Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Book Review XLI: Job A Man of Heroic Endurance

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Next to Lord Jesus, perhaps Job is the Bible character whom I am mostly drawn too.
His endurance story is an inspiration not only for me, but also for all Christians.
His experience of suffering is a very real struggle: how could a loving God all this suffering?
And, what should we do when bad things happen to us despite us living an upright life?
This is when we can definitely learn something from Job whom God allowed to suffer from so much pain despite his integrity.
if anything, the story of Job prepares us to face the reality of life: life is not just difficult. It is downright unfair.

Job was a great man of God, a wonderful husband and father and a wealthy businessman with integrity.
In fact, God even praised Job in front of the devil.
However, the devil accused him of following God for his own benefit, not because he truly loved God.
Though we cannot see the devil, he is real and he always attempts to destroy our life testimony.

Just like God allowed the devil to wreak havoc Job’s life, He also allows the devil to destroy our life.
Consequently, there are bad things we suffer even though we may not deserve it.

Suddenly, in one day, without any hint of warning, Job lost all his business AND his 10 children.
In one day, he became homeless, bankrupt and childless.
In the midst of his ruin, Job uttered a beautiful worship, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb. Naked shall I return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
Similarly, we need to understand that everything we have in life is on loan from God, including our finance and family members.
We bring nothing into this world and we bring nothing when we leave this world.
Hence, we must always be prepared when God decides to take back His loan.

As if the loss of finance and children was not enough, God allowed the devil to wreak havoc Job’s health.
He was covered with boils and suffered maddening fever.
His wife then told Job to curse God and die.
However, we can learn from Job’s response: Shall we not accept the good and the bad from God?
Since God is sovereign, we must not be disillusioned: we must prepare ourselves to accept blessing and adversity from Him.
Since God is the Potter and we are the clay, we should not question God with His decision.

Job’s 3 friends came: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.
At first, they came for the right reason: to comfort and to sympathize.
They stayed quiet and allowed their presence to do the talking.
Similarly, when we try to comfort and sympathize with a hurting friend, we should say little words and let our presence show how much we care.

After some time, Job began his speech by cursing the day of his birth.
He did not curse God, fortunately.

Job 3 records his mourn.
Though Job had a mature believer, he reached a breaking point due to all the suffering.
Similarly, Christians may struggle with depression as life can be too harsh.
They are encouraged to seek help from godly counselors.

The 3 friends initially came to comfort and sympathize with Job.
However, they forgot their initial purpose.
At first, they mildly discussed Job’s suffering with him.
In the end, they falsely accused Job of hiding secret sin.

They got their facts wrong: Job suffered in spite of his righteous living.
Job then called them, “miserable comforters”.

A few things we can learn from their conversation:

1.We need to always speak gracefully to others, especially toward those who are hurting.
After all, like Job’s friends, we do not have access to all the facts.
If we are unable to speak gracefully, we can always keep quiet.
A total silence is better than inappropriate words.

2.Philosophy does not comfort those who are hurting.

3.God is sovereign. He has plans beyond our understanding.
And, He is not under obligation to explain to us what He is doing.
And in His sovereignty, He allows bad things to happen to good people.

In the midst of his suffering, Job longed for a mediator to present his case to God since he felt God was unfair to him.
However, he had none.
For us, the New Testament saints, we have Lord Jesus as our Mediator.

Perhaps the most painful experience for Job was God’s silence.
He felt so deep despair, yet God absconded His presence. Or so, he thought.
In reality, the part of the wager between God and the devil was to keep Job in the dark: would Job’s faith survived in the depth of calamity and His silence?

Here, in the book of Job, we learn about the mystery of God.
God is in charge. And, we are not. He deliberately allows sickness and pain.
And, at other times, God reveals that He tests us.
In fact, He does not want everyone well.
For example, apostle Paul prayed for 3 times and God still did not heal him.

To add further about the mystery of God, He deliberately allowed evil and injustice to flourish.
He did not immediately punish the evildoers.
Or, He chose not to prevent evil from happening. He did not even prevent Jewish Holocaust.
And, He chose not to reveal His reason to us.

When we add the mystery of God and the silence of God and a the feeling of distance from God, life is so unbearable.
Hence, when we see fellow Christians suffering, we should cut them some slack.
And as we walk through the period of God’s silence, we should wait patiently.
We should still trust Him, keep His path and serve Him.
And even, we should not try to fully understand His ways since He is unfathomable.

Even though Job was accused falsely by his friends for evils he never committed, he responded them back in truth.
There are times when we leave our defense to God and there are times we need to tell the truth and expose lies.

Further down the conversation, Job reflected on his past.
He used to be a wealthy leader of the society.
He cared for the poor and needy.
He defended justice against the wicked.
Then, suddenly, he lost everything and became diseased.
He even became a byword to the society.
Nevertheless, in all this situation, Job affirmed his integrity.
Hence, Job longed to bring his case before God Himself.

And, indeed, eventually God Himself spoke to Job out of whirlwind.
Interestingly enough, God did not answer Job’s questions.
He did not apologize for all his suffering.
He never revealed any deal between Him and the devil.
In fact, God did not acknowledge that Job suffered so much.

Firstly, God questioned Job the enormity of His creation and His universe.
In effect, God was telling Job that He is in charge.
If He is capable to run this huge universe,  certainly He is more than capable to manage Job’s life which is much more tiny.
Secondly, God challenged Job if even the mighty beasts, behemoth and leviathan, would even submit to him.
Clearly, if Job was powerless against these creatures, then certainly Job should submit to God who created these creatures.

