Thursday, 26 June 2014

Acts 8: Moving Out & Unstoppable dated 22.6.14


Becoming a Christian - the ordinariness of the means and the spectacular nature of the end:

  • Forgiveness of sins;
  • Rescue from the wrath to come;
  • Hope of Resurrection from the dead;
  • Restoration (set back in order);
  • Place in the New Creation;
  • Eternal Glory.

By Acts 8, there is murder, persecution, prison, arrest & weeping and that whole happy church is scattering in fear and disaster. Throughout Judea & Samaria, they were running for their lives. Those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip goes off to Samaria and we get an account of what God does through him in Samaria and then we find him on the desert road a little later on.
This is not an accident that things are moving outwards. God is in control as marked out by these special interventions. For since the exclusion from the Garden of Eden, and scattering in Genesis – all God’s salvation activity has been towards a geographical centre – Jerusalem as the Bible accounts become clearer. And the central place in Jerusalem where God’s glory is revealed, where God’s name is known, is the temple.
The Old Testament story heads inwards to a particular geographical point where God has established his person. It’s a big surprise to find things moving outwards.

2 things going on at this point:

  • The good news about Jesus is going out from Jerusalem, beyond the boundaries of the regular people of Israel, and
  • Through the speech of non-apostles

Often we think that maybe God works there, but not here. Then, but not now. There, but not here. God had made a promise in Acts 1:8 that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea & Samaria & to the ends of the earth. By Acs 9:31, we can tick off nearly everywhere what God had promised from the list.
From nothing special about here & now, in fact, from horrors and disaster, God has crossed boundaries and massively multiplied his church.

Moving Out

The Samaritans are the descendants of the Northern 10 tribes of Israel. They are compromised, they are into magic & demons. They are not good & they are not Jewish. There has been centuries of wall building to keep Samaritans out of the temple of Israel.
Ezekiel 37: God tells the prophet to find 2 sticks – to write Judah on one, Ephraim (another word for the 10 tribes with their capital in Samaria) on the other.  God says to join the 2 sticks into one stick in his hand & say: I will make one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel with one King who shall be king over them all. No longer 2 nations, no longer divided into 2 kingdoms.
1  Persecution leads to preaching (Ac 8:1-4)
As the church scatters, they don’t lose the confidence that Stephen has. So they don’t keep quiet. Persecution leads to preaching and because Jesus is King & the Word is the active agent & the next bit of God’s plan comes true. We tick off the Samaritan! But it’s God’s plan not theirs.
There’s no promise that God will always fulfil my plans. It is mistaken thinking that God will always do what I want. We don’t know what God will do, we don’t know what his plans are, we pray & God can do anything. There’s no doubt that God will build his church.
2  Preaching leads to belief (Ac 8:5-13)
All of the evangelism so far has been by the apostles. Philip is just a deacon who is on the run for his life but he preaches Christ and the Samaritans believed.
  • 2 deacons to 2 cities: both speak powerfully & backed up with miracles – one city angry & murders the deacon; the other city is joyful & believes in Jesus. Who would expect the angry city to be Jerusalem & the joyful city to be Samaria
  • Acts 8:9 Simon the magician: Samaritans are into magic which is a big deal in first century lives and it will be a big thing outside of Palestine in the Book of Acts. Simon claims to be the power of God that is called Great. Luke contrasts by using same phrase:
    • Acts 8:11 Used to pay attention to Simon, now pays attention to Philip.
    • Acts 8:12 Simon amazed them with magic, now Simon amazed by Philip’s signs & great power (works of power).
    • Acts 8:9 Simon says he himself is somebody great but Philip acts & speaks for Jesus & says Jesus is somebody great: his kingdom and his name.
Philip is the real thing & he offers the hated, nearly Gentile Samaritans a place in the kingdom of God. The one king has come & his name is Jesus. The split that has lasted almost a thousand years is over. The promise that has been running since Ezek 37 & Ac 1:8 comes true.
God is powerful. God uses persecution & preaching to bring a thousand year split to an end. The Samaritans are Christians.
3  Apostles prevent an Internal Threat (Ac 8:14-18)
The first threat is that we would end up with 2 churches instead of one Israel.
The Jews & the Samaritans, they might easily have thought they are better off in separate churches. But God thought otherwise. He even delayed the Spirit’s arrival until the leadership of the one church could be there to welcome them all in altogether.
This exceptional event belongs in the new age of the Spirit. It’s after Acts 2 when everybody who repents and believes in the Gospel will receive the Holy Spirit from that moment.
The apostles go, they pray, they lay their hands and they are present to witness Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit. And God has done what he promised. The nation of Israel is complete again, the walls have come tumbling down as Jesus replaces the old temple.
Luke’s point here is also to say there’s no reason whatsoever, if God brings that wall tumbling down, to go building any more walls of our own. Then we can keep working to welcome everybody who truly repents and believes into fellowship with us.
The second threat is all about Simon the magician. Luke presents him as a different kind of threat.
The threat to the church here is that the Samaritan kind of church will be like the Samaritan past history: infected with magic, mixed in with the religious practices of the other nations & religions around them.
4  Not Samaritan costly magic but the free gift of God (Ac 8:19-25)
Simon combines the threat we have before, about money corrupting church, with a threat we haven’t had before of magic, distorting the church, or an interest in power distorting the church.
The association between money & the church, between powerful people & the church, is one that is there right through history as a huge distorting, disrupting threat to the Gospel going out.
A warning for those whose hearts find a similar desire to be thought great and powerful, or made rich.
There is a call not to let any church have anything to do with a Simon style ministry which is a destruction of the gift of God.

