Whats Been Happening

I noticed that it has been almost a month since I last posted. I have been away in Arizona, USA visiting my son’s family for a month. We had a great time with his family, especially quality time with our grandchildren, who we missed greatly for two years. However, this joy was soured by a strange debilitating back pain that my wife suffered from. She is currently making a recovery from this after a few weeks in the hospital – glory to God and the prayers of church members and many pastor friends. God willing, I will write a blogpost about my vacation in Tucson, and about this medical emergency and God’s timely intervention. May his name be glorified always through our lives, both in joy or in suffering.

I have been in and out of hospital these several weeks, caring for my wife, as well as taking on the care of her older brother. It’s been tiring, challenging and frustrating at times but most times the grace and strength of God kept me going day by day. Sometimes anxious, sometimes full of faith, sometimes blur. The Bible readings during this period fell on Isaiah 40 to 55 and there were so many verses that spoke to my heart, encouraged me and my wife, and gave us faith and hope. The word of God feeds our soul with faith, hope and love. The rhema word helps me move from meditation into prayer seamlessly, and always lifts me up when I set my heart on his promises. The word is strengthening and in this trial I find myself on my knees with the open Bible and asking God to open my eyes and ears to his word.

I am learning how tough caregiving can be. I am now an admirer of all the church members who had to give care to their elderly or/and sickly parents, spouse or siblings. I salute them wholeheartedly with great respect. Now I experience for myself how much grace and strength and patience is needed to do this well. How we need to do it as though to the Lord himself. So much to learn. For one I have taken a day off ever so often to rest completely from caregiving and turn my attention to life-giving and life-lifting activities to attend to my needs. Can be as simple as cycling to Jurong Lake and having a picnic with myself. Take a walk at night with my camera and take pictures. Or having a leisurely breakfast at my favourite coffee and hawker fare. Or do chores and physical labour at home. Or idle and chill. Or learn to draw.

It is also a time I can focus on prayer and the word and some ideas for future books. I began to write out possible outlines for books on the subjects like: A to Z of Receiving God’s Word; the A to Z of Communicating God’s Word, A to Z of God’s Promises. Good ideas but I will see how these ideas develop. In the meantime, I have yet to edit and refine my first draft of the first book: A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work. Hmmm….need to do all these on my knees. Really need to pray for God’s enabling help.

Right now my concern is with some commitments I have made to lead a retreat, and to preach in my home church and other churches. WhatsApp a prayer to God for me in my endeavours and in my continued learning to be a caregiver.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Zion

This final portion of an e-book that I am writing has been a long time coming. With this final deposit, I have completed the first draft of my e-book titled: “A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I will need to edit and refine and knit them all together before publishing the book. 

Z could easily be “zest” or better still “zeal” both of which are certainly fruits of the finished work of Jesus Christ. However, what appeals to me more is “Zion”. 

No, we do not mean “Zionism” which is defined by Collins English Dictionary as “a political movement for the establishment and support of a national homeland for Jews in Palestine, now concerned chiefly with the development of the modern state of Israel”.

I am talking about Zion, a geographical location, an emotive symbol and spiritually significant motif. In the Old Testament, we first hear of Zion as the fortress of the Jebusites that David conquered and made into his capital, Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-7). Zion came to be synonymous with the city of Jerusalem, and and its inhabitants. Later, through its association with the Temple it took on spiritual significance as God’s dwelling place on earth with his people. During Israel’s captivity in Babylon, it became the pivot of their hope. Isaiah 65:17-19 states: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress”.

There will be a new Jerusalem at the heart the new creation at the end of this age. This is confirmed in Revelation 21: 1-3 where Isaiah’s vision will be finally fulfilled. “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God”. This end of the age fulfilment could not have come apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead. This is the final purpose and ultimate vision of the Holy Trinity: to dwell with his beloved children in new Jerusalem, in eternal Zion.

The writer of Hebrews talks about Zion as “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). It is the eternal city “for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come”(Heb 13:14). The writer sees Zion as a city in the afterlife, a physical reality, and part of the new heaven and new earth that God will create. 

Interestingly the writer also refers to Mount Zion as a existing spiritual reality too. His purpose was to dissuade Jewish converts to Christ from backsliding into Judaism because of the persecution and pressure they encountered. So in Hebrews 12:18-24 he compared the old and new covenant, the Mount Sinai and Mount Zion experience. On Mount Sinai what they experienced were tangible, terrifying and threatening so much so that even Moses feared for his life. 

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb 12:22-24)

The new covenant Mount Zion experience would be totally different because of the mediator Jesus Christ. Note that “you have come” is in present perfect tense, which refers to a past action that has continued into the present. While Revelations sees Mount Zion as a future hope, the writer of Hebrews present another dimension, the here and now, which followers of Christ have entered into.