Indeed, Job repented.
Before, he claimed that God owed him a hearing for all his suffering.
Yet, after God’s speech, he understood his place as a servant and God’s place as the Master; that he was the clay and God was the Potter.
He understood that how small he is compared to the entire universe.
He no longer needed any explanation for his suffering as he understood that God was in control over his life.
In a gentle, quiet submission, Job rested in God’s will.

Eventually, God carried out His justice.
God warned the 3 friends that they had not spoken what was right like Job.
So, Job forgave them and prayed for them.
God also restored Job’s health and possession.
Also, God gave him another 10 children.
More importantly, the devil had to concede defeat as Job still maintained his faith in God despite all the suffering and God’s initial silence.

In summary, what the book of Job teaches us about ourselves.
1) We never know ahead of time God’s plan for us.
2) A vertical perspective will keep us from horizontal panic.
3) Discernment is needed to detect wrong advice from well-meaning people.
4) When things turn from bad to worse, sound theology helps us remain strong and stable.
5) Caring and sensitive friends know when to come, how to respond and what to say
6) It is easy to be Monday-morning quarterbacks when we encounter another’s outburst.
7) The cultivation of obedient endurance is the crowning mark of maturity.

In addition, it also teaches us about God:
1) There is nothing God cannot do.
2) It is impoosible to frustrate God’s purpose.
3) God’s plans are beyond our understanding and too deep to explain.
4) Only through God’s instructions are we able to humble ourselves and rest in His will.
5) When the day of reckoning arrives, God is always fair.
6) No one can be compared to God when it comes to blessing
7) Only God can fill our final years with divine music that frees us to live above our circumstances.

Great book! Get your copy today from The Ink Room.

 

 

 

 

Book Review XL The Case for Miracles

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Some people believe that miracles are against science.
Hence, they consider miracles non-existent.
Some people believe miracles only happened in the past.
Some people believe miracles still happen today.

What does the evidence say?

In this book, Lee Strobel interviewed people who believe in miracles and people who don’t.
He examined the evidence from a journalist point of view.

Many people, especially scientists, argue that miracles are non-existent because they violate natural laws.
However, Lee offered another perspective to look at miracles.
Suppose he drops a pen; gravity law dictates that it will fall to the floor.
However, if he manages to catch the pen in midair, it will then not fall to the floor.
There is no violation of gravity law here.
Similarly, miracles are simply God temporarily intervening in the world He has created.
In fact, He is the Source of all natural law.
Hence, it is His ‘legal’ right to intervene the natural law and for a good reason.

Lee then recorded a number of modern day miracles:
– A spontaneous closure of the hole in the heart in a eight year old boy.
– A patient with progressive multiple sclerosis only had life expectancy of less than 6 months suddenly heard God’s voice to get up and walk. That day she was suddenly healed from years of  sclerosis.
– Benjamin Solomon Carson received answers to his Chemistry exam in a dream.
– The dream of Lord Jesus appearing in the dream of many Muslim people to point them to Himself.

Lee also interviewed a scientist who argued that the creation of the universe is indeed a miracle which should point everyone to the existence of God.
The universe is extremely fine-tuned so that life exists.
There are at least 322 conditions that  must be right for a planet to support life.
Such tiny probabilities cannot be ascribed to mere coincidence.
Clearly, there is Creator God who designed the universe.

Probably for Christians, the most important miracle is the resurrection of Jesus Christ: only God can give life from death.

Lee interviewed a detective to investigate the resurrection case.

Jesus really died on the cross. The soldiers were not mistaken to think that He died. Also, the person on the cross was Jesus, not a substitute.
Jesus was really buried.
He rose up from the dead and showed Himself to the witnesses.
The witnesses themselves gave consistent testimony and were willing to die for their testimony.
Hence, the resurrection was a real event, not a made up story.

What should be our attitude toward miracles when we need them?
While we do our best in the natural, we should believe in the supernatural.
For example, while we pray for God to grant wisdom upon the doctor during a surgery, we should also pray for supernatural healing.

What if miracle doesn’t happen after we earnestly pray for it?
First of all, we should not feel embarassed.
God has reason why He grants a miracle and why He does not, though we may not always know the reason.
He is the sovereign God, after all.

But sometimes, we are in the midst of suffering that we desperately need the miracles.
We pray and we pray. But, there is still no miracle yet.
For some, the lack of miracles is the breaking point of their faith in God.
At this point, when we have to continue to wrestle with inscrutable suffering, we should pray the prayer of relinquishment. The prayer of letting go.
Just like Lord Jesus who prayed, “Not My will, but Yours be done.”
And eventually, even if we do not receive any miracle on earth, in heaven, God will wipe out every suffering.

 

Posted December 23, 2019 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review

Book Review XXXIX: Jesus Our Jubilee

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An awesome book given by a pastor friend when he and his family were visiting Singapore.
Before reading this book, heard about Jubilee but did not expect Jubilee to have such a far implication in the New Testament.
So, it is definitely worth-reading!
Here is the summary of this awesome book!

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The concept of Jubilee starts with Sabbath.
There was 7th day Sabbath and 7th year Sabbath.
God commanded the Israelites to gather manna daily.
On the sixth day He commanded them to gather twice as much as there would be no manna on the 7th day.
Indeed, it was a test of obedience.