Excluded and Excluders

The Ethiopian eunuch lacks 2 important things:
He knows nothing about God’s Rescuer (Acts 8:28-33)
This man has been to Jerusalem, and he’s been to the temple in Jerusalem, to the place where knowledge of God is supposed to be had, he’s come to a place where there has been plenty of opportunity to hear about the death & resurrection of Jesus, and yet he is on his way home, completely ignorant of the significance and what the Scripture he’s reading means (Isaiah 53:4-8). It must be because the truth has been suppressed there rather than being broadcast (Acts 4:17, 5:40, 7:57, 58).
He lacks joy in God’s presence (Acts 8:34-40)
Normally that would have given him full access to the temple. But he’s a eunuch – which would almost certainly have meant full access was denied to him (Deuteronomy 23:1).
And yet the Old Testament is very encouraging for people like this. Isaiah is looking forward to what God will do in the future (Isaiah 56:3-5).
Where is it that this man receives joy?
Joy in God’s presence not at the temple, but on his way home in the desert (Acts 8:39). It’s not the visit to the middle that brings him to God, it’s the Gospel on the way home that brings him to God. The temple is no longer the place of revelation about God; It’s no longer at the centre of God’s plan.

Temple Lessons
1  Idolatry of Institutions
We organize, we plan, we put structures in place to serve the goal. When the institution gets in the way of the goal, it’s the beginning of the end. We stop doing things that serve the goals and start doing things that serve the institution.
It’s the goal that’s the critical thing with the Gospel. The message of Jesus going to the world is the big thing.
As the body of Christ, we need to focus on building people of faith and not sight. We do things with the Gospel by faith and not sight. Will we keep the Gospel going out as of primary importance?
That is not an encouragement to be irresponsible.
2  Little words by little people
Once upon a time, to know God, you had to come to a place. Now all you have to do is to hear some words – you can hear any way, any time, from anyone. Nobody’s excluded, not even foreign eunuchs. An extraordinary thing is that just by hearing mere words about Jesus, any old way, any old time, you can be ushered into access to God, full on – eternal access and the hope of glory to come. Little words spoken by little people can do that.
Here’s an excluded man on the outside who suddenly and unexpectedly realizes with joy that there’s nothing to stop him from being on the inside: if the people of God starts excluding, it shows they have a defective understanding of the Gospel of Jesus.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Ministry Training College (MTC) dated 15.6.14

