"After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord's voice: 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. "Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.'...
That day in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, Moses saw a miracle - the flames of a burning bush that did not destroy the bush. Moses was very surprised and went over to look more closely. During this process, God appeared to him and gave him his calling.
God's fire is one that does not burn up the bush. This is a very important lesson in ministry. Many people often say they are burned out from ministry. This indicates that the fire in you, is not God's fire, but your own fire. Wherever the fire is not from God, it makes you tired, depressed, weak, causes you to stumble; however, if it is God's fire you are serving with, you will not stop the moving forward because the fire of God will never cause you to burn out. God's fire can be burning in the bush, but the bush will not be destroyed. If the fire of God is in you, no obstacle can hinder you. Even if you encounter any difficulty, you will overcome it. The fire of God will not stop burning, and even if you make a mistake, you will have courage to correct it. If you come to a dead end, the Holy Spirit will suddenly open up a way for you and allow you to move forward with confidence, because the fire of God is inside you!
When a person moves forward, and does not look back, we described him as a "goner". Once you are touched by the fire of God, you are a goner as well. You will be reluctant to return to the ways of the world, or return to serving Him by your own flesh. Pray that God will put this fire in our hearts - a fire that will cause our hearts never to grow cold, and never to stop serving Him. We need to be bold in our request to God. Ask God for His fire to burn in your hearts today, so that you can serve Him, but not grow weary. Let us never lose heart in serving Him!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I pray that you will bless everyone. I pray that the same fire that Moses saw in the burning bush will begin to burn in everyone's heart to help them overcome every difficulty and obstacle in their lives. Holy Spirit, empower them and lead them in the path to go.We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
"... Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?' "But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
After four hundred years of suffering from being enslaved by the Eygptians, God heard the prayers of the prayers of the Israelites and raised up a man named Moses. It did not take four hundred years of praying and begging by the Israelites before God heard them. God heard them immediately when they cried out to him. However, God had His own time in fulfilling His work.
Moses grew up in the palace and was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He had the best training undertake the task God gave him. When he was forty, he happened to find out that he was an Israelite. He saw how his own people were enslaved in Egypt, and wanted to use his position of authority to help them. One day he saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite, so he killed the Egyptians. He thought the Israelites should crown him as king after what he did for them. The next day when he saw two Israelites fighting each other, he tried to be the mediator between them. Instead, one of them said to him, "Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?" Although he thought that the Israelites will understand him and appreciate him, they did not.
Since then, Moses fled to the wilderness for forty years. God called him again out of the wilderness to save the Israelites. Moses said to God, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue!" God worked in the life of Moses during the forty years he was in the wilderness. Moses used to think he could do anything, but when he stood before God that day, he acknowledged his limitations. God said to him, "Indeed, you can't, but I can!" In our lives, we often need to be "pruned" by God. Serving God by our flesh is never effective. We need to learn to let God "prune" us, to rely on God, and to serve Him through His power.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you are faithful and you are willing to help us. Forgive us, Lord, for relying on ourselves and our natural abilities. We pray you will take away our tendency to rely on our flesh, and help us to depend on you each day. We thank you and we pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
"Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs. Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt... After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money."
God has given Abraham two kinds of promises, one is the promise of a son, and the other is the promise of land. Abraham believed in these two promises by faith: He believed in the promise of land, so he left Ur; he also believed in the promise of a son, so he changed his name of Abraham, which means father of many nations. It's one thing to believe something by faith, but to actually see it happen is a different matter. When it comes to offspring, God promised to give Abraham a son when he was 75 years old, but didn't actually give him the son till he was 100 years old. It was a difficult process; during the time of waiting, Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham as his concubine and she gave birth to a son named Ishmael. Abraham treated Ishmael as his own son and thought that Ishmael was the offspring that God gave him, but God told Abraham that only a son from Sarah would be his real offspring.
When we received God's promise, we often try every possible way to help God to fulfill His promise. The reality is that God's way is always better than our way and His will is greater than our will. Sarah was already 90 years old, so according to our thinking it was impossible for her to give birth, but God's promise could still be fulfilled! When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah gave birth to a son and he was named Isaac. From this scripture passage, we see that Isaac had sons of Jacob and Esau, and from Jacob came twelve sons, who are the ancestors of the twelve tribes. When they were still in Egypt, there were already 75 people in the family. This clan kept on expanding because God was indeed faithful!