Similarly, God commanded the Israelites to farm their land for 6 years.
On the 7th year, they must not farm the land. Instead, God promised the harvest would be so abundant on the 6th that they would have food for the 7th and 8th year.
So, it was a test of trust.

During the Sabbath day and Sabbath year, the Israelites were also to exercise compassion by helping their neighbour and sharing their food with the poor.

Jubilee is the 50th year.
On both the 49th and 50th year, the Israelites must not work.
Again, God assured overabundance of harvest on 48th year to sustain His people until 51st year.
There is something special about the 50th year: the Israelites were to return the ancestral land to the original owner.
This is because God did not want to see the poor among His people.
On the 50th year, the poor had the chance to break free from the cycle of poverty

Why would God design such cycle?
Because God wanted the Israelites to remember that He is the owner of the land.
The Sabbath of the land was always unto the Lord.
God also had the right to give whichever land to whomever He desired to give.
The Israelites were merely the steward of the land.

Sadly, the Israelites did not observe the Jubilee instruction.
They even failed to observe the basic Sabbath commandment.
Therefore, there was only one way to implement it: the Lord of Jubilee Himself came down.

Lord Jesus’ mission consisted of 2 parts.
Spiritually, He came to save us from our sin.
Socially, He came to preach the gospel to the poor and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, which is Jubilee year.
He cared for the well-being of the society, such when He performed miracle of feeding of 5 thousand men.
He healed the poor woman with the issue of blood.
He restored the sight of the blind beggar.
He resurrected the dead son of a widow so the widow can have a future of livelihood through her son.
He set an example for the disciples to follow.

The early church followed His example.
They regularly testified about Christ and won souls for the Lord.
At the same time, they ensured the welfare of the members as they also shared resources.
Apostle Paul also helped the money collection from Gentile church to Judean Christians who were stricken by famine.

In the past, many Christian leaders rose up to the calls.
Francis Asisi and John Wesley had profound heart for the poor in addition to preaching the Gospel.
Samuel Wilberforce was a British politician who fought hard to abolish slavery.

In 19th century, however, there were 2 extreme groups of Christians.
One group focused solely on repentance and discipleship.
The other group focuses solely on social reformation.
It was unfortunate since both spiritual and social aspects of the gospel are 2 sides of the same coin.

Similarly, our responsibility as modern church remains the same.
We need to care for the spiritual (i.e. evangelism and mission) and social welfare (i.e. alleviating poverty and carrying out social justice) of the world around us.
John Piper summarized it as follows, “If you don’t care for the lost, you have a defective view of hell; if you don’t care for the poor, you have a defective heart.”

At the same time, we should also realize that we live in an imperfect world.
Christians may still fall into sin from time to time.
Our effort to carry out Jubilee in this present world is also flawed.
Nevertheless, at the second coming of Lord Jesus, He will complete the Jubilee.
We will be free from our sinful nature. All suffering and death will end.

Until He comes back again, let us grow in holiness and seek the welfare of the city where we live.

Posted January 4, 2019 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review

Book Review XXXVIII: What the Bible is All About

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Awesome gem from The Ink Room bookstore.
Purchased this copy a few years back. Only managed to read it this year.
It gives an overview of each book in the Bible and the story flow from Genesis to Revelation.
Not gonna summarize this book here, ok? :p
After all, I have posted the snippets of this book under the category “Henrietta C. Mears”
Next time I will really study one particular book of the Bible then use this hand book as companion.

Do visit The Ink Room and get a copy of this book too!! :D

Book Review XXXVII: Jesus The Greatest Life of All

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Another book from The Ink Room.
Finally had the time to read and review it. 
A fantastic biography and analysis on the life of Lord Jesus!
Shall we begin the review?

Who is Jesus?
He went around healing the sick, creating miracles and forgiving sins.
Surely, mere human being has no authority to forgive sins.
Only God does.
It is up to us to either accept or reject His claim.
We cannot stay on  the fence by saying He is an important historical figure or good moral teacher.

Lord Jesus was born miraculously in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mary, His mother, willingly offered her body to bring the Messiah into the world.
She had to endure shame: how could a virgin conceive?
Joseph, His adoptive father, willingly took Mary as his wife to protect her from public scorn.

Lord Jesus merely laid aside His divine attributes when He was born in a manger.
He was the rightful heir to the throne, yet He entered into the world in a stable.
It was His humble entrance into the world, in the presence of shepherds who were social outcasts.
Through the person of Jesus, the kingdom of God and humanity finds representative.

Different people responded to Lord Jesus in various ways.
Simeon, an elderly worshiper in the Temple, recognized baby Jesus as the Messiah.
The magi came and worshiped Him, presenting gifts.
Herod tried  to murder Him.
When He was 12, his parents looked for Him all over the place though they could have found Him immediately in the house of God.
When He was 30, He was ready to start a ministry.
John the baptist was first hesitant to baptize Him.
Yet, Lord Jesus wanted to make baptism a door way to a new kind of life.
He called Peter to follow Him. Peter did and that was the start of his life calling.