Through Christ’s blood which speaks the better word of forgiveness rather than the blood of Abel crying out for revenge, we who are followers of Christ, have come to Mount Zion where God dwells. We are in fellowship with God the Judge, and Jesus the Mediator, and with angels though we do not see them, and with the universal church (including past Old Testament believers that are described as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect”). The writer of Hebrews is saying that under the new covenant, all followers of Christ are experiencing a foretaste of the new Jerusalem of Revelations 21. This is Mount Zion. There is much mystery here in this spiritual reality that we cannot fully grasp this side of eternity. But thankful we should be. Made possible by Christ’s finished work.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Yes and Amen

The death and resurrection of Christ was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament. Alfred Edersheim found 456 Old Testament verses referring to the Messiah. J. Barton Payne found 574 verses describing Jesus’ coming. Conservatively Jesus coming fulfilled at least 300 prophecies about him. God keeps his promises. He is faithful. This is proven in Christ.

No wonder then that the apostle Paul could write to the Corinth church: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Since the death and resurrection of Christ confirmed, manifested, and established God’s faithfulness in keeping the promises he made in the past, we can be doubly assured that he will keep all other promises he made for our present and future. All the many promises of God are “Yes”, are guaranteed, are 100% foolproof, and we should be agreeing and rejoicing with a resounding, heartfelt “Amen!” This is indeed a great blessing springing forth from the finished work of Christ.

This means that all the promises from the lips of our dear Master about prayer, about the Holy Spirit, the abundant life, our resurrection to life, the end of this age, about our eternal home will be fulfilled because God has already proven that he keeps his promises. What a great bonus it is that by believing God’s promises, we can live our life by faith. We can enjoy peace, joy and join God in his fulfilling mission. No matter what trials, difficulties and challenges life throws at us we are up to them because God promises to us are “Yes” in Christ. To this we shout from the rooftops, “Amen!!”

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: X Factor

Everyone has heard of the popular X Factor programme created by Simon Cowell, where contestants with musical talents compete with each other to win over judges and TV audience who vote. The winner is the one with the x factor (an outstanding special talent or quality) and receives the prize of a record contract. 

I believe “x factor” was involved in the confrontation between the Jewish religious council and Peter and John in the wake of a remarkable healing of a man lame from birth (Acts 4). The council questioned the authority of Peter and John to perform that miracle. In their answer, Peter and John pointed out that it was not they, but Jesus, whom the leaders had crucified, that had healed the lame man. The council observed and noticed the poise, power and boldness of Peter and John. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 ESV) The disciples resembled Jesus. They had lived with Jesus 24/7 for about three years and had observed and imbibed his teachings, absorbed his spirit, and imitated his actions. This was the “x factor” that stunned the religious council.

Today, through Christ’s death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit in our hearts, Christ lives in us. His presence, power and purpose permeate our being from one degree of glory to another. We are being transformed into his likeness and image by the Spirit who dwells in us. “And we all with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.“ (2 Cor 3:18 ESV) 

As we live our daily life keeping ourselves connected to him, dependent on him, open to receiving notifications from him, and communicating with and responding to him at any time of the day, we will become more and more like Jesus. It is the work of God within our soul. Ours is to abide, to stay, to remain in communion with Christ. His part is to transform and change us into his likeness. All this is made possible because of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the Spirit upon us followers. Thanks be to God!

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Worship

I remember that in the days of paper dictionaries the word before and after “worship” is “worse” and “worst” respectively. Worship keeps the “worse” from getting to “worst”!

Worship of God under the old era was a tedious, costly and bloody affair. The sheep, goat or bull had to be taken to the priests for checks. Those who cannot afford can offer doves instead. Once they pass muster, they will be sacrificed and the best parts were burnt as an offering to God to atone for one’s sins. The innocent life of animal sacrifices paid for and covered the sins of the worshipper.

Under Christ’s new era, we do not worship in order to attain peace with or right standing before God through animal sacrifices. Instead, because of the finished work of Jesus in his ultimate and final sacrifice of his life, right standing and peace with God has been achieved for us who put our faith in him. Instead our worship is a grateful response to the finished work of Christ that secured our salvation. 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy (Christ’s finished work), to offer your bodies (instead of animal sacrifices) as a living sacrifice (instead of dead animal sacrifices), holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV– my comments bracketed)

True and proper worship springs from Christ’s death and resurrection. It is never to gain acceptance or favour before God, but a grateful thankfulness that Christ has already obtained, earned, and deserved these gifts for us. It is not mainly singing songs of praise to God and thanking him in prayer which is one of many expressions of gratitude to God. In essence, worship has to do with fully surrendering our whole lives to God. We do not strive to worship; we surrender to worship. We separate our lives from all sins and devote our whole selves (all that we are and have) to living for his praise and glory. When I live to do God’s will whether it be studying, serving National Service, working in the marketplace, raising a family, or serving among God’s people, I am a true worshipper.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23,24 NIV). When the good news of Jesus’ finished work is preached and people respond in faith to the message, they are born again by the Holy Spirit, and will be able to worship in the Holy Spirit as they ponder over the wonderful truths of salvation. Without the finished work of Christ, there is no true worship!

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