Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of my professors made a very interesting comment, that if the book of 2 Timothy were to be written today, no Christian publisher would dare publish it. This is because it is a letter filled with painful ministry experiences by Paul, an apostle of Christ whose ministry on earth was now winding up, to Timothy, his spiritual son. Paul was very frank that “in the last days difficult times will come” (3:1). He reminded Timothy of the various persecutions he endured at various places he went to preach the Gospel, and still urged the young man to follow suit in his footsteps despite the perils that lay ahead (3:10, 11).
This was Paul’s last known letter, and at the time of writing, he was in his second and last Roman imprisonment (1:16; 2:9) having been arrested for preaching the Gospel and with no hope of release; he even made reference to his impending execution because of the Gospel he preached (4:1). Further, people close to him had deserted him in these last days. He stated that “all who are in Asia turned away from me” (1:15), “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me” (4:10), and that “at my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me” (4:16).
In these last days he was also very poor and suffered great need. He even urged Timothy to hurry to visit him before winter (4:21) because among other things he expected him to bring his coat that he had left in Troas (4:13) to cover himself during the winter cold. He was so poor he couldn’t afford even a second hand one. And it is because of such predicaments that even Timothy himself, his spiritual son whom he sought to hand over the mantle to, was tempted to be ashamed of the Gospel; hence Paul had to urge him that, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner” (1:8).
It is indeed ironic that during the last days of Paul’s ministry, a period which people evaluate success in ministry by the number of people and resources one has accumulated, Paul was deserted by all and was quite broke. So surely, who would dare publish such a book; a book that contrasted the norm by stating that in ministry, you will be abandoned by virtually all those close to you, you will be persecuted and imprisoned for your faith, you will be very poor and suffer need, and that your ministry will eventually wind up with your execution.
But this was more than a testimony of Paul, it was a testimony of God; of the transforming work that He had done in Paul's life, such that Paul even confessed that, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). When he measured up every form of worldly gain against Christ, he counted all as worthless for the sake of gaining Christ. He confirmed that:
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
Paul’s testimony was simple, ministry for him was not about how he could personally gain from serving Christ, but rather how he was prepared to lose everything for the sake of serving Christ, and now even more that he was about to lose his life. True, no man would have dared publish this material by Paul, but interesting to ponder is the fact that God Himself got him published in His eternal canon.
So, with God being the eternal Editor of our lives, what story would you seek Him to publish concerning your life, one that is filled with pursuit of God for personal gain, or one that is filled with pursuit of God at the expense of personal gain?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lost and found

Much as I confess to be saved, the Bible and conviction in my heart always reminds me that I, and all mankind actually deserve hell! Think about it, all of us are actually in hell, until Christ by His saving mercy through His shed blood on the cross and resurrection victory plucks us out of the pit with the revelation of the true Gospel as it is accurately proclaimed by His witnesses.
So what a dilemma if we reject the Gospel as millions have! The Bible itself confirms that “How shall we escape (judgment) if we neglect so great a salvation…?” (Hebrews 2:3; c.f. Hebrews 12:25). The destination is nowhere else but hell, an eternal abode made for the devil and his fallen angels (demons) (2 Peter 2:4), but doubtless one that he will share with those of mankind that are unrepentant.
But the most interesting and miraculous thing to ponder, such that cannot be described with words, is that when Satan and his angels rebelled and sinned against God, they were not offered an opportunity to repent and be forgiven; such an idea wasn’t even floated in heaven! But oh! When man, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), rebelled and sinned against God, not only was such an opportunity to repent and be forgiven presented to Him by God, but the Bible reveals to us that such an opportunity was made possible for mankind even before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8)! Surely such a display of love is beyond imagination and human description!
It is even more miraculous and unfathomable when we think of what it took to save mankind… that Jesus Himself, the Second Person of the Godhead and Holy Trinity, humbled Himself and took the form of mankind, human flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14), and endured death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8), that He may redeem those who have faith in Him (Romans 3:28)!
And even more to think about, throughout history for a time spanning 1,500 years He used about 40 writers to pen and compile 66 books totaling over three-quarter million words into what is now called the Bible, a compilation that has been attested by historians as undeniably genuine and accurate and matchless in preservation in all of literary history. And He did all this just to ensure that through its pages, we would always find irrefutable substance of the things we had hoped for (promise of eternal life with Him), and overwhelming evidence of the things we had not seen (His progressive redemptive plan throughout history) (Hebrews 11:1).
So surely… how can we deny so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3)?

We call you “Lord! Lord!”, but “we” know You not,
Coz we strive with the Potter, yet we’re a broken pot,
You made hell for the devil, but in sin we asked for a spot,
Coz You are our Maker, but your image in us we distort,

All our blind ways lead us, to where the fire is hot,
Coz our false wisdom guides us, to fatal paths of the lost,
In our futile pursuits, we only gather worthless worldly rot,
Coz only You bear the treasures, that carry eternal worth,

So forgive us our sin, we confess and repent our fault,
Coz we believe for our sin, you paid the eternal cost,
With the price of Your shed blood, our salvation you bought,
Coz with everlasting love, You found sheep that were lost!

Count your own buttons first

When I went to church on Sunday, I got a most extraordinary but yet the simplest of insights of what Christ once taught, not from the direct preaching of the pastor, but rather from what he wore.
As is normal with many pastors when they preach, they often move around the pulpit and sometimes draw within inches of their audience. This was the case today. As the pastor preached, he slowly advanced towards his listeners such that he was at arm’s length from those in the front row.
This was an unusual Sunday for me as I usually occupied the corner seat in the last row every Sunday. But today I sat on the third row from the front because I had arrived quite early and gave in to the usher’s beckoning to occupy and fill the front rows first. And now, during the preaching, I was so close to the pastor that I could pick out every detail of his attire. Suddenly, one particular item caught my attention – one of the buttons on his coat was broken…
I thought, “Oh my! This is Sunday! Everybody’s here, including visitors! Furthermore, he is video recording the message! Surely with all his array of pleasant attires to choose from, he could have done better, couldn’t he?” I was in disbelief.
But as the service went on the pastor quoted a certain Scripture, so I had to bow my head to follow the reference in my Bible. Then suddenly, once again, something else caught my attention, but this time twice as much! As I bowed my head, I realized that my shirt was missing a button… But this wasn’t the fact that struck me. I fully knew I had been missing a button. What hit me was the fact that I had reprimanded my pastor for just a broken button, yet I was missing an entire one. Even worse, I had worn the same shirt in the same condition the previous Sunday when I attended another church.
I was concerned about the pastor’s broken button oblivious to the fact that I had a bigger problem, I lacked an entire one. I was quick to spot his fault because I was quicker at forgetting my own unattended one. My sinful conscious was so numb that I had not only momentarily forgotten I was missing a button, but that I had repeatedly worn the shirt knowingly, and yet criticized someone for just a broken button.
This reminded me of a section in the classic Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:3-5, where Christ cautioned His listeners about judging others, He said,
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Notice the term Christ uses to describe such a person, He plainly calls him a “hypocrite”! So today, besides the sermon the pastor preached, I learned that I should be careful to count my own missing buttons first, before I ever think about subtracting fractions from other people’s broken ones. I suggest you do the same, lest Christ calls you names….