Lord Jesus first had to face temptation in the dessert.
First was the the temptation to turn stone into bread. Basically it is to test whether someone trusts God in basic needs.
Second was the temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple.
However, to require God to prove His promise is the positive proof one does not trust Him.
The third temptation was the offer of the splendor of the world if Lord Jesus would worship the devil.
However, Lord Jesus overcame the temptation of material possession. 
He then taught the multitudes of abundant life in Him. He is not against us having money. He is against money having us.
After all, from the eternal perspective, material possession is insignificant.
The abundant life He offers starts with being born again of the Spirit.
This abundant life is the life above guilt, worry and shame.
It is the life to please God and not men.
It is the life full of faith in the face of impossibility. It is the life full of contentment from God alone.

In Lord Jesus’ time, the Pharisees twisted God’s law. Their favorite is the law concerning Sabbath.
Originally, Sabbath was a day where humans can rest and enjoy time with God.
However, the Pharisees made it so burdensome by creating a list of prohibited works.
Lord Jesus rebuked them. Since He is the Lord of the Sabbath, He took the Sabbath back from them.
He invited the people to come to Him, not to any religion. He then offered His yoke which represents:
-exchange of religious legalism with lifelong rest of the soul.
-invitation to learn how He forgives, ministers and connects to the Father.
-invitation to reject slavery to religiosity, wealth and anything else which burdens us that we may become slave to Him (and that is the true freedom).

During the Creation week, there was always concluding remark on the first until the sixth day when God created.
However, on the seventh day, God ceased from all His work. There was no concluding remark. His Sabbath remains open even until today.
And He invites all of us to enter into His Sabbath rest.
It means we believe in His promise because He cares for us.
Rejecting His invitation means we rely on our strength. Since our strength is limited, this spells trouble.

When God created the universe, He placed certain laws of nature. 
He rarely uses miracle. However, when He does use it, it is to divinely validate certain events.
In Lord Jesus’ time, engineers and architects utilized tricks to generate the appearance of miracles, such as turning water into wine. 
They did it for monetary gain.
Lord Jesus, on the other hand, created miracle out of compassion.
He displayed power over the trivial, distance, time, forces of nature, insufficiency and even death that we may believe that He is the Son of God.

When Lord Jesus lived as  regular human, He healed the sick.
He empowered His disciples to do the same.
As we can read in the New Testament, the divine healing is always instantaneous, permanent, obvious and free of charge.
This is in stark contrast with modern day faith healers whose motivation is solely money and not compassion.
Five laws of divine healing:

  1. There are two categories of sin: original and personal

  2. Original sin introduced suffering, sickness and death

  3. Sometimes sickness and death are direct result of personal sin

  4. Sometimes sickness and death are not related to sin at all

  5. It is not God’s will that every sickness be healed.

Apostle James taught that when a person is sick, the elders of the church should pray and anoint him/her with oil.
This was the therapeutic oil.
Modern day equivalent for that is to pray and seek medical help.
God may or may not heal us of our disease here. Even if He does heal us, we will eventually face death one day.
Nevertheless, He promises us eternity with Him. That is the ultimate healing He offers.

One parable that is very close to the heart of the Jews is the parable of the vine.
In the Old Testament, God called Israel His vineyard.
However, no matter how much God cared for the Israel, they did not give him the fruits (which was justice and righteousness) due to Him.
Lord Jesus came to take the place of Israel. He is now the Vine of the LORD.
Lord Jesus invited the believers to abide in Him.
As a branch receives nutrient from the vine and naturally produces fruits, the believers should abide in Christ, receive His life and produce the fruits of Christlikeness.
Apart from Christ the vine, the believers cannot do anything to produce these fruits.

Lord Jesus did not come to please the majority.
He came to declare the truth.
This truth offended many around Him, clearly dividing who was for or against Him.
Firstly, He proclaimed the truth to the crowd.
They wanted Him to be the Messiah who would set them free from Roman empire.
Yet, He refused as what they truly needed was a Savior to rescue from them from sin.
Secondly, He rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy as they nullified the law of God for the sake of their tradition.
He also drove the merchants out from the Temple of God as they committed corruption and lies even in the Temple of God.
Lord Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites for they like to show off their dedication to God and to teach people to follow God.
Yet, their heart is far away from God.
Like Lord Jesus, there are times believers have to stand for the truth fearlessly.
At first, we should use kind approach. If it does not work, we must be bold to proclaim the truth.
We may have to sacrifice in doing so. Nevertheless, God will reward our boldness, if not in this life, then in heaven.

Judas Iscariot wanted nothing less than Jews’ independence from Roman empire.
He eagerly wanted Lord Jesus to rise to the throne. After all, the people wanted to make Him a king.
However, Lord Jesus chased away the multitude. In addition, He explained that Messiah would suffer and die.
Disappointed, Judas secretly plotted to betray Him.
Throughout his discipleship under Lord Jesus, Judas lived a double life. 
On the outside, he appeared trustworthy enough as a treasurer of the group.
In the inside, he stole the money. In fact, his plan to betray the Master even allowed the devil to enter him.
A few lessons we can learn from the life of Judas Iscariot.
Association with godly people doesn’t guarantee that we will be godly.
Secret sin is deadly and it effectively twists our moral value.
We must confess and repent from any secret sin.

