Thursday, November 5, 2009

Going Deeper Week 8

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 2)
This passage is based on the writer’s understanding of Genesis 22. Can you do a study on the context of Gen. 22 (also in reference to Gen. 12 and 21) and discuss why you think the writer uses this as his illustration here?

FOR THOSE ORIENTED to the Jewish Scriptures the author could have chosen no greater example of faithful perseverance than father Abraham. Especially apropos, the moment at which Abraham offered his cherished son, Isaac, at Moriah (Gen. 22:1 – 18) forms the backdrop of the discussion at Hebrews 6:13 – 15. Abraham, caught in a crisis charged with yearnings for his son and even greater yearnings to obey God, believed that the promises of God would not fail (11:17 – 19). Consequently, he stayed the course of sacrifice through intense, prolonged testing and became a paradigmatic receptor of God’s covenant promise. Our preacher to the Hebrews uses the heroic figure of Abraham, therefore, as an especially apt illustration to encourage a community struggling with perseverance under trial.
In the Old Testament narrative (Gen. 22:15 – 18) God’s response to the faithfulness of Abraham goes as follows:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I
swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not
withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and
through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have
obeyed me.”

This passage has two components on which the author concentrates. (1) The Lord’s declaration “I swear by myself” constitutes the main concern in the immediate passage and leads nicely back to a discussion of Psalm 110:4 in chapter 7, that psalm also speaking of God’s oath. (2) God’s pledge to bless Abraham and give him numerous descendants forms the heart of the covenant promises and corresponds directly to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the progenitor of that guaranteed host. That Abraham, “after waiting patiently … received what was promised” made him a fitting model for sluggish Christ-followers in need of refocusing attention on the promised rewards attending perseverance (Heb. 6:12).
[Guthrie, George H. “The Example of Abraham (6:13 – 15)” In The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews. By George H. Guthrie, 241. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 1998. ]

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 3)
Verse 18 speaks of God’s character. The writer goes on to explain that the two immutable or unchangeable things spoken of here refer to 1) God's promise and 2) His oath. God has declared His promise and His oath to be unchangeable, even by Himself. His will cannot be switched, transposed, or altered.
Because of God’s character, the writer also states two things which He offers. Can you identify them and explain their significant?
He offers… [Significance]
1. strong encouragement [This is very important for those who have fled for refuge. Though we are not sure who are these people the author of Hebrews is referring to, but they have to flee, they need encouragement.]
2. hope [Similarly, hope is needed for those who are at such situation of life, fleeing away for refuge. No one wants to be in hideout forever, they need hope so that there is something they can look forward to.]

Going Deeper (Week 8 Day 4)
Jesus did not become a high priest under Aaronic order, but rather in the order of Melchizedek. And this phrase, ‘the order of Melchizedek’ can be traced to Psalm 110:4. Can you do a comparison between 6:13-20 with Psalm 110 and discuss what the writer was implying?

Hebrews 6:13-20 [Psalm 110]
(v20) in the order of Melchizedek [(v4) according to the order of Melchizedek]
(v18) God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie [(v4a) The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind]
(v20a) Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. [(v5) The Lord is at Thy right hand]
(v20) He has become a high priest forever [(v4) Thou art a priest forever]

The idea of Psalms 110 actually runs throughout chapter 5 through 6 of the book of Hebrews. I think that the author is to highlight that what Jesus has done on the Cross is equivalent to a priest. But the author also tries to emphasize that Jesus is not the same as ordinary priest according to the Aaronic order; He is of an higher order; the order of Melchizedek which the audience are familiar of according to Psalms 110.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Obey and pray… (Hebrews 13:17-21) 121009

I love this passage. It really speaks to my heart. It really encapsulates my desire for the church; that is for the church to obey its leaders and submit to their authority (v17). As a pastor, also as a leader of the church, I constantly struggle with members challenging my authority. I am not an authoritarian person by nature, on contrary, I am one who do not like to confront or in conflict. But I am a firm believer that I have authority over my members, not because I am smarter or better or even more spiritual; but because of the authority of the Scripture.

As a pastor and a preacher, I have to constantly learn to lead with the authority of the Word of God. There are times I will be tempted to rely on my exegesis, commentaries, or my cleverness to prepare a sermon, but I realize that my preaching will be only like hot air balloon; look high and mighty, but without any weight. Unless I firstly submit to the authority of the Holy Scripture, no one else will submit to the sermon I preach in the name of God.

The author of Hebrews reminds his readers in verse 17 to obey their leaders, so that their leaders will continue to serve them with joy, without burden. I think this is an excellent win-win situation in a church. Can you imagine your pastor always have to come before God to pray for his members who are not submitting and creating problems, instead of praying for their welfare and spiritual growth?

And then the author of Hebrews also asks his readers to pray for him and his team of leaders (v18), especially for his restoration (v19). There isn’t much information about why does he need to be restored, but likelihood that the author belongs to the church whereby his readers belong to, and he might be imprisoned for his faith. Anyway, the author, also as a leader, longs to be with his congregation; just like me as a pastor, I always like to be with my members.

Then this passage ends with referring Jesus as the great Shepherd of the sheep. As I read to this point, I am reminded of my calling as a shepherd. I know that I have a great Shepherd over me. I know that I need to shepherd my sheep as the great Shepherd shepherds me. This is what pleasing to Him (v21).

This is it. The reason I obey, I pray, and I shepherd is to be pleasing to God, the great Shepherd. But start by obey and pray.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Do good… (Hebrews 13:15-16) 091009

I am trying to love. I am trying to love my wife by doing the ‘Love Dare’. I am surprised that it is not easy to love! I am surprised that it is not easy to love my wife though I think I love her. Love is not about thinking. Love is about sacrificing. Love is about giving of self to others. Love is about doing good and sharing with others (v16).

As a Christian, I am supposed to be a loving person; but it is hard. When the author of Hebrews wants us to continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise through Jesus (v15), he is inferring that ‘Since a loving God is working out his purposes all the time, there are no circumstances in which praise should not be offered (cf. 1 Thess 5:18). The sacrifice is further explained in an expression from Hosea 14:2 (LXX 14:3; cf. Prov 18:20), "the fruit of lips that confess his name." In the light of the Cross, there is no room for sacrifices such as those the Jews offered. Now believers offer the sacrifice of praise and acknowledge Christ.’ (Leon Morris, Expositor)

And such love must results in action: do good and to share with others (v16). I remember a sermon I preached in the Chinese Ministry some times ago, it is commonly called the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10:30-37). The main point of the parable is not about the Good Samaritan; it is about answering the question of an expert of the law: What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25) The final answer that Jesus gives is found after the parable: Go and do likewise. Do like what?

Do like the Good Samaritan does: loving people even he has to be inconvenient, even he has to pay a price, and even he has to do good to hi enemy (Jews and Samaritans are enemies to each other).

The standard for doing good in the bible is very high. I can do it myself. Will I stop by on the expressway if I see someone’s car is stalled and needed help? Maybe not. Will I pay to renovate the house of an elderly who is staying alone? Maybe not. Will I love and still do good to those whom have been opposing me and criticizing my ministry? Maybe not. Will you?

But such sacrifice and such action of love is what pleases God. So, do good.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

City that is to come… (Hebrews 13:11-14) 081009

Living in an urban city like Singapore can be very stressful. The pace of development is driving Singaporean to have a faster pace of lifestyle. We used to take an hour or more of bus ride from one place to another, and now we will consider spending more than an hour on the road to get from one place to another is unforgivable.

Recently, my family gave me a family car; and I find that I begin to be able to fetch people around and visit more people. In other words, I am doing more than before; I am getting myself more things to do. I begin to make more appointments, and giving myself lesser or even no room for resting. And this morning, when I woke up later than my wife, I knew that I have overworked in the past few days. I need to slow down, but how can I do so in this city?

As I read and meditate on today’s passage, I am being drawn to what Jesus had done for me. He came and died, so that I might have life. And the question I ask myself is: what kind of life Jesus would want me to have? I pause and ponder. I stop and soak in His presence. I know the answer: To live a life that is Spirit led and at peace with God; even in the midst of this busy and fast-paced city.

The author of Hebrews keeps using the idea of inside and outside to remind his readers about the work of Christ is to be among His people. There is no more inside, the grace of God moves to the outside. I think the challenge is for me to be in the city but not be of the city. Does it sound like Romans 12? How can we live a life which still in sync with God in the midst of this hectic society called Singapore?

I think the answer by the author of Hebrews is to look forward to the city that is to come, to be reminded that I don’t really belong to here; I belong to the eternal city that is to come. This is my hope. As I drive through a massive traffic jam, I praise God for freezing that moment for me to sing praises to God in my car or have a heart to heart talk to the one sitting next to me in the car; this has value to the city that is to come. As I am waiting for my turn during a medical appointment in a government hospital, I read and meditate on His Word which will never fail or exchanging stories with other patients; so that they may also experience my city that is to come.

Do you have a city that is to come? Start building that city, because we will be there in time to come.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Yesterday… Today… Forever… (Hebrews 13:7-10) 071009

I have not updated this blog for about 3 weeks! I have been lazy (though I may spiritualize it as being busy preparing sermons). It is now no longer secret that I will be moving on in ministry; from the English service over to the Chinese Service. I am going to be Chinese pastor! As I look at my journey in serving the Lord; I have served the youths as a youth director, I have being leading small group of young adults (now they are young working adults or young parents), I have also been serving children in Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade (BBGB) ministry, and my latest portfolio was Christian Education for the church. In other words, I have practically served all age-groups except the senior folks; and now as I move on to the Chinese ministry, which is mainly senior folks, I am completing my cycle of ministries.