In your life, have you witnessed the faithfulness of God? Do you believe in the promises made by God? Before God's promise is fulfilled, can you persist and not rely on your own way or depend on your own cleverness, but to solely wait upon God? May God help us to wait upon Him!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because you are faithful, and you often use surprising ways to help us. We come before you once again to wait upon you, and we believe in your word and promise. Please let your promises be fulfilled in our lives. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
...To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.' "So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. God spoke to him in this way: 'Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,' God said, 'and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.'
When Stephen was preaching the gospel he was entrusted with to those in the Sanhedrin and the priests, he especially mentioned that the gospel didn't just begin with Jesus Christ, but rather can be traced back to the promise that God made to Abraham. In the promise that God gave to Abraham concerning his offspring, God was just talking about his physical offspring, but He was actually referring to Jesus Christ. Therefore, God's promise to Abraham was very important, and since Abraham was a man of faith and not of sight, he boldly moved forward as soon as he received God's promise.
When Abraham was still in Ur, God revealed Himself to Abraham and clearly told him: "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." Notice that when God revealed Himself, He didn't clearly tell Abraham where to go, but only asked Abraham to leave and go where God wanted him to go. It's hard to imagine how Abraham was supposed to explain his decision to his wife, but he still believed God's promise, and the promise became the foundation of the faith inside him.
God also promised Abraham that his offspring will be as numerous as the stars and as much as the sand by the sea. Therefore, Abraham changed his name from Abram after receiving God's promise, because Abraham means father of many nations. Abraham changed his name by faith at that time, and today we also need to learn to live by faith and not by sight. Trust in God's word, obey Him courageously, and be ready to experience the tremendous abundance of God.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you for giving us the example of Abraham. Please help us, Lord, to trust and obey your word, so that we may experience your truthfulness and abundance in our daily life again and again. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen - Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
In the early church, the power of God not only came upon the apostles, but also upon the church leaders. God's power is for everyone; the spiritual gifts are not only reserved for the church leaders, but also for anyone who serves Him. In the church today, we often believe that the spiritual gifts are given to church leader and pastors, and lay believers like us don't have much power or gifts. Actually, the Bible clearly taught us that God ordained apostles, prophets and other roles so that the saints may rise up and be completed, and serve God in one heart and one mind.
Verse 8 says that "Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." On the one hand, we need to understand that we may stand before God's throne and serve the Lord because of His mercy, and we also receive His grace when we are serving Him. On the other hand, we need His power, because otherwise the church can easily become a place for Christians to share our weaknesses. Church should not be a place of weakness, but rather one that is filled with power. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to be manifested completely and to lift the glory of Jesus Christ high. We need His grace, and also His power, and so did Stephen. He was speaking in wisdom out of the Holy Spirit, and no one could stand against him. Living in North America, we like to use our own cleverness, talent or experience to preach the gospel; however, preaching the gospel cannot be effective solely by using our knowledge or eloquence, but it can only be done by the wisdom of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you used Stephen mightily. He was full of your grace and power, and today we also ask you for your grace and power upon us so that we may bear glorious witness for you in our life. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The process of growth in the early church gave us many good examples. First, they didn't lose their focus because of all the ministries that were going on. When a church is growing, there bound to be many issues; everything needs to be dealt with immediately and there's always one issue after another. I've found that it's easy to have our eyesight removed from Jesus when we are busy serving Him; just like Martha, when she was busy serving Jesus, her heart actually departed from the Lord. Some also say that why don't we just stay close to God and don't do anything else. Although Jesus rebuked Martha for her focus on being busy, He didn't agree with how Maria sat behind Him and did nothing either. Jesus just said that setting your eyesight on me was more important than what you do or don't do.
Another example the early church gave us was that when the church was growing, we need to develop a ministry team that complicates each other while working together. No one is capable of doing everything and everyone has different gifts. The reason God gives us various gifts is not for us to lift ourselves high, but to work with each other in building the church.
A famous football coach was once asked: What is football? He answered: "To me, football consists of twenty-two players who desperately need to rest and fifty thousand spectators who need exercise." Isn't that the issue of our church too? Many attend Sunday service and cell group meetings out of habit, but few would consider actively participate in ministry. Actually, God has given us different gifts and there are no bigger or smaller ones, for they are all equally important in the eyes of God.
Everyone in the church needs to serve in their own capacity, otherwise there will be mishaps everywhere. I also encourage more brothers and sisters to become full-time coworkers in the church; not necessarily become preachers, but become involved in administrative tasks. When everyone in the church is mobilized, the burden of administrative workload and pressure on the pastoral staff will be lessened and can focus on praying and preaching, thus the church can continue to grow.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because you once again showed us the principle in church ministry. May the Lord help us and let us always focus our eyesight on you. Let us treat the church as our spiritual home so that the church will continue to grow and your will may be done. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!