In total, Lord Jesus experienced 6 court room trials: 3 Jewish and 3 Roman trials.
All of them were unfair trials even under Jewish and Roman regulation back then.
In the first 3 Jewish trials, for example, the council of Sanhedrin was supposed to argue for acquittal.
However, they violated their own rules by pressing their case against Lord Jesus.
After all, Lord Jesus went against the corruption of the high priest.
At first, they could not charge Him based on His teaching. Even the supposed witnesses did not give consistent testimony.
Finally, they found a charge against Lord Jesus which was His claim to be the Messiah.
This is a flawed charge. His Messiah-ship does not come with insurrection against Rome.
However, in Jewish mind, a Messiah is also a leader of revolution against Rome.
Similar to Lord Jesus, we must be prepared to suffer injustice in this fallen world though we have stood for the truth.
Our Heavenly Father will vindicate us in His time.

The last 3 Roman trials Lord Jesus experienced revolved around 4 figures.
Pilate, Herod, Pilate’s wife and the mob,
Pontius Pilate became the procurator of Judea through trickery.
He ignored the truth for the sake of his political ambition.
When he faced Lord Jesus, he realized He was not guilty at all. 
He attempted his best to deliver Him from death penalty. 
He really thought the mob would prefer Lord Jesus to a criminal such as Barabbas.
However, when the mob pressurizing him politically, he gave in.
He would rather keep political power than the truth.
Some people are like Pilate. They acknowledged the truth but they traded it for power or money or relationship or comfort.
Herod wanted to see a sign performed by Him. He wanted a thrill
He did not even bother to seek the truth of His case.
Some people are like Herod. All they want to enjoy life’s pleasure without wanting to know the truth at all.
Pilate’s wife was superstitious woman. 
She had a dream about Lord Jesus and she wanted Pilate to stay away from him.
Some people are like her. They accepted the truth of Christ along with any other truth or philosophy.
However, this is just superficial belief that does not transform the character.
The worst group of all was the mob. They completely opposed the truth.
Similarly, some people reject the truth and try to suppress it.

Crucifixion is the cruellest death sentence ever invented.
The Roman soldiers reserved the punishment for the runaway slaves, deserting soldiers, freedom fighters and the worst criminals.
In fact, they were so skilled in controlling the amount of suffering or when the victims would die.
Lord Jesus endured the lashing by the soldiers and he was not able to carry the cross on His own.
The soldiers ordered Simon of Cyrene to carry it for Him.
At Golgotha (Place of the Skull), the soldiers stripped Him naked to heighten the shame.
They then nailed His wrists and foot on the cross.
He now had to cope with 2 sources of unendurable pain: from His hands and His legs.
Hanging on the cross caused the shoulders to feel dislocated.
He then support to place His weight on His nailed legs. Eventually the leg muscle cramped.
In addition, He had difficulty in breathing as He could inhale but was powerless to exhale.
This process was repeated over and over.
At last, Lord Jesus said the word "Tetelestai!", meaning He had paid the debt of sin in full.
As He died, the ground beneath the cross cracked and the soldier exclaimed "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Let’s imagine how Barabbas must have felt at this time.
By right, he was the one condemned to death.
Yet, Lord Jesus took his place.
In his right mind, Barabbas would not have said, "No, thanks. I would rather suffer agony on the cross."
Similarly, we are all like Barabbas as we have transgressed against the commandment of God.
We deserve death, yet He took the penalty of our sin.
Surely no one will ever reject this sacrifice of Lord Jesus.

As it was nearing Sabbath period, the soldiers had to hasten the death of the victims.
They broke the legs of the two criminals, causing massive blood loss.
However, they did not break His legs as He had already died.
The women quickly prepared for His burial in the tomb.
For some others, even after the crucifixion, the religious leaders were still worried about the issue of resurrection.
They placed soldiers to guard the tomb as they wanted to prevent the disciples from stealing the body.
However, on the third day, earthquake came and the angels came to the tomb. 
The large stone at the entrance of the tomb was rolled away and the soldiers fled.
Angels told the resurrection to the women who were about to anoint the body of Jesus.
And at last, Lord Jesus appeared to disciples.
A particular attention was on Thomas. He doubted the resurrection of Christ.
While it is easy to criticize him, we should understand from his perspective.
He was disappointed deeply when he saw the cross.
Yet, he did not want to be disappointed for the second time when he heard the rumor of resurrection.
In the end, Lord Jesus appeared to him and healed his disappointment.

The resurrection of Lord Jesus signifies the victory over death, darkness and demons.

Two disciples, one of whom is Cleopas, did not witness the resurrection of Christ.
As they went to Emmaus, they were feeling dejected and disappointed.
They had been hoping Lord Jesus to be their Messiah. In the end, He died.
The disillusioned disciples tried to make sense why their expectation of Messiah came to a tragic end.
Suddenly, Lord Jesus joined them as a stranger but they did not recognize Him.
Lord Jesus spoke with them and helped them overcome their disappointment.
Firstly, they were disappointed because they could only see the issue from human perspective, not from divine perspective.
Secondly, their own agenda determined their expectation.
Thirdly, they failed to acknowledge the resurrection.
Hence, there are important life lessons we can draw here:
First, we have to view life from God’s eyes.
Second, we have to surrender our expectation to God and exchange it with God’s plan.
Third, we we acknowledge resurrection and stake our future upon it.

