Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 3:4-5

2 Thessalonians 3:4-5
We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance.
Paul said that "May the Lord direct your hearts" because the heart of our faith comes from the inside of our heart.  Faith is not a set of doctrines or ceremonies, but it should come from our heart.  Our heart must turn back to God first, then our whole person may turn back to God.  There are two directions towards which our hearts are led towards: First, we are led to love God.  We often think that to love God is to do something for the Lord, thus we would hear about so and so brother really loves the Lord because he goes to Sunday service each week, tithe faithfully, enjoys participating all kinds of church ministries, or whatever else he does.  We can easily do lots of things on the outside, but it doesn't prove that our hearts truly love the Lord.  When Martha and Maria served the Lord, Martha was really busy, but Maria simply became close to Jesus and knew how to love Him.  Lord wants us to love Him; He's not only demanding that we serve Him and work for Him, but more importantly we ought to come before Him to simply love Him.  When our hearts truly love God, serving Him is no longer heart, but it would instead come out naturally; loving God is the momentum for truly serving Him.
Also, we need to learn to persevere like Jesus Christ did.  When we are in hardship, we need the perseverance of Christ, because God wants to discipline us.  Sometimes we are like seeds; when seeds are held in hands, they can feel the warmth and security from those who are sowing the seeds.  When the seeds are suddenly sown and buried underground, they would feel lonely and dark, surrounded by all kinds of pressure.  During the process, the seeds might question whether those who had sown them really cared about them.  In the same way, when we are going through hardship, we also question whether God is really out there looking after us.  Let us strengthen our faith, learn to persevere in Christ and continue to believe in God.  We need to believe that the one who sowed the seeds will continue to water them, and life from God will continue to grow.  Once there's sufficient water, life inside us will start to grow, break through the darkness and enter into light.
In our life, we need to have the perseverance of Jesus Christ in order to overcome the circumstance of hardship.  May the Lord guide our hearts to love Him more, and to have the perseverance of Christ in order to overcome any circumstance.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, please guide us and let our hearts turn back to you and love you.  Let us learn from your perseverance so that we will not lose faith and be afraid under any circumstance.  We want to simply follow you and experience your power of breakthrough.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 3:1-3

2 Thessalonians 3:1-3
Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.  And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.
God can protect us from the evil one.  He is faithful and just, and when the evil one attacks us, He will be able to protect us.  Lately the US has been under the threat of terrorism, and terrorists are somewhat like devil Satan, because we don't know where they are and what they want to do.  Those who believe in God, however, will live in light and there's no need to fear the devil.  Our God is one who prepares table before me in the presence of our enemies, and He will fight for us.  The enemy always strives to kill, steal and destroy, but God can keep us completely safe in Him.  In your daily life, you must believe that the Lord is faithful, for God can keep us completely safe in Him.  In your daily life, you must believe that the Lord is faithful; He can fortify you and protect you from the attacks of the evil one.
Many years ago, I brought a group of youth from church to a camping trip.  I had to slam the brakes a lot in order to slow down on a road going downhill, then I noticed there's the odor of burnt tires, so I thought perhaps I need to take the car into a shop later.  Suddenly, all the brakes failed and the car started to slip downhill.  I thought there's something that could have stopped the car, but it kept on going down.  I prayed "Lord, save me" and suddenly the car stopped after I heard a big bang.  It turned out that my car was caught by three trees - one on each side and one on the back, forming a pocket that caught my car and saved my life.  When the tow truck came, the driver thought it was a miracle for the car to be stopped that way.  The car was caught between three trees that were like the hand of an angel!
When I climbed uphill from my car, I was filled with gratitude, because I knew that God had saved me from the evil one.  He's faithful, and He protects me.  Do you know that God can protect you in your daily life?  Even though the enemy wants to devour you and attack you, God will protect you in His mighty arms and not allow the evil one to harm you.  Hallelujah!  Let us thank God and praise Him!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I once again come before you and thank you, because you are the God who can protect us and save us from the evil one.  I ask that you protect each brother and sister, strengthen them so that they can avoid the attacks from the evil one.  May the Spirit of the Lord become the mighty arms in our life.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 2:16-17

