Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
In this passage, Jesus did not say: 'Come, all the pastors.' We often believe that carrying cross, as well as suffering, is the duty of pastors. But what about us? It's good enough to just be an ordinary believer. But the words of Jesus were spoken to you as well.
Do you want to follow the Lord? Do you want to receive an abundant life from the Lord? Do you want to receive peace and joy from the Lord? The path that the Lord went is a path of the cross. Everyone who follows the Lord must walk on the path of the cross. The path of the cross is not necessarily the path of suffering, but it is a path of obedience and sacrifice. In other words, we are willingly to live for the Lord not ourselves. We want the joy of the Lord not ours. Not to follow our ways, but the Lord's way. Not to highly regard us, but to love the Lord more.
After Jesus' resurrection, Peter and other apostles went back to their job as fishmen. When Jesus showed Himself to them, Peter recognized the Lord. He immediately jumped into the water out of shame. After their breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" What are the "these" Jesus mentioned? Was it a net? Was the failure of Peter's three times denial of the Lord? Or was it Peter's life? Because Jesus had clearly told him how Peter would sacrifice himself for the Lord, not matter what, the Lord reminded him again that the path he was traveling is the path of the cross. Do not live for our own desire, but for the Lord.
The Lord will ask you the same question, "Do you love me more than these?" What are "these" for you? Your dream, career, family, money, estate? Or your past emotional wounds? Are you willing to give up your rights of feeling sorrow for yourself? Give up your rights to control your own life? Or give up your rights to be rich? Are you willing to give yourself up for the Lord, running for the Lord? Brothers and sisters, never be afraid of walking down the path of the cross. This path starts narrow, but it can really lead us to the road of peace and life. May God give us more strength!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you walked the path of the cross for us first. May your spirit raise us again to walk down your path everyday so that your will for our lives can be fulfilled. Prayer and thanks in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter,"Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
There's a big difference between these verses and the previous verses. Previously, Peter received God's revelation and spoke out this great revelation: "You are Christ, the Son of the living God." But here, after he heard that Jesus would be persecuted, out of a good will he immediately wanted to help. He never imagined that he would be rebuked on the spot. Indeed, Peter was serving God with his worldly life. He didn't understand at all that he was in a serious spiritual battle. He didn't understand at all what was going on. He neither knew when the spirit of God would touch him to speak out such a great testimony, nor did he know when Satan would use him to block God's work.
Today, Christians are often like Peter of that time. We don't understand the concept of spiritual battle. Neither did we understand how God's spirit work in us. Moreover, we don't understand how Satan entices us in our daily lives so that we keep losing our battles. Because we are not keen to the work of the Holy Spirit in a battle, nor to the principle of spiritual battles, we often fall into our enemies' trap.
At gatherings, sometimes while God's spirit is working, our enemies are flying likes birds, trying to snatch the work done by God's spirit. That happens when one is in a gathering, but has the spirit of complain. No matter what God's words are spoken at the lectern, we are still filled with bitter complains inside. The spirit of complain pushes those good seeds that God has sow out of the door. We often have serious spiritual battles in our hearts. May the Spirit of God lead us to rejoice everyday, and to overcome our circumstance.
We often allow our circumstance to affect our spirit and our daily emotions. After we understand the truthfulness of spiritual battle, we realize that we need to come back to God, to rely on Him once again. Rely not on our own flesh, but the help of the Holy Spirit. May God shine upon us so that we will be victorious in our daily spiritual battles by Jesus Christ. May God's Spirit teach us to understand God's will, not people's will. May the Spirit of the Lord be our strength!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you. We are free because of your Spirit. Shine on us so that we can see whether it is a man's will or your will. May the Lord help us to choose your will and your way every day. May we overcome the temptation of the world with power of the Holy Spirit. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied,"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
The status of Jesus is very important. When He was on earth, people acknowledged Him differently. Some said that He was the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Or He was Elijah. Or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets that had been prophesied in the Old Testament. But those saying, feelings, and seeings can not be used to truly understand God. We need to receive God's revelation to truly understand the status of Jesus: the son of God.