Peter was a self-driven, passionate, outspoken person.
However, his relied on self too much. His passion proved a failure as he denied Lord Jesus under pressure.
As he waited for Lord Jesus in Galilee, he went back to his old occupation as a fisherman.
It was a night of fruitless toil. Yet, Lord Jesus created a miracle by giving them a large catch of fish.
He then asked Peter if he loved Him with agape love.
Yet, Peter could only love Him with phileo love
The same thing with the second question.
In the third question, the Lord asked him if he loved Him with phileo love.
Peter did.
Through these questions, Peter came to admit that his self reliance to passion is inadequate.
At this point, Peter was a broken man. Yet, Lord Jesus restored him and entrusted to him the responsibility to shepherd His sheep.
Lord Jesus was not looking for perfection. He was looking for a willing vessel thought it was a broken vessel.
For a moment, Peter was distracted and asked what would happen to John.
Yet, Lord Jesus emphasized that as he followed Him, the sheep would follow him.
Similar to Peter, we need to recognize our inadequacy and to to rely on God before we can fulfill our destiny

In the first meeting at Galilee, Lord Jesus tasked His disciples to make disciples of all nations.
He is very intense with the Great Commission, though He is relaxed about the method, depending on each one’s energy and creativity.
At the second meeting at Judea, He gave them His power through the Holy Spirit.
The presence of the Spirit in the believers’ lives proves that they are legitimate citizens of God’s kingdom and they are co-regents with the King.
With that empowerment, all believers are to be witnesses for Christ in Jerusalem (family, friends, neighbors) , Judea (country), Samaria (cross cultural, different faith and races) and to the ends of the earth.
In Great Commission, while God does not need our help to accomplish His plan, He does want us and invite us in this great enterprise.
The Lord has His eyes on the entire world. We can participate in fulfilling the Great Commission through praying for the missionaries, supporting them financially or even going for mission trip.
As  a church, we must not be too comfortable inside the 4 walls that we forget to win the lost.

Though Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, His prediction came to pass.
Roman government defiled the temple and took much money from the temple treasury.
The Jews then rebelled against Rome.
In AD 70, however, the Roman soldiers broke through the walls of Jerusalem.
Fortunately, most of His disciples had fled to Antioch.
With His prediction of fall of Jerusalem came to pass, we now notice His other predictions of war among the nations and finally His promise of the second return.

What is His second coming like?
He will physically, not figuratively, appear in the clouds accompanied by an angel’s loud voice and trumpet blast.
Those who are dead in Christ will rise first, then all believers will wear glorified body (body which never falls sick or dies).
Then, all believers will meet the Lord in the air.
We may grieve now over the death of loved ones.
However, death is just temporary separation as long as our loved ones die in Christ.

God created the world originally as a good world. No evil existed.
Due to the sin of Adam and Eve, evil came in and twisted every good God had made.
When Lord Jesus returns, He will come again in power and judgment.
He will rid the world of evil and restore the original good creation of God.
He will come as the king of the whole world.

For those who reject the grace of God in Christ Jesus, they will go to the place of eternal torment.
Hence, if you have not accepted Christ, wouldn’t you consider accepting Him?

You can purchase the book here:
https://www.theinkroom.com.sg/products/the-greatest-life-of-all-jesus-paperback-english

Posted February 12, 2017 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review, Charles R. Swindoll

Book Review XXXVI: The Holy Spirit and His Gifts

The Holy Spirit and His Gifts

 

Another great book recommended by a friend.
It is like a textbook in explaining the spiritual gifts.
Shall we begin the review?

God has given the Holy Spirit.
Our task is simply to receive Him.
We can ask for His minister to pray for us and we can immediately receive the Holy Spirit. There is no need for a waiting period.
Speaking in tongue is the evidence of the baptism if the Spirit, not the evidence of new birth.

When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are actually receiving the Person of the Holy Spirit.
It does not matter what denomination we belong to. We can all receive the baptism/Person of the Spirit.
While there is the work of the Holy Spirit when the person is born again, this is not the same as in the infilling of the Spirit in the believer’s life.
God has already given the Holy Spirit. When we pray, we should pray that people receive the Spirit (we should not pray that God gives the Spirit).
Some teach that only the apostles can pray for the infilling of the Spirit. However, the truth is that an ordinary believer can lay hands and pray for the infilling of the Spirit.

When the believers are born again, the Holy Spirit immediately dwells in them.
They are now able to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
However, only after receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit will the Holy Spirit comes in power.
They are now able to move in the gifts of the Spirit.
As the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of the believers, He becomes their Helper, Comforter and Guide in the affairs of life.

The church did not begin on the Day of Pentecost. It began when Lord Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into His disciples (John 20:22)
This is the indwelling of the Spirit in the believers.
Later on, the Spirit came upon them and filled them with power. This baptism of the Holy Spirit is evidenced through speaking in tongue.
Through infilling of the Spirit, the believers now have access to 9 gifts of the Spirit.
The power of the Spirit is now available to the believers regardless of what they feel.

Some believe we need to tarry before we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
However, the tarrying was only meant for the early disciples. They had to wait until the Day of Pentecost.
However, subsequently when the disciples prayed, the people immediately received the Holy Spirit.
Just like salvation is a gift, baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift too. The believers only need to receive it in faith.

The gift of speaking in tongue is still available for the believers today.
While the speakers may not understand the the words they say, sometimes the hearers can understand.
Speaking in tongue requires no interpretation if it is used in personal worship.
However, if it is used for public teaching, it requires interpretation.
Speaking in tongue is the door to the supernatural.
The more (less) we use this gift, the more (less) manifestation of other gifts we will experience too.