On the other hand, as I moved around, or being moved around, I have to keep adjusting my style and method of doing ministry. I simply cannot relate or speak to the children in the BBGB ministry the same way I relate or speak to a youth in church. Sometime, I get so tired of changing. But there is one thing which will never change: Jesus Christ. He is the same yester, today and forever (v8). His Word also doesn’t change. And this is probably why it is important to have the Word of God in our life, and more importantly, to live it out, just like the leaders mentioned by the author of Hebrews (v7).

As I step into the uncertainty of my future in the Chinese ministry, I know one thing for sure; I have to be faithful to the Word of God. As I learn and adjust my mentally to plan and organize and lead the Chinese ministry, I have to keep this one thing in mind; to keep the Word of God central. As I may be discouraged and disappointed by people and even results in the future years of the Chinese Ministry, I have to keep focus and my hope in one thing; Jesus Christ who is in the Word of God.

The author of Hebrews warns his readers that there will be all kinds of strange teachings (v9) and also all kinds of strange practices (v10) which will distract us from going after Christ. But remember one thing: the teaching of the leaders which is from the Word of God. This will direct us to Christ, this will draw us to the Lord, and this will deepen our relationship with Jesus; because the Word of God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Trends will change, culture will change, ministry will change, people will change, government will also change, and even some time our views on theology will also change; but Christ never change, His Word never change. It is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Yes, forever.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Marriage and Money… (Hebrews 13-4-6) 160909

One night, I was trying to figure out how long have my wife and I been married. By next year, it will be ten years! Ten years, I have been living with my wife for ten good and bad years by the end of next year. We look at each other with amazement, and perhaps with amusement. For past nine years, we have gone through much in our marriage. We had lost almost all of our friends in the beginning of this relationship; we had a miscarriage of our first child; we had an income reduction when I decided to step into full-time ministry with the church; we had a further income reduction when I decided to stop working for three full years to study in a Bible College (it was when our daughter arrival); we had gone through a family crisis when my father had to go through a major surgery and I was experiencing a serious burnout and depression perhaps as my daughter arrival; and recently we decided to make a radical change in our service to the Lord to move on to something really new to us.

I am thankful for my wife, I think she is crazy and out of her mind, when she decided to marry me, and went through all these with me for the past nine years. I am really thankful to her. I believe this is marriage, it is when two share each other joy and struggles; it is when two share each other intolerable habits and behavior; but still honors each other. No wonder the author of Hebrews insists that marriage is to be honored by all (v4).

Then the author moves on talk about the love of money. He exhorts his readers to keep their lives free from the love of money. In other words, live a simple life. And the main trust here is to trust God, for He is trustworthy.

As I ponder and meditate on these verses, I think they speak about how we maintain a life which is simple and in contentment. I think when a man or woman commits adultery or sex outside the marriage; it is an expression that he or she is not contented with what his or her spouse can offer sexually. They are looking out for more, they are not contented. And it is the same with money, we can never have enough. The more we have, the more we want to have. This is utterly discontentment. This is greed. This is the root of our sinful nature. We want more than what God has given us. Adam and Eve wanted to have wisdom more than what God has already given them to be dominion over the earth. We want more sex than what our spouse can give it to us. We want more money than what we need. But our real need is to have God to be with us. If God has forsaken me and leave me, there is nothing else I can have to replace Him.

Are you unhappy with your marriage? Go home and give him or her a good big hug! And maybe have a night of good date and even sex (I hope this is not too R-Rated)! Are you loving your job, your money and your possession more than you need? Maybe it is time to learn to give away more (you can give them to me if you don’t know who to give them to) and learn to live simpler.

There was a saying: Live simple, so that other can simply live. But I would add that Live simple, so that God can simply live in you!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Keep on loving… (Hebrews 13:1-3) 140909

I think the most distinctive feature of a Christian is love. I am not referring to mushy romantic kind of love here, neither am I referring to loving-in-exchange-for-something kind of love. I am referring to the kind of love which is an outward expression of God’s amazing grace and wonderful works in our lives. Christians call it unconditional love of God, and most Christians believe that only God can have such kind of love. But I think the kind of love which the author of Hebrews is referring here in verse 1 is the same kind of love which we call the ‘unconditional love’, and we as Christians should be expressing it in our lives.

There are three groups of people the author exhorts us to love, or rather keep on loving. In other words, our love for others is not a one-off event; it is an ongoing activity and habit of our lives. We are told by the author to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (v1), strangers (v2) and prisoners (v3).

Well, it is not so difficult to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ; after all they are supposed to be nice people. But the truth is that it is actually not so easy to love Christians. I confess that I have difficulty loving some of my Christian so-called friends. (I am not going to elaborate here, because I work in an all-Christians environment!)

Therefore, sometimes, it is easier to love a stranger; because there is no string attached. When the author mentions that we might be entertaining angels without knowing it, he is probably alluding to Abraham, when he showed hospitality to his heavenly visitors in Gen. 18:2 – 15. For me to buy a meal for a stranger who has been starving for days, it is easy, though might be inconvenient at times. But the author challenge for us is to keep on loving. Keep on loving a stranger? This sounds strange. How can a stranger be a stranger if we keep on loving, keeping remembering and keeping on entertaining him? He will be a friend or even a brother in Christ by then. I think this is the point of the author. He wants us to ‘entertain’ stranger in into God’s family. He wants us to treat strangers as if they might be angels. He wants us to keep on loving.

And then lastly, he wants us to remember those who are in prison, those who are suffering, those who are being mistreated, those who are on the fringe and those who are being neglected. He wants us to suffer with them. He wants us to identify with them. He wants us to at least, remember them.

Do you have people around you who are in these categories? There are people who are being marginalized by the society. These people are around you and me. In my church, there are the girls from Andrew and Grace Home. These girls might have been behaving badly in the past, they might have committed some mistakes or crimes in the past, but they might also be unfairly treated by their family, friends, and even society in the past. They are in my church, every Sunday, but do you even notice them? Do you even remember them or even their names? Maybe this is one thing we can do, get to know the name of at least one of these girls, remember them in your prayer everyday, keep on greeting them in church whenever you see them, and keep on loving them.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Do not be shaken… (Hebrews 12:25-28) 110909

Today is 9/11. Something happened eight years ago took the entire world by surprise and changed the way we lived and believed. Many were shocked by the event; many had lost their faith in the superpower government; many began to live in fear and in suspicious of one another. The world had changed.

As I read and meditate on today’s passage, I was shaken by the Word. I was shaken by the truth and reality that the world will one day be consumed, one day all that I have achieved will be considered rubbish, and all that I have accumulated will be gone and become worthless ashes. But the good news is that, there is something that will not be shaken: God’s Kingdom!

When I was still a theological student, I have to struggle with the topic on Eschatology; which is the study of the end times. One of the issues in this study is our understanding of Millennium Kingdom of God. Is it going to be a literal rule of Christ for a literal one thousand years (millennium means a thousand years)? Or is it going to be a literal rule of Christ or Christians for a symbolic millennium (an arbitrary period of time)? Or is it going to be a spiritual rule of Christ in heart of Christians for a symbolic millennium (from the point when a person believes in Christ)? There are many possibilities and views, because the Bible is not specific about it and we as interpreters of the Scripture have our worldviews and creatively interpreted accordingly to our preference worldview.

But as a good Presbyterian, I think the Kingdom of God has begun the moment when we believed in Him; and we are looking forward to a literal ruling of Christ or Christians in the future before the end. But no matter what views we take or believe in, the Kingdom of God will not be shaken and cannot be shaken (v28). This means that we who are Christians who have been grafted into the Kingdom of God, now and forever, will also not be shaken!

Therefore, let us be thankful and so worship God (v28). This is our only and right response. Are you facing a crisis in your job whereby your faith has been shaken? Stand on the Kingdom of God within you and give thanks for the many good years He has given you. Are you facing a crisis at home whereby you do not know how to discipline your child or how to take care of your sickly parents? Stand on the solid rock which is the church of Jesus Christ, worshiping Him. I have no guarantee that your crisis will be gone, but I can be sure that your perspective about those crises will be changed as you learn to be thankful and worship. Do not be shaken.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The story of the two mountains… (Hebrews 12:18-24) 100909

During my off day recently, I took a morning to wash and clean up my new family car. It was a joy to do so, though washing the car alone was tiring. It was something new, and it was a sign of God’s providence to me and my family. Then, I remembered my motorbike, my Phantom Bike. I have not been riding on it for about a month, ever since I got the new car. So I went to try to start the engine of the bike, it didn’t work. One of the reasons why I like motorbike is that it has a simpler mechanism; when you can’t start a bike, you can push start it. So I tried to push-start or jump-start or run-start (whatever you call it) my bike. I changed its gear to first gear, and held on to the crutch and pushed it up and down the car park, hopefully to be able to get the engine started; but it didn’t work. I pushed and ran with the hundred-over-kilograms-motorbike for almost an hour, just to come to a realization that I couldn’t start the engine. It is not working this time.

