Two Essential Responses in the Christian Life

I just want to share a very interesting note written on Mark 3:13 (the calling of the 12 apostles of Christ), from the Life Application Study Bible. Here it is (verbatim):

What does it mean to hear the “call” of God?

First, God calls you to faith in Jesus. You will know this call by the growing desire in your heart to settle the matter of peace with God speedily. Respond to him–answer with a grateful, “Yes, Lord, I need you!”

Second, God calls you to service in Jesus’ name. Wherever you are (and sometimes you need to move), whatever you’re doing (and sometimes you need to upgrade your skills), God has a place of service for you. Jesus calls  you and he wants you. Answer this call thoughtfully, seriously, in consultation with other Christians, saying, “Yes, Lord, I love you and will follow you!”

Remember these 2 essential responses, and I am sure, God would bestow his grace and blessing continually and abundantly, with unspeakable joy, everlasting.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Charles Spurgeon’s Commitment to Personal Education

If there’s anyone I would recommend for the best example regarding this matter, it’s no other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon–the long gone Prince of Preacher [1]. Although he had committed himself to be a full-time Christian minister, he is technically a layman who never actually attended formal seminary education. However, his quality and performance and commitment equaled, if not surpassed, his fellow ministers and biblical/theological scholars of his day, including from other disciplines. Not only that he studied the Bible, but also science, history, literature and astronomy. Some intriguing facts about him are that he not only had a personal library of the above subjects as well as religious books up to 12,000 volume and completed reading three to five books per week (from other reference, six). Listen to what his brother said:

“He never did anything else but study. I kept rabbits, chickens, and pigs, and a horse; he kept to books. While I was busy here and there, meddling with anything and everything that a boy could touch, he kept to books, and could not be kept away from study…. He made such progress in his studies that I am sure there were few young men that were his equals and I do not know any that were his superiors.”

Friends, you don’t actually need to enter an educational institution to excel in your studies. I’m not saying that you must not go to school or university, but to pursue an education requires, most essentially, a personal commitment.

So would you make a commitment to your personal education, dear eager young minds and wise grown-ups? Fellow students? Seminarians? Church members? Learn from Spurgeon, whose influence still lasts until today and you too, can match his qualities to influence, but NOT before taking his agenda on studying.[2]

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[1] All of this facts about Spurgeon are taken from Larry J. Michael, Spurgeon on Leadership: Key Insights for Christian Leaders from the Prince of Preachers (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010).

[2] I strongly recommend Christian ministers or preachers, also church activists to read Spurgeon’s writings and sermons, especially his Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), and y’all would be amazed by the wealth of his wisdom.

Everyone changes, except…?

I was reading the one year version of Our Daily Bread 2012 and I came across this beautiful verse in the Holy Bible:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

Quickly, I remember other similar verses regarding the same attribute applied, written somewhere else:

For I the Lord do not change. – Malachi 3:6a (ESV)

I AM who I AM. – Exodus 3:14

This is a very beautiful truth about the character of God in which we can place our deepest trust on our Lord Jesus Christ, simply because He does not change. God simply is. Remember the first sentence in the Bible, “In the beginning, God…”

He does not need any cause or any creator for Himself, because simply He is. Similarly, Jesus Christ, in whom we place our trust upon our salvation, is God himself who died for sins and was raised in the third day of his death, giving us the victory over death–not just physical, but spiritual. Therefore, we need not worry. Man may change, but neither God, nor Jesus.

Would you turn away from you sins today and place your trust completely upon Jesus Christ?

Do You Have Everything?

A man named Asaph surely gives us the best answer to this question:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalms 73:25-26 (NASB)

It is truly amazing, yet astonishing response because this came out from  the mouth of a suffering Christian who is lacking, compared to his non-Christian friends or foes. How then, could he possibly uttered those beautiful and seemingly impossible words? He said, “Until I came to the sanctuary (holy place) of God (Psalms 73:17).”

