Thursday, 28 August 2014

Acts 13 & 14: Gospel Going Global dated 24.8.14


The author Luke wants us to learn particular things. Right up front in Luke 1, he wants us to have certainty concerning the things we have been taught. 

We reach the stage in our studies in the Book of Acts where the Gospel – the Christian News – is about to go global. Acts 10 – 12, at first glance, appears to be a diversion where Saul, who was to become the apostle Paul was converted dramatically in Ac 9 on the road to Damascus. One might expect the author of Acts to move straight from Saul’s conversion to the start of Acts 13 & the first Missionary Journey.

These 3 chapters (Acts 10 – 12) provide a detailed description of:
·         The first Gentile convert
·         The first Gentile church
·         The second Christian martyr

However, these 3 chapters are not a diversion, but rather sets out the genuine hallmarks of true Christian Mission, at the very point that the Gospel is about to go global. So that we have a barometer, a measure, a Gold standard to hold up against Christian Mission in order to see what Christian Mission really looks like, before the Gospel goes global and to the ends of the earth.

Gospel Mission (Acts 13:1-12)

It is this first Gentile church in the city of Antioch, that the Christian Gospel was first proclaimed to out & out pagans – non-Jews. Dr Luke has deliberately singled out the work in Antioch to show us how the Gospel advances across the Mediterranean & into Rome. It is a “spring board” church!

We find the church grounded by a team of Bible teachers & prophets in this great, global city (Acts 13:1).

But this church is also a visionary church (Acts 13:2).

This is how God operates. This is what Luke wants us to see: ordinary Christians from Jerusalem preached the Gospel in Antioch and God assembles & establishes people in a church. He teaches. As that church is taught, so the church develops a Gospel vision & the Gospel is driven forward. This church sends 2 of its best men on Christian Mission to advance the Gospel in the direction of Rome. All these are directed by God, he establishes the church, he shapes the church & its vision, and he enables it – this sacrificial, selfless act – all the way through.
Gospel Message (Acts 13:13-43)

Paul’s sermon breaks into 2 parts. Part 1 runs from Acts 13:17-25 & Part 2 Acts 17:26-37 & the sermon concludes in Acts 13:38, 39. 

It is extraordinarily important to note that the sermon is rooted in fulfillment (Acts 13:23-25, 27, 29, 32-33). 

The major point is that God’s promised King would rule over his people, freeing them to enjoy his blessings forever.

Part 2 of the sermon concludes with 3 direct quotes from the second half of the Old Testament – the Psalms & the Prophets. The theme again of each of these quotes is Kingship. And the point is that the Davidic King who was promised to reign, is to reign eternally. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that he is this everlasting King.

The Old Testament provides the interpretative grid for Jesus which is seen in Acts 13. It enables us to make sense of him. So the grid of this sermon is fulfillment & Luke who writes wants us to know for certain and Jesus fits like a piece of puzzle & the final piece makes sense of the whole thing.

The preaching of Paul is centered on Jesus Christ. We have the first sermon of Peter in Acts 2 & it’s all about Jesus & here we have the first recorded sermon of Paul & it’s all about Jesus - God’s universal ruler, your King & mine. We can be sure of it because he has fulfilled the promises of history. God is defined for us in Jesus, the Jesus of history.

Everyone who believes in Jesus is justified from everything from which you could not be justified or freed by the law of Moses. The law of Moses is glorious, but the law of Moses expounds the holiness of God, tells us what’s God like. As you see what’s God like, you begin to realize you just don’t measure up.

Furthermore, God is just & he insists that justice is done, he has to deal rightly with sin. And so the law of Moses traps us & is like a great weight on us – because we know how wonderful God is: he’s pure, just, holy, good, true. He hates all the things that we so often do & think. And we know that he is just and that he must punish sin. But by this man Jesus has died on the cross for sin, & risen from the grave triumphant – we can be justified, forgiven, freed from all the things we cannot be justified, forgiven, freed through the law of Moses - salvation.

The Heart of the Christian Message, the Christian offer, the Christian faith is summarized in Acts 13:38, 39.

Those who scoff at God will certainly perish which is a word of judgment. (Acts 13:40,41).

Gospel Advance (Acts 13: 44 – 14:7)

As the Gospel starts to spread out from Israel & to the ends of the earth, Luke wants us to be certain of the content of Christian preaching but also to see the way in which this Gospel advances.

 How the Gospel advances:
  • In the context of hostile opposition. The Jews were motivated by jealousy because of the vast crowd & they appear to use 3 methods to oppose Paul & Barnabas:
      • Verbal abuse
      • Political manipulation
      •  Physical force 
     Myth 1 You can’t have Gospel advance without opposition. Jesus didn’t. The early church didn’t. We wouldn’t.     
  • Through the means of persistent & vigorous proclamation. You can’t have Gospel advance without verbal declaration of the Gospel. Myth 2 The idea that the Gospel can advance without somebody speaking it.
  • Through the deepest possible persuasion or conviction. Myth 3 that you can have forgiveness of sins yourself without embracing the reality that this forgiveness of sins in Jesus is for everybody. The fulfillment of the Gospel means the Gospel must now be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. Those who now come to Christ are part of his work of making Christ known – this light for the world (Acts 13:47).