One of our church’s missions is to reach out to equip our people to reach out to others, and the setting up of MTC is to accomplish this goal. Since its conception, we had enlisted the help of Pastor Ben Wong.
The MTC is soon to be officially launched, and Pastor Ben had sent Pastor Vivian and Sister Chan Yin Yan to help to finalise the details.  They had been here for a few days meeting with our leadership.
We thank Pastor Ben, Pastor Vivian and Sister Chan for all their help.
 Sharing by Pastor Vivian
Pastor Vivian shared that she was honoured to be at our church to help us with MTC.  She has been a believer for 40 years, and in active ministry for 20 years.  She is full time pastor as well as principal of a Bible school in Hong Kong. 100 percents for both ministries.
She shared that nowadays many youths in Hong Kong are lost, they do not know what they are doing, what they are going to do, they do not know the reality of work etc.
The MTC in Hong Kong is made up of 100 churches coming together to form it. It has been 25 years since the MTC started, and they have trained more than a thousand students. They are not many Bible schools in Hong Kong. 
There are too many needs in their society. Jesus not only cared about the full time workers but also the ordinary people. There it is important to train ordinary people to spread the Gospel.
The duration of the training at MTC is one year.  There is no  academic requirements, everyone is welcome to join the school. They have students, professionals, business people, mothers, fathers, and even older people above 50 years old. In 18 years MTC had sent out more than 150 long term missionaries to various countries.  One youth of 20 years old served in Turkey, and now he had served 3 years.
Pastor Vivian shared that as a pastor and teacher she just wanted to reach out to the needy in Hong Kong.  She also mentored others to go out to serve and show love to the unfortunate and destitute.  She related a story about a woman whom she mentored for more than 10 years now.  This woman was a well to do business woman and she was kind of proud of her achievement. After Pastor shared with her about 10 years ago she came to Christ.  Pastor brought her to share in the streets of Hong Kong but she was very uncomfortable at first, but Pastor Vivian did not give up on her.  She was with this Sister at least 2 to 3 days a week going out to share with others the love of Christ.  After about a decade this Sister’s work is street evangelism, and basically to go out to love others like Jesus love us.
Sharing by Sister Chan Yin Yan
Sister Chan is a full time worker of 18 years.  Her work at the MTC is to help to disciple others and lead them to Jesus.  There are all sort of people joining MTC and she as a teacher is responsible for the students.  Sister Chan shared of a student whose profession is as a bus driver.  He was already 50 years old when he joined the school.  Nevertheless, he was a keen learner and his life was changed when he came to Christ.  Sister Chan observed that he had some kind of struggles, for one he could not relate with his wife or children, and he did not know how to show them love.  From Sis. Chan’s guidance of bus drive Chan Kwok Kheong she realized that he had an extra marital affair.  As he came to Christ and learnt of Jesus’ teaching he wanted to give up on the other woman. He finally managed to get out of this relationship.  He seeks the forgiveness of his wife and that was accepted.  Now he is reconciled with his wife and children, and they are happy.  Following this episode, Kwok Kheong’s wife was diagnosed with cancer.  Kwok Kheong lovingly took care of her, and had been with her to the hospital.  Praise God, she recovered after sometimes!  Than Kwok Kheong persuaded his wife to join MTC which she did.
From the sharing by Pastor Vivian and Sister Chan, we can see that MTC is a practical Bible school.  It is not only learning biblical principles and theories only, but going out to take action.  Only those with experiences of participating in missions, can teach people about missions.
It has to be love in action.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Peter Truong Healing Ministry dated 8.6.14