Have you, brothers and sisters, came into God’s holy place? This Asaph’s only solution in the midst of his suffering. Don’t you want to have everything–that although you lack everything (earthly), but still have everything (heavenly)–like Asaph? Or can you utter these similar words of King David, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple (Psalms 27:4).”

N. B. Read carefully Psalm 73 and you will understand better on what context Asaph was writing his thoughts; the same goes with David in Psalms 27.

Back in business!! plus something to think about, folks..

It has become a public secret that everyone has their own new year’s resolution, but everyone at some point would stumble, and usually in the first or second month. I did. My last writing was way back in Jan 30th and then continued on today May 25th. Man oh man.. Good on y’all who continued on and pressed on from the moment you started writing. My example is a bad one, and please don’t try this (at home?)…

There is one blog written by a very admirable pastor who I met way back in 2010. His name is Mr. Antonius Steven Un who is serving at the Reformed Evangelical Church in Indonesia (see antoniusstevenun.blogspot.com). His style of writing, which I interpret is the twitter style–that is also updated everyday, is the one which triggered me yesterday when I discovered that in Facebook. I thank God for him whose impact is touching many souls in Indonesia, and I prayed that through his writings that challenges me to write as well would be used by God to touch others.

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I want to start writing with this quite random idea or issue that is not so random anymore. I took one book from my sister’s shelf yesterday entitled Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias [1], and when I saw the back cover there’s this short intro:

Throughout his career, Ravi Zacharias has faced some of the most difficult questions ever asked about the Christian faith. The most troublesome question of all, however came from a Hindu friend. “If this conversion is truly supernatural, ” he asked, “why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians that I know?”

I skimmed and read through quite a lot of apologetic (from the Greek word, apologia, means a defense–of Christian faith) books during the past few weeks, and I came across one chapter of a book written by the famous William Lane Craig [2] called “The Ultimate Apologetic”. He claimed that “this apologetic will help you to win more persons to Christ than all the other arguments in your apologetic arsenal put together,” and “the ultimate apologetic is–your life.”

So, I want to ask you now, can you answer the question of that Hindu friend of Zacharias? Think about it..?

(hint: Matthew 22:35-40)

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[1] Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007.

[2] Reasonable Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.

Be a Revolutionary

“Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you.” – Luke 6:27

I believe that this is one of the most preached and popular verses (or passages–Luke 6:27-38). Most of us also have read and understood it (very well). After all, it is not so difficult to absorb the full meaning and its implications. But does the frequency of it being preached and read (or understood) is indicated by our actions and conducts?

Pay close attention to this story:

A graduate student named Jack asked God for a ministry in one summer. He contacted several organizations but found no openings. Finally he had to take any job available. He ended up driving a public transportation bus in Chicago. A street gang rode his bus everyday without paying and made threats against him.

One day they dragged him off the bus and beat him unconscious. In the hospital, Jack was bitter toward them and God. “Lord,” he complained, “I prayed for a ministry and all You gave me was this lousy job and a beating!”

Jack pressed charges, and the gang members were arrested and found guilty. But during the trial, God began replacing Jack’s bitterness with compassion and love. When the judge pronounced the sentence, Jack asked for permission to serve their combined jail time. Stunned, the judge said, “There’s no precedent for this!”

Jack replied, “Yes, there is.” He explained that Jesus died on the cross for a guilty world. Jack’s request was denied, but he began visiting the young men in jail and saw most of them come to Christ.

People who can love their enemies are revolutionaries, just like Jesus. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions (or sins or trespasses) from us (Psalms 103:12). While we were still weak, still sinners, and enemies (of God) we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son (Romans 5:6, 8, 10).

Jesus asked us to do the same and follow His example. It is not beyond our capacity to love our enemies, if we realized that we were once enemies to God, but have received the greatest love in the world. It is challenging, indeed, but I believe, if we humble our hearts and pray, “God, I need Thy grace everyday, to love our enemies, and to follow your examples”, it would be revolutionary. Remember, to love a friend is natural, but to love an enemy is Christ-like.

And [Stephen] falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” – Acts 7:60

This devotional is adapted from Our Daily Bread, 2012 Annual Gift Edition, written by Joanie Yoder.

