizabeth was pregnant, she should take that as a sign when the angel Gabriel foretold her what God has promised.

The miracle of barren women bearing children has happened before, as evidenced in Sarah (Genesis 18:10-14) and Rebekah's (Genesis 25:21) cases. But what is so special about Elizabeth falling pregnant that distinguishes her case from that of Sarah's or Rebekah's? Verses 10 and 13 tell us that both the people and Zechariah himself have been praying. And what would these faithful Jews be praying about? Fast-forwarding to Luke 2:25, we see another devout Jew, Simeon, waiting for the consolation of Israel. Zechariah and the people's prayers would then be one asking for the barrenness of Israel to be taken away, in light of God's former promises to Abraham back in Genesis 12:1-3 (and once again implied in Isaiah 54:1-5).

John the Baptist, who is then this "miracle child", was to be a forerunner, as prophesied in Isaiah 40:1-5. He was to make ready for the Lord a people prepared by turning God's children back to Him, going in the spirit and power of Elijah (verses 16-17), echoing the sentiments of Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6.

That said, greater still is the one who came after John the Baptist and who is born of a virgin. It is the life-generating Holy Spirit that came upon Mary (verse 35) to fulfill the sign of Immanuel as prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. Jesus Christ, who is conceived of a virgin, is then the Son of God who will reign as King, as foretold in 2 Samuel 7:11-16. This is indeed good news borne by the angel as one who gives a message and is a bearer of God's Word.

With God, nothing is impossible and impossible is nothing for He is the one who writes the future. And the future has already come...

His name is Jesus.

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I am Number Four

Had another great night out at the movies recently, watching a free preview of Dreamworks' latest I Am Number Four (once again thanks to Contagious Network). Blessed with extraordinary powers, John is a fugitive on the run. With the first three of his tribe murdered, him being Number Four is the next in line of the hunt. With stunning visuals and a nicely-packaged action-packed plot (with a lil romance thrown in), this film should do the trick in appealing to both genders (perhaps something the guys can suggest as a movie date instead of getting dragged by the girlfriend to sit through another 2 hours of chick flick?). Still not convinced? Check out the trailer below!

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Luke 1:1-4 ~ Can We be Certain about Jesus?

How can we be certain about Jesus?

In the first 4 verses of Luke's gospel, the author tells us that he wrote to most excellent Theophilus, "that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" (verse 3-4). Luke has previously accompanied Paul on his missionary journey but he was not an eyewitness since he was not present when Jesus was fulfilling His ministry. The question then is how can someone like Luke give us any certainty then?

The answer lies within verses 2-3. Luke has followed all things closely for some time past and has even consulted some of the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. Cross-referencing from 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, we can see that during Paul's mission, some of these eyewitnesses have died but most were still alive, and hence accessible for Luke to conduct a solid investigation about Christ.

This is real history that Luke has recorded for us, only approximately 30-40 years after Jesus' ministry, which is relatively a very close time frame. It is a real factual account of eyewitnesses, many who died for what they believed in: the truth in Christ. Various figures such as Herod, king of Judea (Luke 1:5), Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1), and Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate and Herod (Luke 3:1-2) are real historical figures that can be found in non-Christian historical texts. Even Josephus' "The Jewish Antiquities" lends veracity by providing a non-Christian historical account about Jesus Christ Himself.

Christianity is a historical faith based and rooted in history and person, not philosophy. The burden of proof on those who do not think the Bible is good history is to show that the Bible is not good history. This is a faith that centres around Jesus of real history. Some may use science to argue about the claims that Christianity puts forth. Science is great but it isn't the only access to the truth. After all, science is founded on repeated experimental truths itself. Christianity is "His-Story" for us, a historical truth. Faith is not a leap in the dark but relying, trusting and depending on something that's reliable, trustworthy and dependable. Historical truth is about what happened back then, not now, and so any excuse for not believing because one has yet to encounter some form of "personal experience with God" is not valid. John writes rightly when he tells us the gospel is written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 21:30). Indeed, Christ's words Himself rings true: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29).

Jesus' life, death and resurrection is a critical turning point, not just in human history, but more importantly in God's history. Verse 1 highlights that the gospel is a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, and who has accomplished or fulfilled this but none other than God Himself! Luke 24:27, 44-49 also illustrates how Jesus Himself uses the Scriptures to interpret the prophesies concerning Himself, a focus on His own death and resurrection. It is not just vital to know these things happened but the meaning and significance of these events.

