Sunday, March 26, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 5:3-4

Hebrews 5:3-4
This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
High priesthood cannot be claimed by oneself.  It has to be through God's calling.  In fact, of those who are utilized by God, not one volunteered themselves.  Those who volunteered may ave enthusiasm and abilities.  However, God seeks those who possess not only enthusiasm and abilities, but also spiritual character, i.e. a keen sense for right spirit.  That person should understand what God is about to do, and has the right attitude of service.  Those who serve God not only can do the right thing, but more importantly, they should posses the right spirit.  Many want to serve God, yet they do not understand basic principles.  They want to accomplish goals.  They want to find the most effective strategy.  They want to find the secret of growthing a church.  Those strategy and secret are good indeed.  But the problem is you must first be called upon by God.  Otherwise, God can not use you.  Have you ever experienced God's calling in your life?  First of all, you must have a calling for life.  Bible frequently mentions that believers are those who are called upon by Lord.  Being called upon does not only pertain to pastors, but rather every believer of Jesus.  We are called upon by God, to fulfill His will.
Second, one must have a calling for service.  Through this calling, God let us know which direction to serve Him.  Does He want us to serve Him full time?  Or part time?  God calls upon some people to be pastors and preachers.  Some are called to be evangelists.  Some are called by God to serve Him in one's daily life.  A sister mentioned that there is a banner over her stove that says:"Serve God Three Times A Day".  She really understand calling for service.  God called her to serve Him in her position as a housewife.
Third, it is the calling of position.  Can you serve him at the place that God put you upon? Maybe you are serving full time.  But which position?  Maybe you feel that God wants you to serve him part time.  But where?  Brothers and sisters, do you have a calling for life?  Calling for service?  Calling for position?  If you don't, you need to come.
Praying with Pastor Tong Liu
Lord, we thank you.  You called upon me with no regret.  You guide everyone by yourself, so that your will will be done on us.  I pray that you give me a humble heart.  Show your will in our lives.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 5:1-2

Hebrew 5:1-2

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.

First, a high priests is called upon by God. If a person is called upon by God to serve Him, then that person should not be judged in accordance to the criteria of men, but rather the criteria of God. People often judge whether others are worthy of God's calling using criteria of men: appearance, education background, and personal status. Those who are called upon by God are those who understand God's will in their hearts.

Second, a high priest comes in front of God representing people. In Old Testament, people could not come into the presence of God because of sins. The reason for high priesthood is to represent sinners in front of Him. From the point of men, a high priest's duty is terrifying: bearing the sins of all people, he comes into the presence of God asking for forgiveness. That's why a high priest has to cleanse himself before entering the most holy. He cleanses not only his body, but also his heart, so that he will not be struck down by God in the most holy.

Third, a high priest presents offerings for others. Since a high priest comes into the presence of God bearing sins of others, he has to present offerings for those sinners. Leviticus chapter 1 through 5 mentioned five kinds of offerings. Those are: burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, and fellowship offerings. These offerings are sometimes for dedication offering, sometimes for giving thanks, sometimes for our sins, sins that we have committed whether intentionally or unintentionally. The duty of a high priest is to present those offerings for us, so that we receive peace and grace through God's forgiveness.

Fourth, He will deal gently with those who are ignorant and with those who are astray. "Deal gently" means tenderness and forgiveness. In Bible, we are often likened to sheep, the animal that gets frightened and lost most often. We often live in ignorance and lost. As such, when we are young, we often proclaim that we are the lost generation. When we reach middle age, we cry out "middle life crisis", the stage in our life when we find out that all we have strived for in the past have lost meaning to us. Suddenly, we come back to the same question we faced when we were young: "What's the purpose of life?" Even when we reach old age, we ask the same question: "What on earth do I life for?" What a high priest have prepared here is the work of Jesus Christ. Our lord emphasizes our ignorance and lostness. He emphasizes with us full of tenderness and forgiveness. As long as we come to the Lord, He will understand and help us in all we ask.