Peter Truong Healing Ministry dated 8.6.14
Pastor Peter Truong is an international evangelist from Hope Church, Brisbane, Australia.  Peter and his wife Ruth specialize in healing.  This is not the first time here for Peter, but for Ruth this is her first time in Kuching.
Pastor Peter ministered to our church about two years ago.  During his time here he also ministered in churches in Kuching.
You can read more about him and his ministry at this link :
Worship and healing session
8th June (Sunday) 2014 was devoted to worship as well as healing service.  Pastor Peter shared some Words and devoted his and his wife’s time to prayers, worship as well as healing. The format he adopted of worship cum healing had been effective.  The congregation felt spiritually connected and felt the presence of God as worship went on at the same time prayers for healing took place.
Pastor Peter encouraged the members of our church to pray for members or visitors who needed healing.  This is because he believes all Christians are empowered to heal.  He humbly noted that he is only one of the instruments.
Videos of healing
Pastor Peter presented two video testimonies of healing.  Cynthia Tang healed and able to walk,  and Veronica’s cyst disappeared after prayers.  You can watch some of these videos on his website in the above link.
Words for the congregation
Before Pastor Peter share the Word, he and his wife went around to the congregation and shared words of discernment and knowledge on individuals.  These had been very encouraging to our congregation and members who have been prayed for.
Church members’ testimonies
Pastor Peter interviewed several members who have received healing.
Sister Sarah
Sister Sarah had undergone brain surgery several years ago.  As a result her right ear when deaf.  Jist three weeks ago she when for a medical check-up and the doctor confirmed the state of her deafness on the right ear.  On Thursday night during a Life Group ministry time, Sister Sarah had been prayed by Pastor Peter to heal her condition.  Praise God after the prayer, her right could hear!  She had been healed.  This testimony was shared on Sunday morning.  God is good!  Amen.

Brother Roland and his grandson
Bro. Roland’s grandson of about 4 years had suffered from acute stomach pain for several weeks, and he had been admitted to the local hospital three times, and yet his condition persisted.  He could not eat or drink, the most he could drink a spoonful and that caused pain too.  On Wednesday night, Bro. Roland was led by the Holy Spirit to bring his grandson for prayers.  On one point, Pastor Peter felt something in his stomack, and he called for those with stomach ailment to come up front for prayers. Bro. Roland brought his grandson upfront for prayers.  Members of our church prayed for him.  On Sunday morning, Bro. Roland testified, that on Wednesday night after they went home from the prayer service, his grandson ate 2 pieces of banana, where as previously he could not eat at all!  He has been healed!  Praise God!  The following day he could eat chicken rice and pizza!  Hallelujah! Priae God!  Bro. Roland said after his recovery, his grandson started to praise God with his brother by shouting, “Hallelujah!”.
Thank God for all the miraculous healings.
Reading of the Words
The following were read together with the congregation:
Matthew 8:14-15
Mark 5:27-30
Mark 6:5
Mark 7:33-35
Luke 13:10-13
Matthew 9:28-31
Healing and worship session
Pastor Peter and Sister Ruth led the congregation in worship, and prayers before the healing prayers started.  The worship music with appropriate songs were sang, One of which was “He touched me”. It was a powerful and engaging song.  Those who needed healing came up front of the sanctuary.  Pastor Peter directed 5 members of the congregation to pray for an individual.  Sisters pray for sister, brothers for brother.  The healing touch of God moved powerfully amongst the congregation, some were slain by the Holy Spirit and lay on the floor, some weep. Many were healed in the worship and prayer session.  As the congregation participated in the singing, individuals were prayed over ny members of our church and some by Pastor Peter and Sister Ruth.
Sharing testimonies
Before the service ended on Sunday morning, several brothers and sisters shared their testimonies.  In view of the limited space here, one is highlighted here:
 Testimony of Sister Molly
Sis. Molly had been prayed by Pastor Peter when he visited two years ago.  She was paralysed due to spinal damage and laying flat on the bed at her house where Pastor Peter prayed for her.  At that time doctors confirmed she was paralysed from the neck downwards.  However, she was pregnant than and doctors had advised her to abort the child. She refused as she trusted God to deliver her baby although doctor said she will not be able to feel the contractions of child birth.  She and her church prayed for her, and praise God she delivered a healthy baby girl who is now about 2 and half years old!  She came to the Sunday service as prove of God’s miracle.  Next, she was able to sit on a wheel chair, where prior to her recovery she was not able to sit.  Next, movement slowly came to her right leg, and she could move it freely.  This was demonstrated for the congregation in church.  Pastor Peter had a word of knowledge for Sis. Molly, he envisioned her complete healing in due time.  Pastor Peter encouraged all to pray for her.  Hallelujah!  Praise God for healing her!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Acts 6:8 - 8:3 - Stephen’s Martyrdom (A True witness of Jesus ) by Ho King Swee dated 1.6.14

