Thursday, December 8, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 19:23-34

Acts 19:23-34
 
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.  A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen.  He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business.  And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.  There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."  When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"  Soon the whole city was in an uproar....
 
When Paul was preaching the gospel in Ephesus, he encountered a great obstacle related to the worship of goddess Artemis at the place.  Who is Artemis?  According to Greek mythology she is the goddess of moon who's also named Diana, and she's responsible for reproduction.  Her upper body is covered with multitude of breasts and there's a snake hanging over her.  Many ancient civilizations and countries that were influenced by them have similar practice of worshipping queen of heaven or earth, such as Mazu of Taiwan.  These goddess bound the spirits and lives of people, causing difficulties for the gospel to spread in these areas.
 
We also often encounter obstacles when we want to spread the gospel wherever we are.  These obstacles can be related to regional strongholds, such as idols that are worshipped locally or trend and fashion of the time that bind people's hearts just like idols.  It could also be materialism that deters hearts of people from coming to God.
 
In addition, these strongholds may also be the sins in the hearts of people; not just personal sins, but they can also be sins of the family or of earlier generations that have been inherited.  These sins can bind the hearts of people so that they cannot open up to God and receive His grace.  When we preach the gospel, we must clearly understand the strongholds of a particular area.  May the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see these strongholds, and may God help us to stand firm on the foundation of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Let us proclaim victory in the name of the Lord in order to break all the bondages from the strongholds, so that the hearts of people will be released to turn back to the true God.
 
Pray with Pastor Tong
 
Lord, please reveal to us the strongholds around us; we ask that you break all of them so that the hearts and souls around us may be set free and open up to you, and get to know you better.  Let us engage in this spiritual warfare and be victorious.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 19:19-22

Acts 19:19-22

A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. "After I have been there," he said, "I must visit Rome also." He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

It is mentioned here that the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. When revival comes, there will not only be signs and wonders, but more importantly, the word of the Lord will spread out, and not only will the word of God spread out; but it will spread widely and grow in power.

The Word of God can overcome the world, overcome enemies, and overcome all powers of darkness because the Word of God has great spiritual au authority and power. Many people preach the Word of God only by reasoning and intellect. In reality, reasoning and intellect cannot convert the hearts of man. The Bible clearly tells us that knowledge puffs up; it causes those who do not believe to be even more arrogant, and causes hearts to drift further from God.

The problem of the church today is that we rely solely on logic, human reasoning and intellect, but we do not use these together with the spiritual power. Seminaries teach preachers how to put together a beautiful message, but do not teach students how to weave them together with the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, we only preach empty theories, which are without the Holy Spirit's power and authority.

Today we need to repent, because God's way has the ability to change lives and societies. In fact, verse 19 mentions that even those who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. Think about it, what a wonderful testimony would this be if this happened in our time! Hence, let us stop blaming other religions that are drawing people away from Christianity. What we need to do is to return to God and pray that His power will come upon us. May we truly preach His Word with power, so that it may spread widely and it may grow in power. When people see the ability of God's Word to bring about change, their lives, societies and countries will be changed too. May the Lord bring about such revival in our lives!

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, we pray that the power of your Holy Spirit will bring revival into our midst. Let us hunger for your word, let hearts be convicted, let societies and countries be changed. Bless us in the place we are in right now, and let your Word spread widely and grow in power. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!


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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 19:13-18

Acts 19:13-18

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.

The name of Jesus has great power and authority. Even when others fake the use of his name, they immediately were attacked. This shows that Jesus' name is held in high esteem. Those of us in the church often take for granted the importance of the Lord's name. "In Jesus name" has become only an end to our prayers. However, the Lord's name is very valuable, and when we pray to God in the name of Jesus, we need to have real confidence that God can bring about healing and the forgiveness of sin. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we can turn people's hearts toward God and bring about a spirit of unity. The Lord's name is very important. Each time when we pray in Jesus name, we can bring about results and power.

Secondly, we need to believe in God's authority. Since Jesus commanded us to pray in His name, we know that God will hear our prayers when we pray in Jesus name. Pray that God will help us not to be deceived by the enemy. Oftentimes when we minister, the enemy can easily deceive us. However, the truth is, God has given us the authority, when we come before God and pray in the name of Jesus, God will certainly hear us.