My old Phantom Bike is not working. My new Hyundai Matrix is my new hope. This is my story of two modes of transportation, but in today’s meditation we have a story of two mountains: the mountain of the Old Covenant (Mount Sinai) and the mountain of the New Covenant (Mount Zion). I am impressed by how the author of Hebrews intentionally structured this passage with seven images for each mountain. Of course, the climax is at verse 24 when Jesus was being mentioned:

The climax is reached with the reference to Jesus, seen here as "the mediator of a new covenant." The word for "new" (neas) is applied to the covenant only here. It refers to what is recent. The covenant involves "sprinkled blood" (cf. 9:19-22), which reminds us of the cost of the covenant. The idea of blood speaking is not common and there is undoubtedly a reference to Genesis 4:10 where Abel's blood cried from the ground for vengeance on his killer. Jesus' blood speaks "a better word" than that. His blood opens up a way into the holiest for people (10:19): Abel's blood sought to shut out the wicked man. (By Leon Morris)

As I continue my meditation, I realize that the description of the Mount Sinai is one with terror and fear; and the Mount Zion is one with hope and joy. My old Phantom Bike causes me to have muscle aching all over my body (imagine pushing a hundred-over-kilograms motorbike running up and down the car park for almost an hour); but looking at my clean Hyundai Matrix, I am satisfied.

Do you have religious experiences of the past causing you not able to move forward together with Christ now? I have. But I have also learned to look forward to the new mountain of faith and hope as I move on into new ministry. I am not too sure what some of your past religious experiences are or even traditions which have hindered you to move on, but there is always something new and better before you as you journey with Christ. There are always two mountains, one in front and the other one behind. Look to the one in front which is with new hope and joy, leave the one behind which is with terror and fear.


Monday, September 7, 2009

No one… (Hebrews 12:14-17) 070909

Today is Monday again! I am not so blue today. Today, I make a few visitations in the morning, to encourage and pray for people whom need such grace of God. When I see the joy flowing out from their eyes when I visited them, I know that this is what God has called me to do. I know that my future ministry will be one of which I will enjoy.

When I am back into office, continue my meditation on Hebrews, I am drawn to this verse saying: See to it that no one misses the grace of God (v15). This is a double confirmation of God’s calling upon my ministry life. I don’t think I am doing God a favor by stepping out of my current comfort zone into new ministry; I am simply thankful to God allowing me to participate with Him and letting me to be so filled with joy and grace, as this is where my heart is drawn to. I want to see that no one misses the grace of God. Yes, no one.

And interestingly, there are two others ‘no one’ in this passage: 1) without holiness no one will see the Lord (v14b); 2) see that no one is sexually immoral (v16a).

Of course, according to the structure of this passage, the author was saying that without holiness no one will see the Lord, and what he meant by holiness is no to have bitter root (v15) which is in other words, no one is to misses the grace of God; and secondly to be holy means to have no one is sexually immoral. When the author used ‘no one’ three times, I think he meant it.

The author meant for no one to be unholy, he meant for no one to miss the grace of God, and he meant for no one to be sexually immoral. And the ‘no one’ includes you and me. In other words, I am to be holy if I want to see the Lord; I am to have the grace of God (no bitter root for me); and I am to be sexually moral (else I will be deemed as godless like Esau).

It is easy to declare that I am a holy man, since I am in full-time service in God’s ministry; but in reality, I am not as holy as I want myself to be. We can give all sort of standard or definition about holiness and even quote scripture to justify that we are considered holy by the blood of Christ (I think we are only considered righteous because of Christ). If we honestly ask ourselves, are we holy? You can keep the answer to yourself.

If we want to see God, we have to be holy. We have to make every effort to be holy (v14). We cannot simply sit around and expect ourselves to be holy. I think the author of Hebrews knew the psychology of humans, he pointed our correctly that the two areas whereby we struggle to be holy are: forgiveness and lust.

Do you have anyone to forgive? I have. Or do you need to seek forgiveness from anyone? I also have. Do you have any sexual thought which is inappropriate according to the Word of God? I have. (Don’t look at me as it I am a sex maniac, I just couldn’t match up with God’s supreme standard or sexual purity). But I am making every effort to see that I left no one not being forgiven (as far as I know and as far as I can); and I left no impure thoughts not confessed. As without holiness, no one will see the Lord. I want see the Lord, I want to come into His presence, and I want to meet Him face to face!
I don’t want to be the no one.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Endure disciplines… (Hebrews 12:4-13) 040909

My daughter has begun to assert her will. She will let us know what she wants, and what she doesn’t want. Sometimes, what she wants is good, so we give it to her. But there are times that what she wants are not good for her or maybe even dangerous; so we don’t want to give it to her. When we go against her will or her ideas, she will be angry and sometimes she will cry or scream. Then, my wife and I will discipline her. We will insist she apologizes to whoever she throws her temper at, and we insist she goes to reconcile with whoever she has hit or screamed at. Sometimes, she will obediently do so; but there are also times when she cries and screams even louder. As good parents, we keep our ground and stand firm with our decision (though it can be really difficult, but we do so because we love her).

I think my experience with my daughter is not unique, I believe when we love someone, we unconsciously set a boundary for him or her, so as to protect him or her from getting harm. My wife is pregnant, and her job demands her to work late. Because I love her, I always ‘pressurize’ her to leave her workplace as early as possible; I even encourage her to take leave to rest (and she did it recently, slept almost throughout the day). Of course, I do not discipline her it she doesn’t, but I will express my unhappiness as some form of ‘discipline’.

Our imperfect love towards each other will cause us to discipline our love ones for the good of their well-being. Likewise, God disciplines us for our spiritual well-being (I think also for the well-being of our soul and physical). No wonder the author of Hebrews encouraged us to ‘endure hardship as discipline’ (v7). In other words, be patient when I withhold giving in to your request as a discipline.

What do you do when you know you are being disciplined by God? God disciplines us for our sins, or even just to direct us to His will. Do we get angry with God? Do we get away from God? Do we withdraw ourselves from God? I hope you don’t. I hope you endure hardship as discipline.

It is not going to be pleasant to be disciplined, and s going to be hard. But it is definitely good for you. Endure!




Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don’t grow weary and don’t lose heart… (Hebrews 12:1-3) 030909

Finally, I have completed the chapter of faith. As I look back, there are dead faith, impossible faith and fearful faith; there are also obeying and doing faith, blessing and worshipping faith, and a future faith. I am stunned by my statement of faith, as it is no ordinary faith for me to be the people of faith. As I look at my scarlet faith, I have more faith until I receive the perfect faith!

All these amounts to a great cloud of witnesses describe in Hebrews 12:1. These are not only people, but these are the people who carried the stories of faith, the stories of God’s faithfulness. And all these stories point us toward the author and perfecter of faith, Jesus Christ our Lord (v2).

It seems very idealistic and theoretical. But in reality, faith is to live out with much struggles, opposition and temptation. In reality, faith is always being tempted. In reality, faith is always challenged, faith is always tested.

Faith needs me to act in love, the love of Christ. I remember, I was utterly discouraged by my struggle and lack of faith. I was visiting someone at a government hospital. It was a six beds ward. Besides the person I was visiting, there laid an old and sickly lady, and apparently she was not very alert to her surrounding. This old lady somehow accidentally spilled a bowl of sweet and sticky stuff on the flour. No body came to her help, no body came to ask what she wanted; all that the nurse did was to clean up the flour and ask that old lady to lie down.

There was a surge of compassion within me. I thought to myself, I should go over to give that old lady some assistance. But as I looked around, my sense of courage died; and I began to reason within my heart (sounded like the rich fool in Luke 12) that it might not be appropriate for me to go over to help her. I was struggling within me, I didn’t have the faith that if I went over, I would be able to bring about God’s love to her. I waited and didn’t do anything.

Then, I saw another young lady patient, staying next to that old lady, she got out of her bed in pain, went over to that old lady; asked her what she needed. After knowing that old lady wanted to clean her hands, the young lady took out her wet tissues and sat by that old lady bed, gently cleaned up every finger of hers. No body noticed what that young lady did, but I noticed. My heart was pierced deeply by the rebuke of my lack of faith to bring the love of Christ to that lonely, sickly old lady. I was the beauty of that young lady. It was not her figures or her features or even her face, she was simply another sickly young lady patient in the hospital. But I saw the beauty of one who loves, one who cares and one who gives of herself even though she was in pain.

How about you? People are watching you, you have a cloud of witnesses, you have people of faith cheering you to act in faith; but are you acting in faith and in love? Have you lately missed an opportunity to demonstrate God’s love in faith? I have, I hope you don’t. I hope you will persevere in your struggles and trials. Do not grow weary in doing good, and do not lose heart in faith.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Perfect Faith… (Hebrews 11:39-40) 020909

I am so thrilled that I have a comment on my Monday’s blog. I don’t know who that anonymous is, but I hope he feels much better about his situation at work. He may not be able to understand why he is in such a situation, but I guess this is what faith is all about. It is to trust God for a thing at a time, taking a step at a time and waiting for the perfect time.

Those people who were being commended in Hebrews 11, none of them received what had been promised (v39)! When I think of it, it is like broken dreams or unfulfilled ambitions. I remember that I used to want to be a mandarin pop song songwriter cum producer, but I never got a chance to have my dream to become true. It remains only as a dream.

But God’s promise is more than a dream, it is a real hope. Recently I watched a Christian movie by the name Faith like potatoes. It is real life story about a Scottish farmer living in Africa experiencing God’s miracle in and through his life. The main character aid that faith is like potatoes, it got to be tangible, something you can hold it, smell it and feel it. But before a farmer can harvest potatoes, they are all under the ground. You never know how they have grown until the harvest, until the prefect time for them to be unearthed.