Gospel Encounters (Acts 14:8 - 20)

Luke wants us to get hold of is that as the Gospel advances, frequently it will do so in the face of pagan superstition.

In the full-fledged form of paganism, the world is made up of what appears to be random, unpredictable events. Men & women, partly out of fear, partly due to ignorance, wanting some sort of order, some sort of meaning, some sort of control for their own benefit seek to manipulate the gods to show favour, who they understand to be very distant & capricious. Therefore, the gods need to be kept happy by making several different sacrifices.

Christians also may secretly have a pagan view of God - capricious, not good, moody - good one minute, bad the next – seeking to similarly manipulate him. Good news of the Christian Gospel liberates us from pagan superstition.

What Paul does is to proclaim to the crowd the application of the Gospel. They already heard the Gospel (Acts 14:6-8). 3 simple points that Paul makes:
  • There is a living God: God incarnate & resurrection proof;
  • The living God is all powerful Ac 14:15 resurrection demonstrated he’s above & beyond the law of nature he created;
  • The all powerful living God is good Ac 14:16 He is good, kind, generous and not far away with you having to please him with your sacrifice to get him in a good mood.

Gospel Product (Acts 14:19 - 28)

The result of Christian preaching is the establishing of Christian church as a community of men & women gathered together, not buildings or institutions. These are centers of light & truth proclaiming Gospel to those around.

The center of Christian churches – the teaching of Jesus Christ.

The word ‘plant’ is never used in relation to church. The seed of God’s Word is planted and the church is built (by teaching, strengthening, visits, re-visits).

Paul & Barnabas taught the believers (giving them the means to instruct one another from the scriptures), they appointed elders (within their own congregations, not from outside), they trusted God (no meddling) (Acts 14:22,23). There was no centralizing manager seeking to control, control, control.

Paul was not interested in getting you to the starting line. Paul had his eye on the finish – strengthened in the faith: secure, mature, solid Christian disciples.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Testimony of Donna Qiu Hai Zheng dated 17.8.14

Donna Chiu was a former popular singer of the 80’s from Taiwan.  She got into professional singing by chance.  She used to be active in sport and her dream was to be an Olympian, so she got herself very much involved in athletics. Each time there was a sport celebration, her team mates will ask her to sing.  A sport journalist happed to know the famous Taiwanese singer Liu Wen Zheng, so she was introduced to him.  That was where she started singing professionally.  She was a sport woman, and was not “polished” as an entertainer, so Liu sent her to a modelling school.  On her first day at this school, the trainer thought she was a food delivery woman!  Because she looked dark and though! 
She came from a strict family and her father objected to her singing career.  He never ever attend any of her concerts, in fact when she appeared on TV, her father will take leave and will not watch her show.  One day, her father was afflicted with lung cancer, her family was devastated but they agreed not to let him know that he had 3 to 6 months to live.  Every day, Donna drove him for his radio therapy treatment.  She asked her father why he did not want to watch her TV shows or attend her concerts.  Her father told her, he was afraid she will make mistakes and embarrass herself.  Her father also urged her to get married because she was the only child still single then.  Knowing her dad has not much time to live, she immediately called her boyfriend, ( they had known each other since school days )to proposed.  That took about 30 seconds and the marriage proposal was done!
Finally she and her boyfriend got married, and her father was proud of her and her achievements.  As he held her hands and walked along the wedding hall towards the front she realised each step she took nearer to marriage, she was losing a “step” of her dad. 
Few months later, her dad passed on while she was attending an award night in her honour.  Earlier she had called her family that she will be late going home as she had to attend this award night.  Later she received a call from her husband that her dad has passed away.  She was devastated.  She cried at the venue and outside the street, she could not care that she had her heavy make-up and stage gown on.  From than one she decided to quit the entertainment profession.  She studied and got her Masters in Sport management and taught at the local university.
After she quitted she decided to have a baby.  Her son came and she was enjoying being just a normal wife with a husband and kid.  She had put on weight after delivering her son.  When she went around people criticised her weight and she was angry about that.  She received comment like “See her thigh it is as big as an elephant leg!”.
Her conversion
Around 2009 she and her son went to the US for a holiday.  Father’s Day was around the corner, and she decided to call him to wish him “Happy Father’s Day”.  On Skype her husband asked her whether she knew where he had gone to that day, she answered that she did not know.  Her husband said he had gone to church that day.  Donna almost failed off her chair because she thought that was ridiculous!  His father was the Managing Director of a temple, and his son attended a church?  Unbelievable!  Anywhere, he shared that he was very touched by a son of about 22 years old hugging his father of 70s and both saying that they loved each other.  Knowing Chinese culture, it was not easy for them to express their love for each other openly.  Her husband shared he just wanted that kind of love expressions.  He also promised to bring Donna and their son to this church when they came back to Taiwan.
Two days after they returned to Taiwan, they all went to church on Sunday.  As Donna approached the main door of the church she could see people playing various instruments and singing.  Immediately she was critical of their playing, as the bass was not correct, the drumming was out of beat, and the singing was out of tune etc.  One person welcomed her saying, “Jesus loves you!” and she was irritated by it.  The usher led her to the front row, but she said she wanted to sit at the side because she did not want people to recognize her as the former famous singer.
As the service was in progress, a Mandarin hymn was sung and she began to weep.  She did not understand why she wept, but as she listened to the hymn and weeping she could feel her burdens on the shoulders lifting and became lighter and lighter.  She continued to weep through-out the service.  The pastor saw her weeping and he asked whether she was ready to accept Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour, than she looked at her husband who nodded his head meaning yes. She turned to the pastor and said “yes”.  The Pastor led her whole family through the sinners’ prayer.  The following month her whole family was baptised.  That was in 2010.
They began to serve in the church music ministry since she had professional experiences in singing.  After a while, the person in charged asked her to be in charge of music and worship.  She reluctantly accepted.  Later she discovered she was using her own talent and efforts and not turning to God in the ministry.  She took a two months sabbatical to search and pray.
Her pastors suggested that she use her singing talent to sing Gospel songs and that she should consider recording an album of Gospel songs.  On second thought she was thinking to herself, “This means I have to be on stage and people will see that I am so fat !” .  She told the pastor she will pray about this.  In her morning devotion and prayers, she prayed and bargained with God, “If you help me to lose 20 KG s I will cut a Gospel album and perform” but there was no answer from God.  She prayed, how about losing 10 KG s? Still no answer, how about 5 KG s, still no answer!  One day she was praying, and God told her that “No matter how you look, I love you”, God said “ Do you love you son unconditionally?.  She said “Yes”.  God said “I love you the way you are”.  That struck her and she started recording her first Gospel album.  Her pastor suggested that she should become a Gospel singing evangelist, and without hesitation she took up this challenge knowing it was God’s call on her life.  Beside she was not getting any younger and she wanted to maximize her time here for the Lord.  Since becoming a singing evangelist, she has ministered in Taiwan, USA, Italy, Singapore and Malaysia. 
This time around, she came with her 15 years old son Philip.  Both Donna and Philip presented a few worship songs in FBC on Sunday.
Praise God that when Donna made an altar call in Church on Sunday, six people came forward to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, Hallelujah, all Gory to God!
Note:    You can watch Donna’s testimony in Mandarin on You tube at this link:
 (press control and click on your key board to go to You tube direct )