How important the name of the Lord! The Bible reveals God's name to be "Jehovah Jireh". meaning He is our Provider; "Jehovah Shalom" that God is our Peace; "Jehovah Rapha," that God is our Healer; "Jehovah Nissi", that God is our victorious banner; "Lord, Rohi," that God is our Shepherd; "Jehovah Shammah," that God is always present, and we will live in Christ forever. Each name of God is a promise, we need to come before Him in faith and pray and exercise our faith.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, we thank you because you have given us your name. Help us in our everyday life to know how to correctly use your name, that we may win the spiritual battles by your name. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!


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Monday, December 5, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 19:8-12

Acts 19:8-12

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

We can see the pattern of Jesus' ministry from Paul's ministry. On the one hand, he preached in the synagogue and lecture hall of Tyrannus, and on the other hand, he prayed for the healing of the sick. In fact, some people even took the handkerchief and aprons that Paul touched to lay on the sick, and when they did that, the sick were completely healed and the demons were cast out of them. This was what Jesus did when He was on earth. When we read the four gospels, we see that whenever Jesus ministered to people, he did two things. The first was preached God's Word, the other was to heal the sick. This was the model of Jesus' ministry on earth. When he sent the seventy disciples out two by two, he instructed them to preach God's Word, and gave them authority to heal the sick and cast out demons.

The Gospel of Matthew talked the Great Commission, where the Lord commanded his disciples, "Teach them to obey what I have instructed you." In other words, Jesus commanded us to preach the Gospel. The Gospel of Mark mentions "laying hands on the sick, the sick were healed". The Gospel of Matthew focused on preaching God's Word, while the Gospel of Mark focused on laying hands on the sick and healing them. Jesus has entrusted this mission to us. He preached God's Word and healed the sick, and He commissioned us to do the same. Paul received God's commandment and His power, and hence was empowered in his ministry to preach boldly in the synagogues. He also performed many healing miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the point that when the handkerchief he touched was put on the sick, the sick were healed.

In addition, we need to understand that the work of healing is God's sovereignty. Our responsibility is to be obedient vessels, so that God's power can flow through us to others. What you and I need to do is to follow God's instructions, to preach the Gospel and lay hands on the sick. We need to believe that the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of these people, and in accordance with God's sovereignty heal them of their sickness and forgive them of their sins. May the Lord's Spirit help us, that we may have power and authority in our ministry, to manifest the glory of God.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, we thank you because your ministry on earth was filled with power and authority. May you grant us the same authority and power when we preach the gospel, so we can release people from the bondage of darkness, from the enemy. We give you all the glory and honor. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!


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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 19:1-7

Acts 19:1-7
 
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."  So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied.  Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus."  On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  There were about twelve men in all.
 
This passage mentioned two types of baptism - John's baptism and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, which refers to a "turning back", turning away from our sinful ways, and returning back to God.  In fact, this baptism of repentance did not only happen in the New Testament era, it was already there in the Old Testament time. God set up the ritual of sacrifice in the Old Testament times, so that people can repent, turn back to Him. However, repentance by itself is not enough.  We need the energy and motivation for life, and this is the difference between the New Testament and the Old Testament.  Jesus Christ came to this world for us to become the sacrifice for our sins once and for all.  He is our true motivation for life.
 
The baptism of the Holy Spirit has two meanings.  The first is what is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."  In other words, when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, we have individually received the gift of salvation.  However, when the Holy Spirit comes upon, it is like superglue that connects every individual to a body of Christ.  Secondly, the baptism of the Holy Spirit also represents His power.  Acts 11:16 mentions that when Peter preached in the home of Cornelius in Caesarea, he remembered what the Lord has said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."  This indicates that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the experience of Pentecost, in which for the first time, many people spoke in tongues. In fact verse 6 says that When Paul placed his hands on the Corinthians, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. This does not mean that the baptism of the Holy Spirit will always be manifested by speaking in tongues - that is only one phenomenon. However, the Holy Spirit allows us to enter into a life of supernatural power and effective ministry.  May the Spirit of the Lord come upon us, that we may once again be filled with the Holy Spirit!
 