I thought that is a very good illustration of faith. At this point, we are merely planting the seed of faith. There are so many things in our lives which we put our hope and faith on do not come to pass, as far as we know; but faith is believing that God had planned something better for us, we just have to wait for His perfect timing (v40). We know this truth in our head, but our hearts are often drifted away from sure assurance. That is why, we need to keep coming back to the Cross, the Author and Perfecter of our faith!

Do you have unfulfilled dream? Do you have promises from God which are yet to be fulfilled? Do you have the faith like potatoes, to wait till the perfect time? Not our perfect time, but His perfect time. So that we can receive the prefect fruit of faith, just like potatoes; you can touch it, hold it, feel it, and smell it!

I am waiting now… for the perfect faith.


Monday, August 31, 2009

More faith… (Hebrews 11:32-38) 310809

Today is Monday, I am having Monday blues. It is a kind of feeling that I-have-not-rested-enough or Can-I-don’t-work or I-hope-Jesus-returns-today. I am not sure if you have any Monday blues, but I certainly have. Sometime, this kind of feeling can drag me to depression (not being exaggerated, it can really happen to some people). Sometime, this kind of feeling can cause me to lose hope (at least for the week ahead). And sometime, this kind of feeling can affect our faith.

Hebrews 11 tells me to simply take a look at all those who had gone before me; I am not in the worst situation. If those people who were faithful (and some not so faithful) had their fair share of blues, why should I be spared?

Gideon was fearful and doubting, God gave him fleece. Barak couldn’t wean off his dependency on woman (Judges 4:8), God gave him Deborah. Samson never learned from his mistakes, God gave him strength for pillars. Jephthah was an illegitimate son with low self esteem and perhaps insecurity, God gave him vindication. David committed adultery and murder, God gave him a heart of worship. Samuel anointed the wrong king and felt rejected; God gave him a peaceful death. Many, if not all, of the prophets had their shortcoming and weaknesses and even faithlessness, but God gave them faith to be faithful in the kingdoms and ministries entrusted to them.

Daniel didn’t shut the mouths of hungry lions, God did it. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah didn’t quench the fury of the flames of the blazing furnace, God did it. God did all those miracles recorded in Hebrews 11:33-38. It was in the weaknesses and the desperation of the people, God acted. It was when they realized their inability to act faithfully or to live by faith, God was faithful. It was when they thought they had no more faith to continue, God gave them more faith.

Are you also at the bottom of your situation? Are you feeling hopeless and think that you will be the next to be terminated from your job? God can give you more faith. Maybe you are having some fears of going through an operation or medical procedure and have no faith to go through it; God can give you more faith. Maybe you have no faith that you will be able to do well for you coming examination, God can give you more faith. Maybe you are facing difficulties and struggles in your relationship or marriage and have no faith if you can carry it on; God can give you more faith. Maybe when you look at your rebellious child, you have not no faith if he or she will turn back to you or God; God will give you more faith.

God will give you more faith so that you can love more, give more, and fear less. God will give you more faith so that you can live in peace, work with power and believe with more faith. Yes, more faith.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scarlet Faith… (Hebrews 11:31) 270809

I think I really preached a very good sermon on Sunday. I am still very moved by it. The parable of the Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32) keeps repeating in my mind. I keep wondering, how could the father welcome and accept his ‘prodigal’ son? After all, this ‘prodigal’ son cursed his father by requesting for his inheritance; this ‘prodigal’ son was not being led astray (at least we are not told by the text), he left his father on his own accord; this supposedly Jewish ‘prodigal’ son was unclean as he had closely associated himself with the pigs; this ‘prodigal’ son did not come to his sense if there was no crisis in his life; and this ‘prodigal’ son had no desire to become a son of his father again, he only wanted to be a servant!

But it was amazing to see how the father welcomed and embraced this ‘prodigal’ son back into his family. Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve his father constant look out for him? No, but the father did it anyway. Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve his father lifting up his robe and expose his leg in disgrace (thought the text didn’t mention this, but I think this is what likely had happened) to run towards him? No, but the father did it anyway. Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve his father hugging him in order to shield him from being stoned by other villagers if they saw him as he deserted his father and being ‘unclean’? No, but the father did it anyway. Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve to be kissed by his father as a sign of welcome? Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve the best robe to cover his ‘unclean’ body? Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve the ring that gives him back his authority? Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve the sandals which only fit the feet of a free man? Did the ‘prodigal’ son deserve the fat calf and enjoy the fellowship with his father once again? No, no, no! But the father did all these for him, anyway! All the ‘prodigal’ son had to do was to ‘return’.

The ‘prodigal’ son had the faith that if he returned, something good will happened to him, though he did not know the extent of it. The prostitute Rahab also knew that if she welcomed the spies of the people of God, she will receive favor from the Lord, though she did not know the extent of it. She became the mother of Boaz, who became the father of Obed, who became the father of Jesse, who became the father of David (Matthew 1:5, 6), and whom the line whereby Jesus Christ the Lord of all our faith came from!

What did Rehab do? She welcomed the spies of Israel and let them went away safely, and clung her hope on a scarlet cord (Joshua 2:18). This was an re-enactment of the Passover. This was a sign of God’s faithfulness in keeping His covenant with His people. With Rehab’s scarlet cord, she and her family was saved from the destruction of Jericho. With the return of the ‘prodigal’ son, he received the full blessing and acceptance from the father. With our faith in Christ’s death on the Cross, we enter into the eternal salvation which He has promised.

We cannot keep the covenant, we cannot keep the promise we make before God; but God is the covenant keeper and He is the One who will make sure the covenant is kept as He make it! God will make sure His promise to us will be fulfilled as we clung on to our scarlet cord with faith.

Do you have dreams or promises from God that yet to be fulfilled? Cling on to the scarlet cord in faith. Do you think you are very far from God and want to return but not knowing how? Hang out your scarlet cord and you will be received.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The People Faith… (Hebrews 11:29-30) 250809

Singapore just celebrated its National Day not too long ago. The theme of this year celebration was surrounding the Pledge:

We, the citizen of Singapore,
Pledge ourselves as one united people
Regardless of race, language, or religion,
To build a democratic society,
Based on justice and equality,
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity, and progress of our Nation.

I am not being patriotic here. As I read Hebrews 11:29 and 30, I imagine a nation being born as the people of Israel passed through the Red Sea on dry land (v29) and walked round the walls of Jericho to see it fell (v30). This is the power of the people in faith, and I call it: the people faith.

Walking through the Red Sea on dry land and the fall of the walls of Jericho were the two most magnificent miracles in the history of mankind. No matter how researchers and scientists try to explain and rationalize the possibility that the Red Sea could be opened and walked across if all the factors were in placed; or how the marching of the people of Israel could have produced some sort of frequency when coupled with the shout at the end of the march caused the walls of Jericho to fall. These are merely speculation and possibilities. But what had happened the eyes of the people of Israel were the miracles of the Lord!

What made these two miraculous events so magnificent was the involvement of the mass, the entire nation of the people of Israel. I don’t know how to make sense out of these, but I know that there is power when the people of God have a common faith. It is not about the faith of the leader. Moses could have opened the Red Sea, but if no one dared to step into the dry ground, they would be destroyed by the Egyptians. Joshua would not be able to take the city of Jericho even if the walls fall down after he marched around it according to the instruction of the Lord. It took the people of Israel to do it together, so that they could experience the power of the miracle.

It is easy to persuade a few brave and committed members to follow me to do some great for the Lord by faith, but it will be difficult or almost impossible to rally the entire church to do the same. But if we do it together, the effect of it will be miraculous.

Recently, our church has this 20K blessing campaign. It is simply going out to bless the people around us. We should do so not because it is a campaign; but as an outward expression of the blessings of God in our lives. I know that the number is growing very slowly, it is because not all the members are convicted and doing it together.

Can you imagine if our church blesses 20K people? And if only 1% of these 20K start to come to church to seek God, that will be 200 people, 50% growth for Covenant in half a year! This is significant and magnificent. Do you have faith that our church can grow in extent? I believe we can and have faith it can. But it is not enough, unless we do it together in faith

We, the members of Covenant Presbyterian Church,
Pledge ourselves as one united body inChrist,
Regardless of race, language or ministry,
To build a Church without walls,
Based on the Holy Spirit and His Word,
So as to bring about blessing, Good News and salvation to the people of our community.


Monday, August 24, 2009

No Ordinary Faith… (Hebrews 11:23-28) 240809

Yesterday I preached a good sermon. It was good because God spoke to me through my own sermon. I was preaching and being preached to. I was moved and touched by my sermon. Sound strange? Sound egoistic? Whatever we call it, the truth is that I was ministered yesterday.

It was an ordinary Sunday, which I have to preach an ordinary sermon on an ordinary passage: The parables of the lost in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of Luke. But however ordinary it is, there is no ordinary result; because I prayed by faith that God will speak to us, and that includes me.

The faith of Moses’ parents were simple, they just wanted to keep the child alive! But it is not an ordinary faith. They would never imagine that their child will be greatest leader in the history of Israel, the one who have a face to face encounter with their Almighty God, the one who led the people of Israel out of Egypt and out of slavery, the one who witnessed miracles after miracles of God through him (ten plagues, parting the Red Sea, water from the rock, healing, manna from heaven, and more), and the one who contributed the five most fundamental writing of the Old Testament which half the population of the world today based their faith and lives upon them. These were no ordinary works.