This sermon is based on Acts 6:8 – 8:3 and it is under three outlines below:

1. The setting of false accusation against Stephen ( 6:8 – 7:1 )
2. The Sermon of Stephen (7:2—7:53)
3. The Stoning of Stephen (7:54—8:3)

1. The setting of false accusation against Stephen

1.1 Stephen was full of grace and power, doing great wonders and signs among the people (6:8)
1.2 Hellenistic Jews could not withstand Stephen’s wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke (6:9)
1.3 The false accusations against Stephen (6:11-14)
-          speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God (Acts 6:11 )
-          speaking against the holy place or the temple and the law (Acts 6:12-13)
-          saying that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place (temple), and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us  (Acts 6:14)

      -          Leviticus 24:16
      -          Act 6:15 – Stephen’s face like that of an angel

How shall Stephen defend his case – he should know the Torah and prophets very well to counter the Sanhedrin.

Stephen quoted from 8 passages:
1.            Acts 7:3                Gen. 12:1 
2.            Acts 7:7                Gen. 15:14 
3.            Acts 7:26-28        Exo. 2:13-14 
4.            Acts 7:32-34        Exo. 3:5-10 
5.            Acts 7:37              Deu. 18:15 
6.            Acts 7:40              Exo. 32:1 
7.            Acts 7:42              Amos 5:25 
8.            Acts 7:49-50        Isa. 66:1-2 

2. The Sermon of Stephen

2.1   Stephen gave glory and honor to God in his defense by reviewing the Jewish history of  God’s dealings in the lives of Abraham, Joseph, Moses
  “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham,…” (7:2)

2.2 Stephen stressed the facts that it was the early fathers who rejected God’s chosen leaders and prophets

(a) The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph sold him to Egypt but God was with him (7:9)
(b) God sent Moses but our fathers refused to obey him (7:35-40)
(c) The people made a calf and worshipped the idol (7:41-42
(d) Stephen was careful to give due honor to Moses as God’s chosen deliverer and God indeed gave the law through him

2.3 Tabernacle and the Temple

(a)    God did ordained the tabernacle and the temple (7:44-48)
(b)   Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses/temple made with hands (7:49-50, Isa.66:1-2)

2.4 Stephen indicted the Sanhedrin who, like their fathers,
(c)    * were stiff necked
(d)   *were uncircumcised in heart and ears
(e)   *always resisted the Holy Spirit
(f)      and now murdered the Righteous One (Jesus) (7:51-52).
(g)    Stephen thus declared Jesus as the Messiah.

2.5  Stephen indicted them of disobeying the Law
“you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." (7:53)
Stephen again proclaimed the Son of man (Jesus) as the Messiah
and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." (7:56)

3. The stoning of Stephen

The Sanhedrin now had 2 choices
  1. To repent that they had wrongly killed the Messiah, Lord Jesus whom God had sent, or
  2.  To kill Stephen because he indicted them   of their sin against God
  3. The big contrast:
-Sanhedrin and the crowd were full of anger and murder & out of control
-Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit & in control

3.1 Stephen was still fully focused on Jesus
Act 7:55 – Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit.

3.2 Stephen died following the Lord’s example
-He was falsely accused and unjustly killed
- He entrusted his spirit to the Lord
-He asked the Lord not to hold the sin against those who stoned him
Act 7:59 – 60

3.3   Stephen’s martyrdom gave rise to persecution and spread of gospel beyond Jerusalem

Act 8:1-3

What happened to Saul after he met Jesus at the road to Damascus?
Has Stephen’s life and martyrdom impacted him?
Why did God use Stephen mightily?

  1. He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit (6:5, 10, 7:55)-- full of grace and power (6:8) and wisdom (6:10) He knew the Word of God & God
  2. He feared no men
  3. He feared and loved God even unto the death  
Jesus said “you shall be my witnesses (martyr) …” Acts 1:8 
Stephen was indeed a true witness (martyr) of Jesus. 
Stephen died because of Jesus 
Stephen lived a short life but he lived for Christ 
What is worth for us to die for? 
What is worth for us to live for? 
Are we true witnesses (martyr) of Jesus?