Are you certain about Jesus? What does this certainty mean to you in light of your eternity?

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Wasted on the Young

Thanks to Contagious Network, I recently had the opportunity to catch a free exclusive preview of local-made Wasted On The Young with dear Klement. Set in a private high school, this film cleverly focuses on the issues of teenage angst in coping with peer pressure, life's regrets and even the use of modern technology in executing revenge; all barely featuring any adults at all. Both Klem and I agreed that this can be a very dark movie to watch as we sometimes wonder what teenagers today are potentially capable of doing. If this kind of movie genre sounds like something up your alley, check out the trailer below and go catch it in the theatres!

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2 Timothy 3:1 - 4:5 ~ All Scripture is All We Need

In these last days we're living in, Paul predicts difficult times ahead, filled with persecutions and suffering (2 Timothy 3:1, 12). It is a world filled with pagan love where people become lovers of self and have the appearance of godliness but love money and pleasure rather than God (2 Timothy 3:2-5). Already we can see for ourselves the growth of fake religion where people have itching ears and look for the message they want to hear to suit their own passions rather than to hear the truth itself (2 Timothy 4:3-4). But there will come a final judgment when Christ returns as judge and king (2 Timothy 4:1).

Paul charges or commands that the Word be preached with the readiness to reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2). We are encouraged to be sober-minded and to endure suffering as we persist in proclaiming the gospel instead of staggering around (2 Timothy 4:5). We are to continually be convicted in what we have firmly believed, learning from both Paul and ultimately the sacred writings of the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:14-15). All Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), indicating it is God-spirited and continues to be from God Himself. The main profit is to equip the man of God (an OT expression for the preacher; in this case it is Timothy that Paul directs this to) for every good work (which is essentially the job of preaching the gospel) (2 Timothy 3:17).

Depending on the job at hand, we all need the right tool for the job. You may use a screwdriver to disassemble a piece of furniture but you wouldn't get the job done properly (if at all!) if you expect to use the same screwdriver to change a flat tyre instead of using a spanner or a wrench. Similarly, the Bible is the right tool for preaching the Word, so use it!

All Scripture is indeed all we need!

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

1 Corinthians 9:19 - 11:1 ~ All Things to All Men

In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22, Paul informed us how he have become all things to all people, being Jew to win the Jews over to Christ and being Gentile to win the Gentiles. Such flexibility to adapt to the crowd he mingled with is not without certain limitations or parameters. Paul acknowledged that he became as one under the law (though not being himself under the law) - he was not subjecting himself to fulfill the Mosaic commandments to gain the right standing before God but rather to win those under the law (1 Corinthians 9:20). Similarly, in verse 21, he was not completely lawless or without rules but still recognized Jesus as Lord.

In matters that do not affect our godliness, we have such freedom. That said, we also have a duty towards others. We are to win people over to Christ, not to cause offense so people can hear the gospel and not causing them to sin so they may join us in heaven. In everything that is not sinful, be like the others that they may be saved. While it may be difficult at times, we are also called to discipline ourselves, exercising self-control (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

From passages like 1 Corinthians 8:4-13 and 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, we can understand that people in the past were instructed to flee from idolatry. Eating food offered to idols in the context of idol worship is considered a sin. Now in current times, 1 Corinthians 10:29 tells us that we are to avoid eating food offered to idols, not for the sake of our own conscience but for that of the unbeliever. We are not to lead them into thinking that we can be both a Christian and a pagan worshiper at the same time. In line with Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3, it is not just a matter of knowing but using the knowledge rightly and not stumbling others. Knowledge is good but knowledge with love is what it's all about.

Paul exhorts us that in everything we do, we are to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). In pleasing people, we are not to do so for our own selfish sake but for the sake of others, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:33). Paul also encourages us to imitate him as he did of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The example of Jesus Himself is indeed noteworthy: He had all the rights as Son of God and did not have to come down to earth. Yet, He did so for God's glory. In other words, He became all things to all men as He came down as man, dwelling among us as flesh. He, too, had discipline till the point of death on the cross itself. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Will you yearn to be all things to all men that they may be saved?

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