My faith for my sermon was simple, but I knew that the impact it had on me was not ordinary. My faith for my daughter is simple, that is she will grow up to be a good person who fears the Lord. I will not imagine that she will one day becomes the lady Prime Minister of Singapore, or the one who brings the good news to the entire Singapore and it becomes a Christian nation, or the one who will be used by God in healing everyone who is touched by her. Whatever my faith is for my daughter, there will be no ordinary results, because God is the one who will bring them to pass.

Because of Moses’ parents’ faith, the faith of Moses became extraordinary. Do you think that you have only simple faith? Let it be, and act upon it. As long as you have faith , it will be something extraordinary. There is no ordinary faith.

Are you weary of trusting God to heal? It is a simple and ordinary desire to want to be healed; there is no ordinary faith as you wait upon the Lord to bring about the extraordinary. I cannot guarantee that healing will surely take place in the way we want it to be, but I can be sure that God loves and will bring about much more goodness in the midst of our pain and sufferings if we allow Him to do so. That will not be ordinary, because there is no ordinary faith.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Statement of Faith… (Hebrews 11:22) 210809

I have attended many funerals and even preached at some. One thing I found in common, not many of those deceased, planned for their funerals. I am not trying to be rude or funny here, but come to think about it, how many of us actually make arrangement of our own funerals. We may purchase a niche in advance, we may tell our children the song we want to have during our funeral service (I want the song This is the day), and some may even have the funeral passage and message chosen (I may even record my funeral sermon and play it during my funeral).

As a person dies and buries, it is the end of his life. Of course, as Christian, I know that I will be going to a better place. But whatever instruction or preparation we make for our funeral, it ends there. Joseph did not only stop at his funeral, but he had faith that one day his people, the Israelites, will leave Egypt and he wanted them to bring his bones along.

When I think of it, this is more than a prophecy. It is a statement of faith to the generations after. Just imagine, before I pass away, I tell my daughter that one day her granddaughter will become a missionary to Inner Mongolia and I want my bones (or ashes) to be brought there and scattered there. What on earth am I talking about here? I am speaking in faith. I am making a statement of faith about my future generations.

For those who have children; may be you can pray and ask God for that statement of faith to be spoken to your children. Record it somewhere that your children and children’s children can read about. For those who have no children; may be you can pray and ask God how can you leave a legacy behind to benefit the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

I believe that my devotional blog will be a great blessing to many (though not many give me comments) and one day down in the future history, it will be compiled and be published into a book and bless many others who are in the future generations.

This is my statement of faith! What is yours?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blessing and Worshipping Faith… (Hebrews 11:21) 200809

I was having my off day on one of the Tuesdays. I was preparing a sermon in one of those café joints. A cup of ice-latte, a bible, and a laptop; I was happily immersing myself in the Word of God. Though there were many people around me, but my heart was only attending to the Presence of God. Though there were a sermon to prepare, but my soul was quiet, peaceful and rested. I literally enjoyed every moment of my time in such an experience.

Then a man came up to me. He was dirty, smelly and obviously, hungry. I saw him approaching other patrons in the café, but none gave him anything, needless to say attention. When he was at my table, I was in the middle of my most exciting moment of my sermon. He looked at me, so I looked at him. He tried to smile at me, and I also tried to smile back at him (I think I tried harder to smile at him). I wanted to get back to my work. I wanted to bet back into the Presence of God. I wanted him to leave me alone. But he asked if I could give him money to buy something to eat, for he had not been eating for a day and had no job as his hand was badly injured.

I was very tempted to give him $5 and got rid of him. But something within me burn. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get back into the Presence of God that day if I simply ignored him. I told him that I wouldn’t give him any money, but I could buy him something to eat. I closed my bible, turned off my laptop, packed up and brought him to a fast-food restaurant which was just next to the café I was in. I told him to order anything he wanted, and he did! That costs me more than $5. But I saw his face glowing and beaming with gratitude and joy. It was not that upsized-extra-value-meal that made this man happy (he didn’t order happy meal; that was cheaper). It was my attention to him, my willingness to be interrupted to bless him with this meal that made him happy.

Today as I meditate on Hebrews 11:21, the word ‘blessed’ and ‘worshiped’ grip my heart and remind me of that off day encounter. I am blessed because I obeyed the Lord prompting to bless that man. My heart was filled with joy that day and I couldn’t stop praising and worshipping God. And the Presence of God was even stronger after that.

I think blessing other people has such a power to draw us into a deep worship. But do you think blessing other people in such a manner is easy? At least not for me; I don’t going around buying upsized-extra-value-meal for people everyday. I don’t go around blessing other people. By nature, I am an inward person. I only care about my experience and my encounter with God. But God is concerned about other people too and wants to use His people to bless other people.

I have my reservation when comes to blessing others. I am bother about how other people see me, how other patrons in the café see me. I am self-conscious. It takes courage and faith to be a blessing to other. Jacob was old and weak; he couldn’t even stand by himself and needed a staff to support him (21), but he didn’t allow his weakness to hinder him to bless Joseph and his sons, even though he couldn’t see them (Gen 48:10). And of course, the result of that was worshiped in the Presence of God.

Is God prompting you to just go up to a stranger or a colleague whom you don’t really know and bless him with a cup of coffee or piece of nice chocolate? The next time when you encounter someone asking you for a meal, don’t just ignore or brush them aside (maybe you have bad experiences with conman), but ask God for that compassion to bless and take a step of faith to reach out to him with sincerity. You may receive the joy of a lifetime and an unforgettable experience of worship in the Presence of God.

Our faith is a faith that causes us to bless and worship.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Future Faith… (Hebrews 11:20) 190809

Each night, as I stare into the face of my daughter, I wonder what will she be liked, when she grows up. Then, an old, old song comes to my mind (I believe before I tell you, you would guess what song I am referring to). Oh Sara Sara, whatever will be, will be, the future is not for us to see, Oh Sara Sara… (I hope I’ve gotten the lyrics correct).

Yes, the future of my daughter, I will not know; but I know I can commit her into the hand of my loving Father, God Almighty. As I read about how Isaac blessed his children, Jacob and Esau in regard of their future (Gen. 27:27-40). I pause and reflect on how I, as a father, can bless my daughter with a blessing in regard to her future. I will not know exactly how she will turn out to be in the future; but I can start blessing her with the blessing of the Lord.

As a father, I pray with my daughter from time to time, teaching her to fear the Lord. I also pray for her as and when the need arises. But I am reminded on Sunday during a young families’ fellowship that I can keep blessing her every night before she sleeps with the Lord’s benediction:

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.
(Num 6:24-26)

This will be the future of my daughter, a woman who will be blessed by the Lord, and be kept in Him. She will see and experience the light and the grace of the Lord in her life. She will also know the peace of the Lord as she faces the harsh reality of life in the future.

I still do not know about the future, but I have faith in the Lord, who is also the Lord of the future. Do you have faith for your future? Pray the benediction upon yourselves. Ask the Lord to bless you and keep you, to make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, and most importantly, to give you the peace you need in this noisy and harsh world.

Are you facing some uncertainty about your future? The Lord can give you that peace to face the future, He is there with you. Are you facing difficulty in making a decision? The Lord will also give you that peace in whatever decision you make, He will walk you through.

This is future faith, because God is there in the future for you and me.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Obeying and Doing Faith… (Hebrews 11:8-19) 140809

I read a very good book by my favorite author, John Ortberg. It is called If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. This book is a life changing book for me. I have actually read it twice and each time it confirms and encourages me to step out of my ‘boat’. The main thrust of the book is that if you really want to experience the fullness of God’s purpose for our life, we’ve got to take a step of faith to get out of our comfort zone. It is not some kind of pop psychology or self-help motivational theology; the author never promise life out of the boat is without storm, but he assures us that Jesus is there and He is strong enough to pull us up if we get distracted and sink.

As I read and meditate on today’s scripture, it reminds me of my spiritual journey with God. I was called, just like Abraham (v8). I went in into full-time ministry, just like Abraham went to where he did not know where he was going (v8). I am not boasting about my faith in following God; just like Abraham, I have my doubts and discouragement and even depression. But I can see that God is faithful to help me to live by faith, even though I have no faith at times. I can also see that God is faithful in guiding me to move in faith as I simply obey.

To Abraham, faith is not about how bold and courageous he could be in trusting God. We know from the account in Genesis that Abraham lied and at times chicken out. But God remain faithful. To Abraham, faith is simply obeying and doing. When he was called, he obeyed and went (v8). When he was tested, he obeyed and sacrificed Isaac (v17).

Abraham obeyed and did what God led him to do. Faith is about obeying and doing. I think James’ understanding of faith in his epistle sums it up: Faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26). The converse is true: Deeds without faith is also dead (Abel 1:1)!

Faith has to be translated into action, by this I will know I have obeyed. Well, it is not going to be easy. It is not easy to step out of our comfort zone. It is not easy to step out of my ‘boat’. But if I want to experience the inheritance and promise from God, I’ve got to get out of my boat. Is God calling you to get out of your boat? Is God calling you to bless a colleague or classmate, and it is weird to do so? You’ve got take the first step; you may not know how God can use you to be a great channel of blessing to that colleague or classmate. Is God calling you to reconcile a relationship, which you are still hurting because of it? You’ve got to take the first step to give that person a call or a message; you never know how God is going to bring about healing through that.

I am going to step out of my boat soon; because I want to walk on water and experience intimacy with my Lord and see where He is leading me to. Do you have faith that God is calling and prompting you to something bigger?