The fruit of the Spirit is for holiness and the gifts of  the Spirit is for power.
Some Christians produce much fruit of the Spirit but they have not received baptism of the Spirit. Hence, they can’t move in the power of God.
Some Christians, e.g. Corinthians Christians, have abundance of gifts of the Spirit but they are still immature in the term of virtue.

Some believers received supernatural experience or joy in addition to gift of tongue the moment they receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
However, those supernatural experience and joy are exception rather than rule.

By praying the Spirit, believers build themselves up spiritually, become continuously aware of  the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking in tongue eliminates selfishness from entering into our prayer life and keeps us holy from profane elements of the world. As  we pray in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will direct our prayer.
While we are alone, praying in  the Spirit is the best way to give thanks to God. In fact, speaking in tongue helps us control our tongue.

Some guideline to receiving the Holy Spirit:
1.The candidates must be born again.
2.The ministers should lay hands on the candidates.
3.The candidates should do the speaking while the Spirit gives the utterance.
4.The candidates must not fear of receiving the wrong spirit.
5.The candidates must not be distracted.

Apostle Paul did not want the Corinthian Christians to be ignorant.
Similarly, he would not want us today to have no or limited knowledge of the gifits of the Spirit.
Spiritual gifts will exalt Lord Jesus.
They are supernatural, not natural ability.

We can divide the gifts into 3 categories:
-The revelational gifts: word of knowledge, word of wisdom, discerning of spirits.
-The power gifts: gift of faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles.
-The utterance gifts: gift of prophecy, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues.

Word of knowledge is not natural human knowledge. Neither is it Bible knowledge.
Neither is it knowledge of God through communion with Him
Through the word of knowledge, God told John about the condition of the seven churches.
God told Ananias about Saul or Tarsus.
God told Peter that three men were looking for him.
God told Samuel regarding the location of Saul’s donkey.
God told Elijah there were 7000 people who still worshipped Him.
God told Elisha that Gehazi asked for money from Naaman.
God told Elisha about Syria’s plan of ambush.
Lord Jesus knew the Samaritan woman had 5 husbands.
Apostle Peter knew Ananias and Saphira were lying.

The gift of the word of wisdom is not wisdom in the affairs of life.
It is the revelation of the future events.
Example of word of wisdom includes:
-Noah and Lot received  warning of future judgment.
-Joseph’s dream of his future leadership
-the Old Testament prophets announcing the coming Messiah.
-Prophet Agabus warned of the coming drought.
-Apostle Paul received warning of the storm that would wreck the ship.
-Apostle John in the island of Patmos receiving revelation of the end times.
The word of wisdom can be conditional. Old Testament prophet gave warning of future judgment if the nation would not repent.

Discerning of spirits. This gift is not:
-spiritual mind reading
-psychological insight or mental penetration.
-power to discern the fault of others.
It is the gift to see into spiritual realm
-to see the evil spirits
-to see the similitudes of God
-to see the risen Christ
-to see the Holy Spirit
-to see the host of God’s armies.
-to see the spirit behind an operation.
Sometimes even though we do not have the gift of discerning of the spirits, we can sense something is wrong because it is against the word of God. In addition, the Holy Spirit inside us will prompt us too.

The gift of faith is not the same as saving faith event though saving faith is also a gift from God.
Gift of faith is the greatest among the three power  gifts. It is the faith to receive a miracle from God.
This special faith is not the ordinary faith to receive answer to prayer. While ordinary faith grows as we feed on the word of God and exercises it, this special faith is the manifestation as the Spirit wills.
This gift of faith sometimes manifests in the face of danger.
Daniel received this gift of faith when he was in the lion’s den.
In another occasion, it manifests when Christians cast out demons or raise the dead.
Moses had the gift of faith to believe he could walk without food and water 40 days and 40 nights.

A miracle is defined as the supernatural intervention by God in the ordinary course of nature. Examples of miracles in the Bible.
Samson killed a lion.
Prophet Elisha split the river Jordan.
Moses called for 10 plagues and split the Red Sea.
Lord Jesus calmed  the storm.
Lord Jesus turned water into wine.
Lord Jesus fed 5 thousands with little boy’s lunch.
We need to earnestly desire this gift of working of miracle especially in this end times.

While we thank God for doctors, gifts of healings is not about medical science.
While gifts of working of miracles are more prevalent in the Old Testament, gifts of healings are more prevalent in the New Testament.
Lord Jesus ministered healings using the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power inherent to Him as the Son of God
Gifts of healings are plural. Different diseases require different gifts.
God is the source of healings. At times, the sick person receive his/her own healing through faith in God’s word. At other times, the gifts of healings operates when a ministers lays hands on the sick person.

Gift of prophecy is equal to tongues plus interpretation of tongues.
Prophecy means to flow forth in speaking to people on God’s behalf.
In the Old Testament, the prophecy was foretelling. In the New Testament, the prophecy is forth telling.
In some occasion, the gift of prophecy manifests when Christians preach beyond their rational capability.
Many times, gifts of prophecy is manifested during corporate worship when the name of Lord Jesus is lifted up.
Christians cannot use the gifts of the Spirit as and when they like. They can only use the gifts under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
A simple gift of prophecy is for edification, exhortation and comfort. 
We can use the gift of prophecy in personal life. We can start with praying in the Spirit and continue with prophesying to pray out the plan of God in our lives.
Through the gifts of prophecy, we can sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in our personal prayer and in corporate worship. That’s how we edify the body of Christ.