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Continuing Witness of the Church by Ho King Swee dated 10.8.14

This sermon is based on Acts 11:19-30 and Acts 12:1-25
1. The witness in Antioch 11:19-30
2. The persecution in Jerusalem 12:1-25
1.  The witness in Antioch 11:19-30
  a. Many believed in Antioch. 11:19-21
  b. Barnabas sent to Antioch. 11:22-24
  c. Barnabas brought Saul to Antioch. 11:25-26
  d. Famine relief was sent to Jerusalem. 11:27-30
2. The persecution in Jerusalem 12:1-25
  a. Herod killed James and imprisoned Peter 12:1-4
  b. Peter was freed from prison 12:5-19
                i) The work of the angel 12:5-11
                ii) Peter's report to Mary's house 12:12-17
                iii) The unsuccessful search for Peter 12:18-19
  c. Herod died 12:20-24
  d. Barnabas and Paul returned to Jerusalem. 12:25
Jewish Rulers over Galilee & Northern Territories
1. King Herod the Great, King over all Israel (37-4 BC) – killed male babies in attempt to kill Jesus
2. Herod Antipas, "Tetrarch“ (4 BC-AD 39)
   - responsible for the arrest and death of John the Baptist , trial of Jesus
3. Herod Agrippa I  (37-44; by AD 41, King over all Palestine) –killed James, an angel of the Lord struck him and he was eaten by worms and died
4. Herod Agrippa II (48-70) – Paul appeared before him & governor Festus
Jewish Rulers & Roman Prefects over Judea and Samaria
Pontius Pilate (26-36)
  – involved in trial of Jesus with Herod Antipas
2. M Antonius Felix (52-59) – when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea he has an initial hearing before Felix (Acts 23:23--24:27; 25:14)
3. Porcius Festus (59-61) –Paul appeared before him and King Agrippa (Acts 24:27; 25:1-27; 26:24-32)
Jewish Rulers & Roman Prefects over Judea and Samaria
Pontius Pilate (26-36)
  – involved in trial of Jesus with Herod Antipas
2. M Antonius Felix (52-59) – when Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea he has an initial hearing before Felix (Acts 23:23--24:27; 25:14)
3. Porcius Festus (59-61) –Paul appeared before him and King Agrippa (Acts 24:27; 25:1-27; 26:24-32)
Jesus said “you shall be my witnesses (martyr) …” Acts 1:8
In Acts 7, Stephen became the first NT martyr
Now in Acts 12, James became the first martyred apostle of Jesus.
Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
Luke 19: 45: And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
46 saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' but you have made it a den of robbers."
God received James back to Him
Rescued Peter And Removed Herod
 Nobody can stop the word of God
 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.
Are we God’s house of prayer?
How much do we desire God’s presence with us?
Are we passionate for our heavenly Father?