Obey and do it!


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fearful faith… (Hebrews 11:7) 130809

I went to Telunas twice this year. One of which was with my Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades officers and helpers. As Telunas is kelong style resort, it has its own jetty and we are allowed to jump off the jetty into the sea. It even has a higher platform about 30 feet above the water for those who find jumping off a 10 feet high jetty is not thrilling enough to jump! It is a test of ones courage and faith.

I did the most unforgiveable thing there, at Telunas; which is to jump off the 30 feet high platform! I thought that is the ultimate expression of my faith in doing such a courageous and fearless thing! But it turned out to me that it was a silly thing to do.

In my tradition understanding of faith, to have faith is to be fearless about things we yet see. It is something like being bold in stepping forward and stepping into the unknown. Recently, I was reflecting about the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade ministry which the Lord has placed me. As I received and sensed that He wants us to grow beyond our existing boundary, I said yes without actually considered our resources carefully. When the opportunity came for us to take on new companies, we actually had not enough resources, but by faith, or rather by fearless courage, we went ahead and God, in His good time, sent forth the right resources. I called this faith! But today, I read how Noah responded to God’s warning; he was in ‘holy fear’.

The preacher of Hebrews tells us that Noah in holy fear built an ark to save his family (v7). As I meditate on this, I think I can identify with Noah. Noah was given a task which was utmost ridiculous and radical, and he was also given the insight of the future though he could not fully grasp the full extent of it. He stepped out in faith! He stepped out in fear too! But he stepped out in holy fear.

I am about to step into a new ministry in the near future, I am stepping in by faith. To be honest, I do not have all the necessary skills and networking for my new ministry, I am stepping into it in fear. I am not even sure if I can do a good enough job, but I respond to God and step into it by a holy fear. I am not going to do this ministry with my skills and giftedness; I want to do it in dependent of God’s power. I want to do it with a sense of holy fear.

There was Christian movie I watched at Telunas, it is called the Second Chance. In the ending of the movie, the senior pastor told his son and his associate pastor that we should be like the lightning rod, in the shape of a Cross, fears absolutely no one and nothing, except the God Almighty. This is holy fear.

A fearful faith is a faith with holy fear. I will step out into new ministry with absolutely fearless about anything and anyone, except in holy fear of the Lord God Almighty! Has God been asking you to step out of your comfort zone lately? Have a fearful faith, step out in holy fear of the Lord and do what He has asked you to do and watch what He is going to do through you! Our church is in the midst of 20K blessings, is God asking you to bless someone and you are fearful to do so? Have a fearful faith then, go in holy fear to bless that person and see how God continues the work from there.

Let’s have a fearful faith.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Impossible Faith… (Hebrews 11:5-6) 080809

Whenever my daughter wants to have her milk or food, she will come to me and say, “Please! Pa Pa!” Sometimes, she will not look at me and simply going through the motion of saying, “Please! Pa Pa!” Of course as a good mother, my wife will insist my daughter to look at me and say, “Please! Pa Pa!” But as a not-so-good father, I will just quickly go and make the milk for my daughter; because I just want to get it done and over with, so that I can either rest or do other stuffs.

I think I am like God (please to do stone me for saying that), easily pleased; not because of how sincere my daughter will say her, “Please! Pa Pa!” But I am pleased by her ‘faith’, trust and confident in her father to provide what is good and necessary for her.

When I read of Enoch being found as a man of faith, I refer back to Gen. 5:18-24. Only seven verses about this man who is generally described as one who walked with God (Gen. 5:22, 24). The commentator of my NIV Study Bible for verse 6 says that Enoch pleased God is proof of his faith. What did Enoch exactly does that pleased God?

When I understand the context of Enoch’s life in Gen. 5 and here Hebrews 11, it is Enoch’s walk with God that pleased God. And his walk with God is the proof of his faith. In other words, Enoch’s faith is demonstrated by his daily and faithful walk with God. This pleased God.

And do you know that to walk with God daily and faithfully is impossible? How easy it is for us to go about life without God for a day? How easy it is for us to forget God in the midst of our busyness? How easy it is for us to walk away from God when things are not going in the way we want? Therefore, to walk with God daily and faithfully; it is impossible! The only with it can be done, by faith.

This is what I called the impossible faith. For me to please God by my effort, it is impossible. I can never able to achieve it. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are not faithful in many areas of our life, at least one area; and that warrants a disqualification for please God. It is by the grace of God that we can by faith in Christ, please God. We can please God because God walk with us daily as the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Christ makes the impossible into possible.

As I continue to reflect and meditate on these two verses in Hebrews, I pray that I will continue to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and be sensitive to His leading and walk with Him. Though quite impossible, by faith I will do it. Will you?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dead Faith Speaks (Hebrews 11:1-4) 060809

It has been quite awhile that I have blogged my refection devotion on Hebrews. For past one month, I have been very busy with some family matters and coping with changes in my life. One of the changes is that I will again become a father. Today, I will begin the series on Hebrews 11, meditating upon some of the characters and events mentioned in it.

When I was a young Christian, I read a book by Dr. John White which explains that faith is our response to God’s love. This definition deeply ingrained in my subconscious, after all that book was probably the first Christian book I read. But as I grow in the Lord, I also understand that faith is actually the person, Jesus Christ. And Hebrews 11 gives the biblical definition as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (v1).

Sometimes, to understand faith can be very confusing. I was from a charismatic church whereby I was taught that if I have enough faith, I will be able to move mountains and do the impossible; my knee pain will be gone. But I always have this tinkling question within me: how do we measure faith? How much of faith is enough?

When I read verse 4 of Hebrews 11, I see my name – Abel! I chose this name as my baptism name because it starts with the letter ‘A’, and God had regard for Abel and for his offering (Gen. 4:4). I had no idea what Abel really means or what is the offering that made God had regard. Abel actually means vapor or short breath or meaningless! What a good name! But Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain (v4), simply by faith.

I am facing some ministry decision to be made lately which will affect me and my family drastically. I am not sure whether I have the ability to do it, but I say yes to God and by faith I step forward. I think, by faith is not simply doing what is right, but doing with a right attitude. I may not be successful in my new ministry, but it is alright. At least, I am right with God in regard to my obedience to Him. Anyway, Abel died. He is dead after he offered his offerings; killed by Cain. But Hebrews says that Abel still speaks.

Dead faith speaks. The faith of a dead person speaks. The faith of a dead person speaks of his faithfulness and righteousness with God. The faith of a parent who had failed in bringing up his child in the way of the Lord speaks of his earnest prayers for his child night after night. The faith of a student who fails his O or A level speaks of his willingness to love and help others out of his comfort zone. The faith of a retrenched manager speaks of his generosity and good leadership of the past.

No wonder Leon Morris, a commentator on the book of Hebrews says that “Faith is a present and continuing reality. It is not simply a virtue sometimes practiced in antiquity. It is a living thing, a way of life the writer wishes to see continued in the practice of his readers.”


Going Deeper (Week 5)

Going Deeper (Week 5 Day 2)

The author of Hebrews repeated some words and phrases in verses 7-19. Can you pick up those words and phrases that are repeated more than three times, and explain why, in your opinion, the author emphasizes them?

Word or phrase [Meaning]
Today (v7, 13, 15) [The author wants the readers to take heed of the warning immediately. Don’t wait.]
Hear, heard (v7, 15, 16) [The author wants the reader to listen to God.]
Angry or anger (v10, 11, 17) [God is serious and ‘angry’ with our sinfulness, rebellious, and unbelief!]
Heart(s) (v8, 10, 12, 15) [The key problem lies in the hearts of men.]

You may find some other words or phrases or even ideas which are repeated over and over again. This exercise is to help us to read the Bible in a more careful manner, so that we can pick up what the Lord really want to speak through the author of the Scripture.

Going Deeper (Week 5 Day 3)

There are basically three senses of the use of the word rest: 1) Promised Land rest (Temporal, earthly rest promised by God), 2) Sabbath rest (Physical rest from work on the seventh day), and 3) Eternal rest (Spiritual rest provided and sustained by Jesus).
Identify where the word rest appears in vv. 1-10 and explain is in its context.

Rest [Meaning]
V1 [Spiritual rest]
V3 (x2) [Spiritual rest]
V4 [Physical rest]
V5 [Spiritual rest]
V6 [Promise Land rest]
V8 [Promise Land rest]
V9 [Physical rest]
V10 [Spiritual and Physical rest]
V11 [Physical rest]

What is your conclusion from this observation?

Pastor Keith mentioned in his sermon that there are Past-rest, Future-rest and Present-rest. If we translate that to my terminology of Sabbath rest (Physical Rest), Eschatological rest (Promise Land Rest) and Soteriological rest (Spiritual Rest); it corresponds respectively.

My observation is that all these three kind of rests have to be kept in perspective. We cannot neglect physical rest, neither lost sight of the future-eschatological rest; and we cannot forget our Present-Spiritual rest which is available to us now through Christ.

Going Deeper (Week 5 Day 4)

There seems to be a disconnection of ideas between verse 12-13 and the previous verses. Verses 1-11 or even from 3:7 is talking about rest and verses 12-13 is seemed to be talking about the Word of God. What is the single idea that strings 3:7 to 4:13 together? How would you explain it? (You can start by studying Psalm 95, where the author quoted from).