Gifts of divers kinds of tongues.
It is the initial evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives.
Though the Holy Spirit used the prophets in the Old Testament, it is different measure as compared to the infilling of the Spirit under the New Testament. In the Old Testament, Lord Jesus had not yet died. Hence, the prophets did not have the recreated heart. It also means the gifts of speaking in tongues is unique to New Testament saints.
Through speaking in tongue, we can communicate with God supernaturally, magnify God and edify ourselves.
As we speak in tongue in our personal private prayer, we may pray that we are able to interpret our own tongues.
In public ministry, speaking in tongue must be accompanied with interpretation.

The gift of interpretation of tongue is the least of spiritual gifts because it depends on gift of speaking in tongues.
It is not necessary to interpret our own tongue in private prayer. However, it is better if we can do so.
God knows what we are praying when we speak in tongue. But sometimes, He wants us to know what we are praying about too.
In public ministry, there should be at most 3 people who speak in tongue in succession. These three can either interpret the tongue by themselves or can ask someone else to interpret the tongue.
The gift of interpretation of tongue is not translation of tongue.
Even though the speaking in tongue is lengthy, the interpreter will occasionally give a short message and vice versa.
A good order of gift of speaking in tongues, gift of interpretation of tongue and gift of prophecy will become a testimony even to the non-believer.

Posted November 30, 2016 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review, Kenneth E. Hagin

Book Review XXXV: Love: The Way to Victory

Love the way to victory

A book recommended by a friend.
Marvelous book! Teaches me different aspects of love!
Shall we start the summary?

Love is greater than faith, hope or any other spiritual gifts.
In heaven, spiritual gifts will cease.
In fact, the world knows we are His disciples because of our love, not our faith or hope.

Since God is love, love then abides eternally. 
God has shed His love in our hearts.
Since He has imparted His divine nature in our hearts, we are then able to produce the Spirit fruit of love.

A few characteristics of God’s love.
· It  takes no account of suffered wrong
· It is a peace maker.
· It works no ill toward neighbor and in marriage (which includes spouse having healthy sexual relation).

What is the mark of our salvation? We love fellow Christians.
Mature Christians let God’s love, instead of sinful desire, dominate them.
We as New Testament saints no longer live under the Ten Commandments.
Instead, we live under the law of love as love is the fulfilment of the 10 Commandments. 
The Holy Spirit has written the law of love on our hearts. If we walk in love, we will fulfil all 10 commandments.
What is the law of love? We are to love God and neighbors.

It is good to have faith and all the confession. However, faith can only work because of God-kind of love.
God-kind of love always asks the question, "How is my action or word going to affect others?"

In fact, we owe love to the people around us.

Love and forgiveness go hand in hand.
We need to forgive any person who has wronged us.
Forgiving others is a part of sanctification as our sinful nature tends to refuse to forgive others.
How does God forgive? When He forgives, He forgets. Therefore, we ought to forget the wrongs others have done to us.
God is able to forgive and forget because He is love. Since He has shed abroad His love in us, we are able to forgive and forget wrongs too.
Since forgiving means forgetting, forgiveness does not hold grudges, be it big or small grudges.
Unforgiveness is a hindrance to prayer. In fact, many times unforgiveness prevents people from receiving healing.

Not only do we have to forgive others, but also we have to forgive ourselves.
If we do not forgive ourselves, our heart will condemn us and we will not be able to come boldly to God.
If God forgives and forgets our sin, why can’t we forgive ourselves too?
Apostle Paul was initially known as Saul.
He persecuted the Christians.
After his conversion, he had to learn to forgive himself and forget his past sin.

Benefits of walking in love includes divine health.
In  the Old Testament, God promised divine health for those who keep His commandment. We, the New Testament saints, should be able to enjoy divine health all the more as we keep the commandment to love.
It does not mean all sicknesses are caused by unforgiveness. Also, it does not mean we should not see doctor at all when we are sick.

Love does not speak evil of others.
In fact, it is not a good idea to criticize God’s servants though they may have done wrong as we do not know what pressure they are in.
In fact, many times the sinning Christian will just come to his/her senses and return to the Lord on his/her own. 
Hence, there may not be a need to spread the news as love covers the multitude of sins.
We can make all the faith confession on healing. However, healing will not come if we do not walk in love.

Divine love can be stern at times, in the same way parents reprimanding their  children.

What do we do when we do not feel any love toward others?
We should still express the love in words and action toward them.

Not walking in love means opening the door for the devil.
We will then fall sick, not because God causes sickness, but because  the devil has access to wreak havoc our lives.
On the other hand, the moment we walk in love, we can easily cast out the devil.

We need to judge ourselves whether we walk in love in order to enjoy divine healing. 
The moment we don’t walk in love, we have to quickly repent.
Speaking of divine health, we need to approach the Holy Communion with respect too.

Not only do we love those who are close to us, but also those who curse us.
How do love the enemies? Pass them a gift, pray for them.
Praying for those who have hurt us will release the grudge and the unforgiveness in us, setting us free.
In addition, there is blessing for us when we pray for the enemies.
In the end, no one is perfect. Hence, we need to extend mercy to others too.

Posted August 11, 2016 by Jefri Yue Fei 吴岳飞 in Book Review, Kenneth E. Hagin