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
Do you know that you have a loving Heavenly Father? He is the loving Father God, just like the father you have in your life, providing for the needs of his children, guiding and disciplining his children. Disciplining is not only about rebuking, but about loving the children. In addition, He is our Comforter. The comfort or men is temporal, but the comfort of God lasts forever. As a pastor, I have been to many memorial services and have conducted memorial services for many   non-Christians. I discovered that the non-Christians do not have hope for life after death and their hearts cannot be comforted because they do not have the everlasting hope in their hearts. Only God can put the everlasting hope in our hearts, to bring about comfort. The words of men are limited. Only God's Word can bring about true comfort in the hearts of men when the love of God penetrates their hearts.
God's Word can bring about good hope and we have the hope of eternal life in God. Do you know that when you leave this world, you will be with the Lord forever? If you do not have this beautiful hope, you need to come before Jesus and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior. If you already have this good hope, your heart will be filled with joy because you know that death is not the end. Not only do we have the hope of eternal life, but we also have the hope for today. We know that in our everyday lives, even in the midst of trials and pain, God is with us and will give us strength. We do not have to be afraid because his staff and his rod comfort us and lead us.
May God open our hearts to receive the comfort he has for us. He wants to strengthen us in word and in deeds. Man often cannot strengthen himself, hence we love to sing worship songs and read encouraging words. When troubles come, we are often weak. The only thing that can strengthen us in life is God Himself. There are many ups and downs in life. Only when we depend on God, He can strengthen us until He returns and we see Him face to face!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because you first loved us and gave us a good hope that brings us such comfort. I pray Lord you will strengthen our faith to look to you only. Although we may be weak at times, we know that you are strengthening us throughout our lives until we see you face to face. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 2:13-15

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.

Paul reminded the brothers and sisters in church to stand firm in the grace of God. We are sinners who are unworthy, but yet God has chosen us, and given us abundant blessings. God has so richly bestowed His grace upon us, how can we not be thankful? Paul particularly mentioned a few areas: Firstly, it was God who has chosen us, not that we chose God. God first loved us. Secondly, we are saved by faith and are children of God in His Kingdom. What a privilege this is, to be considered princes and princesses of God's Kingdom. We need to treasure our identity before God and receive our glorious inheritance in God's kingdom by faith. More importantly, we have been sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit dwells inside us to help us, cleanse us and mold us each day so that we can be a vessel that is pleasing to God. Holiness is God's will for us, but we cannot achieve it by our own strength. We can only become holy by the power of the Holy Spirit. This same power that resurrected Christ now dwells inside of us. May we overcome the death of our physical bodies and live a life that is filled with resurrection power, so that we may be more like Jesus. This is indeed God's grace.

Not only so, but we also have received God's glory and can enjoy God's glorious presence. When the Lord returns to bring us home, we will be kings with Him, seated on the throne and enjoying God's glory. Paul said we need to stand firm, and hold fast to the teachings passed on to us. Let us read the Word of God daily so that we may be deeply rooted in the truth, so that we will not be swayed by heresies. Let us plant our faith firmly in the Word of God and let it be our foundation so that we can experience the reality of God's Word in our daily lives.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, I thank you because your spirit once again encouraged us to learn to stand firm each day in the foundation of your grace, so that we will not receive your grace in vain. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 2:9-12

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Paul says the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sort of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie. In the spiritual realm, the work of evil spirits can be very effective too. In the past, when I was preaching in villages in Taiwan, the villagers will tell me how effective it is to pray in certain temples. There are thieves who would go to that temple to pray because when they pray to that particular god, they will not be caught stealing. I thought to myself, is your faith only based on whether something comes true?

True faith is about whether something is consistent with the truth or not. 1 John 4:1 says, "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. In this generation, there are a lot of false prophets. Hence, we can see that the work of the evil spirits can be effective too. We need to be able to discern whether something is from God or from the devil. A true religion needs to be balanced between truth and reality, and cannot be separated. Many traditional churches only focus on preaching the Word, turning God's Word into legalism, hence causing their faith to be without power. If there is no power to heal or to set free, the law becomes something that keeps people in bondage. I once read a book titled "Walking out of Christianity". The author did not want people to walk out of Christianity, but wanted Christians to walk out of the legalism. In the past, he was held in bondage by all kinds of church regulations and he thought that he had walked out of Christianity. The truth is he has merely walked out of the legalism.