I also find it interesting that the Preacher ends of his section of sermon on rest with the idea of the living word of God. I don’t think he is telling us that the place to really find rest (all three kinds) is in and through God’s Living Word!

Psalm 95 correlates creation and redemption, with a special emphasis on redemption. The Preacher uses the conduct of the Israelites as a means of challenging his audience to a closer walk with God. There was a promise in the OT that God's people would enter into rest. The Preacher sees this promise as fulfilled—not in anything in the OT—but in Christ. In drawing attention to this, he shows from another angle that Christ is God's final word to mankind.

You are welcome to share with me or leave your comment if you have other insight of this passage.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

By God’s Faithfulness… (Hebrews 11) 160709

Chapter 11 of Hebrews is a classic. When I was a young Christian, I was taught to call this chapter the “Hall of Faith” or the “Hall of the Faithful”. And all those names being mentioned in this chapter are to be called the “Heroes of Faith”. But as I learn and read more about the Bible, I know that some or most of those names are not perfect examples to be classified as “Heroes of Faith”, maybe except the one in verse 4 (just kidding).

George H. Guthrie commented that the general pattern followed with each example throughout chapter 11 is as follows: (a) The word pistei (“by faith”); (b) the name of the person who by his or her own faith or the faith of another is being used as an example; (c) the action or event by which faith is expressed; and (d) the positive outcome.

Sometimes the positive outcome is omitted, as in each of the examples at 11:20 – 22; at other times the author includes a concession (e.g., “even though” at 11:11) or a rationale for the act of faith (e.g., 11:10, 19, 23, 26).

The common denominator for all these names is the word “by faith”. In my own understanding of faith, it is not merely a hope or some kind of confident feeling or trust; it is Jesus Christ Himself. Faith is a Person. Faith is tangible. The KJV Bible translates verse one as: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. In other words, faith is something of substantial nature, essence, actual being, and reality (this range of meanings are taken from its Greek word, hypostasis.)

That is why Christian faith is more than just a belief system or having a hope. It is both factual and irrational. Factual because we know the facts about the one who we believe in and the one who put our trust in to follow. Irrational because we act and live our lives in accordance to a new reality, which is the spiritual reality; this is a life of faith. This is what we call, live by faith.

By faith, we do crazy stuffs. By faith, I married my wife; and I am loved. By faith, I left teaching profession and become a pastor; and I am enriched. By faith, I have a child; and I grateful. By faith, I love the people around me; and I am maturing in patience. Similarly, by faith, you give away one month of your salary to the church; and you have freedom. By faith, you give your child a hug after he has failed his Maths test; and you have multiplied love. By faith, you refuse to cheat at your parking coupons; your get to keep your car!

We do all these because we know God is faithful. It is because of His faithfulness; we can do all these crazy stuffs and still be blessed. As I say, many of those names mentioned in Hebrews 11 are not exactly heroes; they might be even “zeroes” like Gideon, Barak, Samson (v32). But the point is not about whom those people were or what had they done; it is all about God and His faithfulness. It is not by their faith that they are in Hebrews 11; it is by God’s faithfulness.

Maybe the next time when you read Hebrews 11, whenever you come across the phrase “by faith”, change it to “by God’s faithfulness”. Therefore, do whatever God has led you to do, it maybe crazy, do it by God’s faithfulness.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 4)

Going Deeper (Week 4 Day 2)
The word ‘confession’ today normally means ‘telling someone you did something you shouldn’t have’. It means ‘owning up’. But the early Christians gave the word a wider meaning: ‘telling people what’s really true about your belief’. This means ‘owning up’, not to having done something wrong, but to believing in the Christian message and to belonging to the Christian movement. In the light of the historical context of the first century, how would you paraphrase or explain verse 1 to a young person?

So, my dear Christian friends, companions in following this call to the heights, take a good hard look at Jesus. He’s the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do. (Eugene Peterson, The Message)

Yo, my dearest buddies in Christ, together in this highest calling in following Jesus. Lock in your vision and thoughts on Jesus; for He is the Sent One and also the Representative of what we believe and whom we belong. (Abel Translation)

Going Deeper (Week 4 Day 3)
Verse 3 and 4 are highly structural in arguing the point that ‘God is the builder of everything’. The author employs parallelism in verse 3 and then leads his readers to his point by using important conjunctions in verse 4. Can you show how the parallelism is being used in verse 3 and how the conjunctions are being used in verse 4?

In verse 3, “He” (Jesus) is paralleled as “the builder of the house”; “more glory” in parallel with “more honor”; and “Moses” is paralleled and considered as part of the “house”. Commentator, George H. Guthrie, says that:

To look at a beautiful, artfully crafted building may inspire appreciation or wonder, but praise belongs to the craftsman rather than the craft. In this case the author of Hebrews considers Moses as part of the house that Jesus built. The inference to which the analogy points is that Jesus, as God, has made Moses, a member of the people of Israel, and as Creator is worthy of more honor and glory than one of his creatures. Thus, the author continues to point to Jesus as God.

In verse 4, the author does not want us to lose sight of this fact. So he points out that the existence of a house is an argument for a builder. Houses do not build themselves. "But" (the adversative de) introduces something different. There is, of course, similarity. A house argues for a builder, and all that is argues for God. There is also a difference, because God is not to be put on a level with any builder of a house.

Going Deeper (Week 4 Day 4)
NIV translates the if clause as ‘we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast’. But the NAS translation is closer to the original Greek sentence structure: ‘we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.’ Discuss what the differences between the 2 translations used and the relationship between the words “confidence”, “boast” and “hope”?

I think the NIV equivalent of “confidence” will be the word “courage”.
For NIV, we are told we can “boast” because we hold on to our “confidence” and “hope”; whereas, in NAS, we are told to hold on to our “confidence” and “boast” of our “hope”. But as I look into the original Greek text, the relationship between these words is as follow:

“Hold on” to “our hope” which we can have “confidence” and “boast” about.

Therefore, verse 6 as a conditional statement informs us that we are His house, “if” we hold on and persevere in “our hope”. Though it is of the future, but we can still have “confidence” and “boasting” in the present as our evident of this “hope”.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 3)

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 2)
Verses 5 to 9 may be divided roughly into two parts: (1) an introduction followed by the quotation of Psalm 8:4 – 6 (vv. 5 – 8a), and (2) an interpretation of the psalm’s meaning (vv. 8b – 9). Again, there is a chiastic arrangement from verse 6 as the author states the quote and he interprets it in a reverse manner. Can you identify it?

A God’s grace to man (mindful and care for man, v6)
B Jesus’ humility & glory (made him a little lower than angels… crowned him with glory and honor, v7)
C Christ’s victory (put everything under his feet, v8a)
C’ Christ’s victory (left nothing that is not subject to him, v8b)
B’ Jesus’ humility & glory (made him a little lower than angels…crowned him with glory and honor, v9a)
A’ God’s grace to man (suffer death for everyone, v9b)

Some extra thoughts
The highlight of this section is found at the centre of this Chiastic structure: Christ’s victory. This seems to be overly triumphant view, implying we as Christian can also have victories like Christ. But the following phrase at the end of verse 8 (v8c) gives us the balance perspective of our understanding of victory in Christ: “Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” This is by no mean that Christian can have no victory at the present, it is only not everything we are having victory.

Therefore, our response should be not giving up praying for victory in life; pray for the sick, pray for deliverance, and pray for breakthrough. Though not everything we can see immediate result, we can be sure for two things: 1) we will surely have God’s victory in the end, and 2) there are still many things we will see victory over.

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 3)
The author of Hebrews uses these two messianic passages (Ps. 22:22 and Isa. 8:17b – 18) in verses 12 and 13. There are actually three key reasons which help the author highlight the work of Christ in light of early Christian messianic interpretation.
Can you identify the three reasons?

1) to support the close family relationship established between the Son and the people of God;
2) referring Jesus as the Son’s living with God’s people.
3) to speak of the Son’s suffering as well as his posture of trust toward the Father.

Some extra thoughts
I am in favor that these two quotations are to help us to realize that we have a Messiah who understands us, with us and knows God. The author of Hebrew is probably building up to the truth of Suffering Christ or A High Priest who understands. These are important ground work for the author to lay before he plunges deep into these topics later in is message or letter.

Isn’t it comforting to know that we are not studying about a God who is unreachable, or too mysterious to be understood, or merely an object of worship? Jesus Christ is real, lives among you and I today, He is personal, He is closed beside you and I, and most importantly, He understands our struggles and able to eradicate it by dying on the Cross. He is both powerful and loving.

Going Deeper (Week 3 Day 4)
In the final two verses of this passage, the author sets up an effective transition to the central section of Hebrews on Jesus’ high priesthood, beginning with 4:14 and running through 10:25. Hebrews 2:17 – 18 shares no fewer than eight words or phrases with 4:14 – 5:3. Through these concepts the preacher introduces an expansion on his reasons for the Incarnation built around the high priest motif, which he expounds in 4:14 – 10:25. The Son had to become human because high priests are taken from among human beings (see 5:1), and he had to become a high priest in order to offer the ultimate sacrifice for sins (2:17).

Can you list down the list of words or phrases in 2:17-18 which will also be found in 4:14-5:3?

