Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jesus Unites Us: Why Prayer Meeting is Very Important? (Acts 1:12-14)

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers
(Acts 1:12-14,

Lord Jesus ascended to heaven (1:9) from the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. After the angels told the apostles that He would surely come again, they returned to Jerusalem, about 5/8 mile or about 1 kilometre (my NIV note) away. They stayed there as Jesus had commanded (1:4) and spent the days in “constant prayer” in an upper room. I noticed that Jesus’ disciples had a habit of praying together. This was part of Jesus’ legacy to them. Remember when they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1)? Jesus examples of constant prayer had influenced His disciples all over the world. Prayer is a wonderful privilege and every true Christian should seek the Lord’s face in prayer every day.

If you count how many of the apostles left after Jesus’ ascension, you’ll find out that there is one person missing – Judas Iscariot. He wants his own agenda and political version of messiah, thus rejected Jesus as the Suffering Messiah. He also loved money rather than Jesus, fall into temptation by listening to Satan’s lies and sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. When Judas realised what he had done, he didn’t repent but went out and killed himself. Both Peter and Judas denied Jesus. But as for Peter, he quickly repented of his sins and was restored with the apostles and become their leader again. Others who were praying in the upper room were “the women” who had loved and followed Jesus faithfully. One of them was “Mary the mother of Jesus,” and with her were “his brothers” [Jesus’ step-brothers, refer to Mark 6:3 for their names]. These brothers did not believe in Jesus at first (John 7:5) but after His death and resurrection, they realized that He was truly the Son of God, the Saviour of the World.

Now, imagine this with me: imagine the different kind of people gathered in the upper room (Close your eyes first, and imagine). Let me just select few of them here – Peter was very impulsive and acted cowardly, but after this he became bold and courageous; James was selfish, conceited, vengeful and fiery, but after that he became committed apostle for Christ and courageous even to the point of death; John was like his brother, James, very judgmental and power-craze but after that he became bold, loving and compassionate; Thomas was so doubtful and inquisitive but then he became courageous and faithful to the end; Simon was a Zealot, which means he was very patriotic and loyal to the nation but he became a changed man, passionate and sacrificial in his service for Christ; Judas (or Jude) and James, the brothers of Jesus, were very sceptical of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God soon became leaders of Jerusalem church and both authored the Epistle of James and Epistle of Jude; among “the women” was Mary Magdalene, who has been identified as a sinful women (perhaps a prostitute) and was possessed from seven demons, now became a faithful follower of Jesus and being listed as having a leadership role among the women.

All of them “joined together constantly in prayer” (1:14). This is very encouraging to me – and I hope to you too. Their Lord and Master is one, Jesus; their common faith and love is one, Jesus; their uniting power is one, Jesus. Even though we come from difference sets of background, gender, race, ideology and status like Jesus’ disciples – in Christ – we are one. Praying together (or prayer meeting we called it today), have the power to unite us together. As we pray, we wait for God to act among us. Oh yes!


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus' Ascension: Between Heavenly and Earthly Visions (Acts 1:9-11)

It was not long afterwards that [Lord Jesus] rose into the sky and disappeared into a cloud, leaving them staring after him. As they were straining their eyes for another glimpse, suddenly two white-robed men were standing there among them, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has gone away to heaven, and some day, just as he went, he will return!’”
(Acts 1:9-11, The Living Bible)

In John 1:14 we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men. In John 16:28 Jesus said that He had “came from the Father into the world and will leave the world and return to the Father.” Jesus came a long journey into this world to do His Father’s will. Here Jesus is going back to heaven, to His Father. Jesus loves His Father and we know that the Father loves His Son. This love exchange should make us very glad because indeed, God is love!

The apostles were so surprised that they stood there staring in amazement up into heaven. So two angels (two white-robed men, no doubt were angels) appeared to them and told them plainly that this very same Jesus would come back again in the same way as He had gone into heaven. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (NIV). What can we understand from this passage? I want to quote John R. Stott commentary in The Message of Acts (1990) here:

First, Jesus will come again. “He has gone, and they must let him go; he will return in his own good time, in the same way… There will be important differences between his going and his coming. Although his coming will be personal, it will not be private like his ascension. Only the eleven apostles saw him go, but when he comes ‘every eyes will see him.’ Instead of returning alone (as when he went). Millions of holy ones – both human and angelic – will form his retinue. And in place of a localized coming (‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’), it will be ‘like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other’” (page 50).

Secondly, the angles implied, until Jesus comes again, the apostles must get on with their witness, for that was their mandate. “There was something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into the sky when they had been commissioned to go to the end of the earth. It was the earth not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven which had received Jesus, but outwards in compassion to a lost world which needed him… First, Jesus returned to heaven (Ascension). Secondly, the Holy Spirit came (Pentecost). Thirdly, the church goes out to witness (Mission). Fourthly, Jesus will come back (Parousia)” (page 51).

Obviously for us today, we must remember these 2 important truths: #1 Heavenly vision: Our hope is sure! Jesus is alive and He will come back again to unite us to have fellowship with the loving Father.  And #2 Earthly vision: Between Jesus’ going and coming, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must go into the world for Jesus! Amen.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Simple Book Review: The Art of Thinking Clearly

The Art of Thinking Clearly (2013) by Rolf Dobelli

First of all, I wants to say that I’ve been reading this book on and off about 6 month’s period. This book is very interesting and also very informative that I can’t simple read all of it in one sitting without really processing on what I’ve just read for days. The author shows how we are all guilty of cognitive biases (or assumptions or illusions or errors) we make in our thinking and decision-making processes in personal relationships and social interactives everyday of our lives. In writing this book, Dobelli wishes that “If we could learn to recognize and evade the biggest errors in thinking – in our private lives, at work, or in government – we might experience a leap in prosperity. We need no extra cunning, no new ideas, no unnecessary gadgets, no frantic hyperactivity – all we need is less irrationality.” We are prone to make mistakes because humanly speaking: #1 we paid off more on activity than reflection, #2 our brains are designed to reproduce rather than search for the truth, and #3 we often make decisions intuitively, even if they lack of logic, rather than rational reasoning.

There are major events in my life where I have to think critically, reasonably and rationally because of the possible consequences are large (i.e. important personal decisions, God’s calling in my life), and there are times – most of the time – when I minimize my rationalizations and let my intuition take over (i.e. Ron95 or Ron97, mineral or drinking water). Since major decision-makings are important [obviously!] it is good for me to minimize or avoid tripping on cognitive errors as explained in this book. “Eliminate all errors,” explained Dobelli, “and better thinking will follow.” In other words, eliminate or minimize our thinking errors, clear thinking will take over.

Since I reading this book, I recognized many fallacies in how we (I, particularly) think and make decisions. For example, we always try to solve a particular problem by linking it to our own areas of expertise where they don’t belong (“deformation professionelle” bias), or we tend to follow others in term of fashion, trends, hobbies and diets without even thinking about it because conformity is attractive (“social proof” bias), or we bought a 70% discount t-shirt impulsively because it was only five days last chance offer (“fear of regret” bias), or we make reckless decision because we supposed majority consensus is the best thing even though we might disagree with it or don’t want to be ‘troublemaker’ in the team (“groupthink” bias), and more. There are 99 biases explained briefly but sufficiently in this book. I recommend this book wholeheartedly, especially to thinkers out there.

[There are many biases, errors, and assumptions in Christian cultures today too that we need to have clear thinking, discernment from the Holy Spirit and uncluttered theology of the Scripture in order to identify truth and false, principle and assumption, orthodox and tradition]


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