As such, Jesus asked His disciples, "What do you say I am?" Thank God, His spirit touched Simon Peter. If not for the touch of holy spirit, no one would have acknowledged that Jesus is the Lord. No matter how smart men are, base on their own knowledge, no one can know Jesus in flesh, knowledge, or wisdom. Simon Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Christ means "the one that is anointed", the one who was prophesied in the Old Testament, and the coming Messiah. He is no only the saviour of Jews but also the saviour of all people. He is not only a man, but also son of God. This is the revelation from God.
After Jesus heard this, He clearly told Peter, "Peter... on this rock I will build my church" "Rock" was not a reference to Peter, but a reference to the sentence that was spoken by Peter, who was touched by the Holy Spirit, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Indeed, from the beginning, the foundation of the church was not an organization of men, nor doctrines by men, but by Jesus Christ. When the church is built on this foundation, the Lord promised, "gates of Hades will not overcome it. ...whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Hallelujah! When we become His church in Christ, we will have the same authority. Let's praise God for this blessing!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you, because you are the Christ, Son of the living God. Because churches are built on this foundation, we have the authority over Hades, death, and sins. Release us from all the authorities of darkness and wickedness so that we may experience your joy of freedom. I thank you and I pray in the glorious name of Jesus, amen!
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?" Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Jesus and His disciples seemed to be on two different subjects: disciples were worried about their physical needs, while Jesus was teaching them about the spiritual thing. This time the disciples forgot to take bread and were having some discussion among themselves. They probably accused one another being responsible for having no bread, or they probably tried to catch some fish. In the midst of their discussions, out of nowhere Jesus said "Be careful. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
What is yeast? Yeast is a fungus for fermentation. As long as there is yeast in flour, fermentation will happen. Yeast can have both good and bad implication. Good implication refers that the kingdom of God is like yeast in flour, meaning that it will spread. Bad implication refers to the traditions and laws of the Pharisees. The Pharisees do not believe in Jesus and hold on to their own traditions. This spirit of unbelief will spread. The spirit of the Pharisees causes people to live by sight, not by faith. But the will of God is the opposite. The Lord wants us to live by faith, not by sight. Therefore the Lord is reminding the disciples to be on guard against the spirit of unbelief.
The Lord reminded them: why argue because of no bread? Have you forgotten I have used five loaves to feed five thousands and seven loaves to feed four thousands? And not only there were enough to feed the people, but there were leftovers! It is difficult to imagine that the disciple would argue because of no bread after witnessing all these miracles. But in reality, this is the nature of man - we are weak.
Regardless how many miracles we have experienced, we always face new challenges and obstacles. We need new faith and new strength as we face new challenge. May the Lord help us not to be like the Pharisees, who do nothing but hold on to traditions. May the spirit of God help us to keep moving forward in faith, for the Lord is with us and will add strength to us. Let us trust Him!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, I thank you, for You reminds us to be on guard against the spirit of unbelief. Even though we have experienced many grace from You, but as we face difficulties in life, we pray that You would strengthen our faith to continue to trust in You. And Lord You will open a way for us in the midst of our difficulties. I thank you and I pray all these in the might name of Jesus, Amen!
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away.
The Pharisees came frequently to Jesus with the wrong motivation, which is to test Jesus and find fault with Him. The real reason that they came before Jesus and asked for sign is to test Jesus. This is similar to once they brought a man with a shriveled hand to Jesus and wanted to see if Jesus would heal him. If Jesus healed that person, he would have offended the laws of Sabbath, but if Jesus would not heal that person, then Jesus' message of love and compassion would be discredited. Isn't that a tricky test?
The hearts of men are deceitful. The Lord knew the hearts of the Pharisees, that's why He said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? But none will be given except the sign of Jonah." The Lord asked the Pharisees that "you know how to distinguish the weather, don't you know how to distinguish the needs of this generation?" Indeed, we can distinguish and understand many nuances in the natural realm in this technological advanced era. I was a student of meteorology, and during winter times there are snow forecast competitions in the east coast. The difference between raining and snowing are trivial, hence making it very difficult to forecast accurately. Some people are very good at this and are always accurate, that there will be no snow when they forecast rain, and vice versa. We can even land on the moon or investigate the Mars, but still we could be very ignorant about spiritual things.