“Word/Phrase” (2:17-18 / 4:14-5:3)
“high priest” (2:17 / 4:14; 5:1)
“sin” (2:17 / 4:15; 5:1,3)
“merciful/mercy” (2:17 / 4:16)
“tempted” (2:18 / 4:15)
“help” (2:18 / 4:16)
“in service (matters related) to God” (2:17 / 5:1)
“the people” (2:17 / 5:3)
“he had to/he has to” - the obligation to do something (2:17 / 5:3)

Some extra thoughts
Watch out for how all these themes are being developed and explained in the later part of this letter. Maybe before we encounter these topics again, what is your understanding of these terms? What does high priest means to you? How about your understanding of sin? Journal them down, and as you study His word, may the Holy Spirit opens you mind, enlightens your heart and empowers you with strength to live in accordance to His word in Spirit.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Remember those earlier days… (Hebrews 10:26-39) 190609

Recently a friend of mine started a group in Facebooks, which reminds us of our good old days. We were together when we were younger, composing songs, having gigs and performing. We had great fun and many fond memories together. When this group in the Facebook was formed, we saw many old photographs being uploaded and all those who joined the group and saw those pictures, we had a good laugh and warmth filled our hearts.

Things in the past can be either good or bad. We can either have fond memories of the past or bad experiences which we would not want to mention about it anymore. There are also things of the past we are really took pride and others which we feel ashamed of. Do you have such past too?

I think the author of Hebrews is issuing a harsh warning (10:26 – 31) — arguably the harshest in the book — with a gentler reminder of past success (10:32 – 34), then rounding out the whole by calling this struggling community back to a life lived in light of the Parousia , the end days (10:35 – 39).

As I meditate on this passage, I am convicted that the Lord will judge (v30). There is no way I can just forget about my sinful past, though it already has no effect on us because of what Christ has done; it is nonetheless a reality of the past. And the warning is not of the past, but of the future. We don’t warn what is already past; we warn what is ahead of us. Similarly, we are not to dwell in the past, but look out for the future carefully.

What do we do with our past? Remember those earlier days when we stood the ground in a great contest in the face of suffering (v32). Remember the good old days. Remember the past success and past victory. The author did not say: Remember the past glory. I think the author just want to remind his readers that the good things of the past are not those glorious things; it is those when they preserved and stood firm in the face of persecution.

The author knows that what will hold God’s people for the future is not those good old days, so to speak; but it is those good old suffering days whereby they go through it together. Therefore, suffering may not be a bad thing after all. It is a good opportunity for God’s power to be shown through our suffering.

I am writing this, as my church’s Sri Lankan pastor is undergoing brain tumor treatment, one of my small group member’s child still having a hole in his heart, and another member has some genetic disorder which cause him to have joint stiffness from time to time, and others. I know that there are others, who are suffering for Christ in one way or another, being mock by classmates or colleagues for not able to join them on Friday night outing or Sunday morning game. Stood your ground, you will be able to remember these good suffering days in the future.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 2)

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 2)
From 1:5-14, the author stringed together seven Old Testament passages to support his argument that the Son of God is superior to the angels. Can you identify these seven quotations, the Old Testament references, and their key points?

Quotation in Hebrews (OT reference; Key Point)
Heb 1:5a (Ps 2:7; He is the Son)
Heb 1:5b (2 Sam 7:14; He is the Son)
Heb 1:6 (Ps 97:7; He is to be worshiped)
Heb 1:7 (Ps 104:4; He is to be served by angels)
Heb 1:8-9 (Ps 45:6-7; He is to rule with righteousness)
Heb 1:10-12 (Ps 102:25-27; He is the Creator)
Heb 1:13 (Ps 110:1; He has the Victory)

Some extra thoughts
The author of Hebrews or the preacher (if you like to call him this way) is deliberately building up the attributes of Jesus in an escalated manner whereby the audience or the readers will not miss the point. He skillfully begins by pounding the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, both from divine perspective and humanistic (the use of 2 Sam 7:14 quotation) perspective, so that we understand that the foundation of all His attributes builds upon His relationship with God, which is also the author central theme in Heb 1:2-3 (remember Week 1 Day 4 chiastic exercise?).

The author ‘quotes’ his way to the final result of Jesus, which is, His victory over Satan and sins (Ps 110:1). If your understanding of Jesus is only wanting the victory of Christ without accepting His relationship with God, your worship to Him, your service to Him and His people, your submission to His rule and acknowledge all things are from Him including your life; take some time to let all these truths sink in you.

Going deeper is not an intellectual exercise; but really understand what God is saying through His word (as in Bible) to us, specifically. May you enjoy your journey into the depth of His word.

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 3)
Verses 10-12 is taken from Ps. 102:25-27. The author of Hebrews has been quoting almost directly from the Septuagint (LXX), which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This psalm begins with “Hear my prayer, O Yahweh,” and it is “A prayer of an afflicted man, when he is faint, and pours out his lament before the LORD.” This is the superscription of this psalm. Take some time to read through Psalm 102 and explain why the author uses this quotation (Ps 102:25-27).

Commentator, Willem A. VanGemeren, classified Psalm 102 as one of the seven penitential psalms (Pss 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). Some of these psalms are so designated because of their confessional nature; others are classed in this category because of their use within the Christian community. Psalm 102 is an example of the latter. It emphasizes the suffering and discipline often associated with sin (cf. vv.10, 23-24). The psalm exemplifies the literary genre of an individual lament. This lament arises out of an exilic situation, when the godly together with the wicked had been exiled from the land. For other exilic psalms, see 42, 43, 74, 79 and 137.

The structure of this psalm reveals two basic literary elements: lament and prophetic-hymnic. Kraus explains the prophetic-hymnic section as a special exilic development. The godly felt that they too had been rejected by the Lord and that the fulfillment of all the prophetic promises was in doubt. The purpose of the prophetic-hymnic section was to set ablaze a fire of hope in the promises of the Lord within the hearts of the godly.

Though the author of Hebrews ends the quotation at Ps 102:27, but I believe that the conclusion thought of the Ps 102 which is echoed in verse 28: The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you; ring in the mind of his readers and audience. And of course, the author is also equating Jesus as the Lord described by the Psalmist here. This is an assurance for his readers that they are indeed the people who are living in the presence of the Lord and the Lord is Jesus.

Going Deeper (Week 2 Day 4)
"Salvation" is a general word, but among first-century Christians it was used to mean salvation in Christ, either in its present or, as in this passage, future aspect. The word "salvation" (soteria) is used in Hebrews seven times, the most in any NT book; so the concept clearly matters to the author. His use of it here without explanation or qualification shows that it was already accepted by the readers as well as the author as a technical term for the salvation Christ brought.
Can you explain what salvation in Christ means?

Salvation in Christ means to have confidence of his or hers destiny that he or she will finally be with God from now on until eternity. And such confidence comes from what a person knows and believes of what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross for them.

Can you also locate the other six times, the word “salvation”, is used in the book of Hebrews? What is the context for each?

Verses (Context)
Heb. 2:3a (We cannot be indifferent to the salvation of Christ.)
Heb 2:3b (How the salvation of Christ being brought to us.)
Heb 2:10 (Salvation of Christ is explained in the light of Christ suffering on the Cross)
Heb 5:9 (Jesus Christ is the source of this salvation)
Heb 6:9 (There are better things accompanying the salvation in Christ)
Heb 9:28 (Salvation is the effect of Christ work on the Cross as our sacrifice)

Some extra thoughts
I hope that this exercise of tracing the use of the word ‘salvation’ gives you a better understanding that salvation is not only a technical Christian terminology. It actually has very explicit and clear meaning to it. Our salvation in Christ is not an abstract idea whereby we embraced without thinking. Our salvation is concrete as it builds on our understanding of what Christ has done on the Cross, both historically and spiritually.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Going Deeper (Week 1)

Going Deeper (Week 1 Day 3)
The author presented divine revelation in parallel contrasts between the “older” forms of communication during the time of the prophets and the “newer” form of communication through the Son. He contrasts four areas: the era of the revelation, the recipients, the agents, and the ways in which the revelation was manifested. Can you identify them?

Era In the past (Older Communication) In these last days(Newer Communication)
Recipients To our forefathers(Older Communication) To us (Newer Communication)
Agents Prophets (Older Communication) His Son(Newer Communication)
Ways Various ways (Older Communication) One way (implied) (Newer Communication)

As God has made a definite way to communicate to us, which is through His Son Jesus Christ; we can be assured that God doesn’t want us to miss His message. His message of the Cross is such a simple and clear one, which speaks of His love and grace, there is no way we can miss the point. Be encouraged that as we earnestly seek the Lord, we will surely be able to hear Him speaking to us.

Going Deeper (Week 1 Day 4)
The author does not use his ability with stylistic flair to impress but to rivet the hearers’ attention and center it on God’s act of communication, especially heard in the person, works, and status of the Son. He accomplishes this objective by presenting a theological framework he shares with other early Christian writers. This framework presents Christ in his preexistence (His relationship with God from the beginning), incarnation (cosmic action – became man and suffered for us), and exaltation (enthronement). The author presents this theology in a chiastic structure within verses 2 and 3.
Can you identify it?

Enthronement A He appointed heir of all things
Cosmic action B He made the universe
Relationship with God C Radiance of God’s glory
Relationship with God C’ Exact representation of His being
Cosmic action B’ Sustaining all things
Enthronement A’ Sat down at the right hand of the Majestic in heaven

For the author to make an effort to express these thoughts about Jesus in such a manner, they must be very important attribute of Christ. And these three attributes of Jesus do run through the entire book of Hebrews. To put it in another way, enthronement speaks of Christ position (where He is now), cosmic action definitely speaks of His action (what He does) and relationship with God of course speaks of His relation (who He is).