Pray with Pastor Tong
 
Lord, may your Spirit move in our midst right now.  Holy Spirit, rain down on us, so that we may turn away from sin and turn back to God.  Unite us as one body and empower us to do your work. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
  

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 18:26-28

Acts 18:26-28

He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Apollos was a true disciple of Christ. He was on fire for God, and knew how to share God's Word with others. Verse 26 says he was bold in preaching God's Word, and preached to the Jews vigorously. This shows us that when we receive God's grace, we need to be proactive in sharing our faith with others. Perhaps some will say this is because Apollos was a learned man, and a learned man naturally would have courage to preach God's Word boldly. What does it mean for the rest of us?

If you take a closer look at the book of Acts, you will discover that Paul and Apollos were not the only ones who were preaching boldly. There was Peter, John, and others whom the government officials consider "unschooled". Although they are not as learned or eloquent as Apollos, but when they have hearts that were willing to be used by God, and made themselves available for God, He used them mightily to accomplish His work. As such, knowledge and eloquence were never the prerequisites for someone to be used by God. God looks only at your heart and your willingness to be used by Him. Actually, you and I do not need to be great preachers to share God's Word. In our day to day lives, through worship and what we learn at Sunday school, we can be sharing these things with our friends or coworkers. The Bible has a principle that the more you give, you will receive, and the more we can give. When our mouths are closed and we do not share God's grace with others, the more spiritual poverty we will experience.

Secondly, Apollos is constantly learning. As he was speaking boldly in the synagogue, Paul's co-workers Priscilla and Aquila heard him. Although Apollos recognized that Jesus is the promised Messiah of God, he only knew of John's baptism, which is John the Baptist preaching about the coming of Jesus. However, Apollos did not understand the baptism of the Holy Spirit which Jesus had promised when He ascended to heaven. Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit will come to live in the hearts of every believer. Hence, Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos to their home and preached the Word of God more adequately to Him. Thank God Apollos had a humble heart and was willing to learn. Afterwards when Apollos went to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. This was because Apollos had a heart that was willing to be discipled. Let us model after Apollos - his humility and his desire to keep learning as we study God's Word, so that we may be able to serve God and others effectively.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, thank you for giving us the example of Apollos. We pray you will grant us the desire to keep learning and to keep sharing your word with others, so that through us, others may see your glory. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
  

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Today's Passage - Acts 18:25

Acts 18:25
 
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.
 
Apollo was truly in love with the word of God.  First, he was teachable in the truth.  Apollo was already a knowledgeable person, but his knowledge didn't prevent him from coming before God with a teachable heart to learn His word.  I've really seen the importance of having a teachable heart.  Today, many of us go to work with the attitude of learning while working, hoping that what we may put what we've learn into use later; in spiritual matters, however, few of us have such teachable attitude and determination to learn.  We don't think it makes any difference for us to do devotions or to attend Sunday school classes; therefore, we only read the Bible when we think of it, and we attend Sunday school only when we get up in time.  No wonder we seldom experience the power that the Lord's word can bring us in our daily life.
 
May God give us a humble and teachable heart to come before Him to learn His word.  People often have different reactions towards the same word; for example, when we hear "love one another," some of us feel it's just gospel verbiage, but others feel that God is teaching them about how to live and love one another.  In the same way, when we repeat a song during worship, some feel more touched by the song, but others feel annoyed by the repetition.  Why are there such distinct reactions?  The difference lies in the attitude.  If you have a humble and teachable heart, you will receive new guidance and strength from all the teachings.
 
Apollo was not only truly teachable, but also one with a heart that was on fire.  Knowledgeable people often have cool heads, but unfortunately their hearts are often cool as well.  They don't have any zeal and hunger for word of the Lord, and some even study the newspaper more carefully than studying the Bible because they are afraid to miss some major news or tabloid material.  After reading the news, they'll discuss with others too.  We, however, seldom study God's word so rigorously, as if we may miss one of God's promises.  If you preach the gospel with coolness, then how can you expect anyone to be eager to hear?  When they ask you whether it's good to believe in Jesus, or what the Bible says, if your response lack any excitement or enthusiasm, then they will obvious feel that the gospel is nothing.  May the Lord help us to make an effort in studying God's word so that others may benefit from our lives.
 
Pray with Pastor Tong
 
Lord, we ask that you grant every brother and sister a humble and teachable heart so that we may become zealous toward your word.  Let us thirst for your word and seek your word every day, and let your word become our strength and help so that the lives of people around us may also be changed.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
  
  
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