Many don't realize that there is an emptiness in own spirits, and at the same time don't understand that Jesus is the answer of life. What do you long after today? What are the things that you are good at - Stock markets, computers, or personal spiritual condition? The Lord said that no sign will be given to this generation, because this generation is a generation of unbelief. And unbelief comes from a lack of understanding about spiritual things. May the Lord help us not to be ignorant of spiritual matters. May the Lord give us a sensitive heart to understand His work, so that we can follow His will and walk in His way in our daily life.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, I thank you for understanding our needs. May You help us to be open and hungry for You. Help us to no longer focus on outward things, and help us to be good at more than technology. Let us to see the poverty in our spirit so that we will be willing to turn back and be pleasing to You. I thank you and I pray all these in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way." His disciples answer, "Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?" "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied, "and a few small fish." He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.
Many followed Jesus when He was on earth. Bible recorded that He once fed five thousands, and this time He fed four thousands. Many followed Him because His words had authority and His hands were full of miracles. Hungry people hoping to be fed, the sick hoping to be healed, and the broken hearted hoping to be comforted. Many followed Jesus in order to have own needs satisfy, not because they love Him. But Jesus did not reject them, instead He had compassion on them. Bible mentioned many times that the Lord had compassion on those that come to Him, for He knows theirs pains and sufferings. He came, so that we can be set free from all self-centeredness and sins. He gave Himself freely so that we could receive a new life from God.
If we are among the crowd that followed Jesus, will we be like them, only focus on foods and healings? Are we truly hungry for God, or do we just want our problems solved? Do we believe in the Lord or in a genie, expecting to be helped in times of need? If we follow the Lord based on our needs, then one day we might ditch Him based on our needs.
Maybe some of these fed by Jesus were also in the midst of the crowd who demanded Jesus to be crucified. They have once followed Jesus in order to be fed; now they crucified Jesus because they need to survive. Therefore we need to ask ourselves why are we following the Lord, and is He in control of our lives? The Lord has compassion on us, so much that He sacrificed everything for me, so may the Lord help us to love Him back without reserve.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, I thank you, for we are here because of Your mercy. May Your Spirit draw us closer to you so that we could set our eyes on You. May You be the Lord and King of our lives. May we belong to You and You alone so that Your will on us can be done. I thank you and pray all these in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!
Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
Looking at the healing ministry of Jesus, one would realize that miracles happen wherever He went. When He prayed for the daughter of Canaanite woman, demons were casted out by His words. When He came to Galilee, many came to Him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, and the mute, and the Lord healed them one by one. Jesus is always willing to heal, and He doesn't have a fixed way of doing healing ministry. Sometimes He heal by speaking one sentence without having to meet them, sometimes He pray for the sick at their home, other times He lays hand on the sick, still other times He put His fingers into ears, and there are a few instances where He use his saliva to heal. In summary, Jesus did not have a certain model in doing healing, so it is very difficult for one to learn His healing methods.
But there are a few things that are very common in the healing ministry of Jesus. First, faith of the person. There are multiple instances where Jesus told the healed "your faith has saved you." And the fundamental reason that he didn't do many miracles in Nazareth is because of the unbelief of the people. From these we can see that faith is an important role in healing. Is faith manipulating God, then? No, because faith comes from the desire, which comes from God. We can have faith in His healing only when God grant us such faith.
Second thing that are common in Jesus' healing ministry is His compassion. This is why many times Jesus looked at the heaven and His compassion was stirred up when He does healing. Compassion is truly the key of prayer for healing. When we talked about healing, our focus should never be power but love and compassion. Only when one truly experience the compassion of the Lord and offer oneself to be a vessel of His love, the power of the Holy Spirit will be released and signs and wonders will happen. Are you in the midst of pain and suffering? I invite you to lay hand on the parts of body where you have sickness, and let us experience His compassion by faith.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Dear Lord, may Your compassion touch everyone that is in sickness. May you grant us faith so that as we look upon You Your healing hand will touch them and heal them. May Your stream of healing flow to us and bring us restoration. I thank you and pray all these in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!