31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012

This came from a very interesting and edifying article in Newsweek, but then I add some comments and simplify the content a little bit:

1. Play words with friends (you know, iphone or android apps: scrabble)

2. Eat tumeric (not too much :p)

3. Take tae kwon do, dance or play squash (in other words, get active!!)

4. Get news from Al Jazeera (http://www.aljazeera.com/)

5. Toss your smartphone (this is almost impossible for this modern era of technology, but according to the writer, this would disrupt your focus and sap your productivity)

6. Sleep a lot (again almost impossible for most people who are extremely busy, or maybe for some who finds the word “discipline” out of their imagination)

7. Download the TED app (or see the website http://www.ted.com/)

8. Go to a literary festival (book festivals or sales, and then buy some!! the writer suggests to read Tom Stoppard and Jennifer Egan)

9. Build a memory palace (quick recall: associate the thing you want to remember with a vivid image; also read Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything)

10. Learn a language (by mastering a second language, or probably a third, fourth, and so on)

11. Eat dark chocolate (which contain flavonoids; may also add red wine in the menu)

12. Join a knitting circle (this is probable more suitable for women)

13. Wipe the smile off your face (I don’t quite get this, but the writer said that it makes you more skeptical and analytic in your thinking according to experiments)

14. Play violent videogames (yeah, this sounds a bit off, but the writer argues that it quickens reactions, improve multitasking, and reduce hostile feelings after a stressful task; but still this has many side effects which I think is very negative. Maybe you could try RPG, strategy, or other tactical games)

15. Follow these people on twitter (@nouriel, @JadAbumrad, @colsonwhitehead)

16. Eat yogurt (not only this is good for your digestive system due to probiotics, this is good for the brain, at least, had shown promising results in mice)

17. Install Supermemo (http://www.supermemo.com/index.htm; too bad this only available for windows, not mac)

18. See a Shakespeare play (or maybe read his writings)

19. Refine your thinking (for details, refer to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow)

20. Hydrate (drink lots of water)

21. Check out iTunes U (this is one of my favorite suggestions, because there are thousands of brilliant resources that you can find there)

22. Visit moma (what the writer meant was to visit art galleries or viewing them which can reduce stress or letting you focus on something that really matters, but again, this may not be applicable for some)

23. Play an instrument (this is also one of my favorites, and based on my own experience, music can nourish our souls; however, according to the article, it boosts your IQ and increases the activity in parts of the brain controlling memory and coordination)

24. Write by hand (this is once again, makes people lazy in the age of laptops and computers and tablets, but this is true that it engages more sections of the brain, giving extra brain boost and memory)

25. The Pomodoro Technique (this is a time-management method to make you more productive by taking a short break every 25 min of any task going on, as this aid mental agility)

26. Zone out (by letting your mind wander and imagine things; this increases your ability to work on important big picture thinking)

27. Drink coffee (several studies show that drinking coffee may reduce the likelihood of depression, and bolster short-term memory; for people who enjoy gyming, the caffeine would be good for your muscles)

28. Delay gratification (the writer used an example of a child who resists a marshmallow turned out to score higher in SAT than others who don’t; basically this means that we have to acquire self-control towards our desires on something, although this may seem very difficult)

29. Become an expert (in something like chess or other activities you enjoy doing as this may cause your brain to perform more efficiently, but again, practice makes perfect)

30. Write reviews online (on anything such as in amazon, ebay or any online shops or blogs, online articles, etc.; this helps you to better understand your own thinking)

31. Get out of town (this excites many people and myself, as travelling gives us a time off to relax our body and mind and soul; also try to look for places of natural scenery and wonders. I’ve tried this before with my friends, and this is just like music, satisfies our soul and sweetens our eyes)

Do you want to get smart?

These are the suggestions of Jason Lee and Ian Yarett, interviewed by Adam Auriemma, obtained from Newsweek Magazine (January 9 & 16, 2012). Please refer to this for a more complete assessment on the topic.