The church today faces a big crisis, which is the focus on the truth more than the focus on God. Of course, we cannot emphasize on signs and wonders because experiences can be misleading and we often see many incidents which do not line up with the truth, which brings about the wrong results. True faith needs to worship the true God. This true God is a God who has the truth as well as the ability to change the reality. May the Lord change our hearts so that we will return to Him, to read His Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit, experience the reality of the power of God's Word so that people may surrender to Christ Jesus.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, you are not only the God of truth, but the God over reality. Your Word brings power and will not return void. May the Lord help us to experience the reality and truth of your Word each day. Help us to walk out of legalism and a faith that is based solely on experience. Let our faith be active and full of life. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 2:5-8

2 Thessalonians 2: 5-8

Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

Paul specifically mentioned here the barriers caused by the "man of lawlessness" or the anti-Christ, in particular the barriers to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can change the hearts of men and turn them towards Jesus Christ as well as lift up the victorious power of Christ. On the other hand, when the power of Christ is lifted up, the work of the enemy cannot move forward. Hence the work of the Holy Spirit is to stop the work of the anti-Christ. The Holy Spirit will continuously work in the hearts of men to bring them to repentance. Once the work of the Holy Spirit stops, men will not have the opportunity to be forgiven, and are prone to the attacks from the spirit of the anti-Christ. Hence, Jesus once said, "Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." When a person blasphemy against God, he can repent for it when the Holy Spirit touches him; However, when a person blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will no longer touch him and he will not have the opportunity to be saved.

Before Paul was saved, his name was Saul. On his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. Paul blasphemed against God and persecuted Christians before he came to know the Lord. However, on the road to Damascus, the light of the Holy Spirit shone upon him and led him to repentance, turning him towards Jesus Christ. Later on, he became a Christian and became one of the apostles of the kingdom of God. When the light of the Holy Spirit shone, Paul was touched and he repented and his sins were forgiven. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is at work in this generation and throughout the world. We see a huge harvest of God around the world. The work of the devil was being blocked and limited by the Holy Spirit. However, when the work of the Holy Spirit ceases, the power and the spirit of the anti-Christ will start to manifest and lure the hearts of men away. But praise be to God, He promises that when He returns, the work of the devil will be destroyed. The light of glory on His second coming will eliminate all darkness. Hallelujah! This is the hope that we have in Christ. May God help us to hold fast to this hope in our daily lives and depend on the work of Holy Spirit in order to preach the gospel.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, thank you that you allow us to depend on you and believe in you. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who gives us the opportunity to share the gospel and reap the harvest. Help us Lord to seize the opportunity and work hard to preach the gospel so that others may come to know you. Because when the time comes and the work of the Holy Spirit ceases, the spirit of the anti-Christ will be at work. But one day, you will return and destroy the work of the devil. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Today's Passage - 2 Thess 2:1-4

2 Thess 2: 1-4
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us-whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter-asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
Paul talked about the end time in this passage.  In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus also talked about the signs of the end time, how there will be famines and earthquakes everywhere, nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom and these events will only increase.  We will see that there'll be wars everywhere, but the Bible teaches us now to panic because it all points to the coming to the Lord, and we ought to view all these events with hope in our hearts. Paul also talked about one other sign, where the spirit of anti-Christ will rise, which is what he referred to as "man of lawlessness" in this passage.  In the past, people have interpreted this as a particular person, but lately most believe that anti-Christ is not a person, but rather an authority.  In the end time, there will be authorities that defy God and elevate men working in the world.  Many places now are defying God and lifting up idols and people, plus much false teaching.  Many are original in Christian faith, but then departed from it.  When you see these things happen, Paul taught us not to be surprised, because they are all normal in the end time.  Many openly defy God, many claim to be god.  We ought to stay calm and be cautious, because these things are bound to happen in the end time.
When we face the end time, we must be alert and stay cautious in all things.  Nowadays, the level of security checks imposed on travelers in airports did not exist before, but since 911 terror attack normal life in the U.S. has gone through drastic change.  Since people know that there's a chance of danger around us, we become more alert than ever.  In the same way, Christians must stay alert spiritually.  We must understand what will take place in the end time, not to wonder what's happening, but to stay alert and cautious.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because your word has told us clearly what will happen in the end time so that we will be well prepared.  Help us to be cautious and stay alert, so that we will bear witness of love in our daily life.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!

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