Praying with Pastor Tong Liu

Lord, we thank you. You are the high priest in our lives. You carried for us all our weaknesses and you bore all our sins. Today we bring our prayers to you. You surely will provide us your glorious richness. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen


Friday, March 24, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 4:16

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Not only is Jesus Christ our savior, He's also the high priest who's ascended to the heaven.  This is a precious truth - Jesus not only saved us, He also understands our weaknesses in our daily life.  It's not difficult to save someone's life, but it's far more difficult if you need to life with the person and tolerate all his shortcomings.  Not only is our Lord the almighty savior, He also accepts us as who we are, so that we can completely open ourselves before God in confidence.  Such openness may not even be possible between husbands and wives, so we may never be able to experience this with other people.  With God, however, He has promised us that he will accept us as who we are, and He will touch us and heal us.
In the Bible, grace and mercy are two different terms.  Grace means that God gives us something that we don't deserve.  We are sinners, but because of the grace of Jesus Christ we have become sinless, and this is a change in our position.  When we accept Jesus as our personal savior, such transformation takes place.  It's like we were imprisoned before, but now we have been freed; we were sentenced as guilty, but now we are free of guilt and released.  This is what grace of Jesus means.  After we are released, however, we might still not have anywhere to go, and that when the mercy of God will work in our life.  God's merciful hand will support us when we are weak, dress our wounds, and help us to restore the glorious beautify that God has created us with.  Therefore, our Lord is not only Lord of grace, but also Lord of mercy.
When we are in any weakness or difficulty, we may come before God in confidence.  We will receive mercy and grace, and we will receive His help in time of need.  God helps us in our time of need, so you can come to the throne of grace any time.  You need not to fear, but just come before Him with your needs, and the Lord's help will come upon you.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, not only are you our savior, you are also the high priest who has mercy on us.  We can bring all our weakness and problems before you and pray to you.  Thank you for having mercy on us and helping us in time of need, and I ask that you do the work of healing, comforting and turning around in our life until we are made complete before you.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 4:14-15

Hebrews 4:14-15
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin.
In the Old Testament time, God instituted three positions among the Israelites - prophets, kings and priests.  Prophets speak to God's people on His behalf, kings represent God to govern His people on His behalf, but priests serve by going before God on behalf of people.  Priests perform a terrifying job, for the priests entered the holy of the holies filled with fear.  They entered once a year and they had to be cleansed for three days.  Not only cleansed on the outside, but also the inside.  When they entered into the holy of the holies, they had to hang a bell on their robe.  When they walked around inside, the bell would ring; if people outside didn't hear the bell ring, they knew that the priest probably couldn't stand before God and was struck to death.  Because ordinary people could not just enter into the holy of the holies, they also had to tie the priest to a rope so that if he died they could drag his body out.
In the New Testament time, Jesus Christ already completed this work for us, for Jesus is the true high priest.  People were not complete in the Old Testament; in the New Testament time, people finally became complete through Christ as all the Old Testament standards have been met.  When Jesus worked on earth, He wasn't like the Pharisees who only rebuked people; He wasn't' like John the Baptist who only preached the judgment of God.  He had the touch of love - He didn't just severely rebuke people, but He used love and compassion to turn people back.  When the adulterous woman was caught and brought before Jesus, she should have been stoned to death according to the law.  She expected Jesus to rebuke her, but instead the Lord told her: "Has no one condemned you?"  She looked around and not one person condemned her, and then Jesus said: "Go now and leave your life of sin."  Lord accepted her just as she is and completely restored her.
No matter what we're like before God, we must always remember that Jesus and our high priest.  He cares for our weakness and He will help us wherever we are weak.  He stands between Father God and us, and He will bring sinners like us back the throne of grace to receive help from God.  Are you in great needs or do you have any major weakness?  You can come before God again without any fear, because Jesus is your high priest!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord Jesus, we thank you because not only are you our savior, you are also our high priest.  You care for our weaknesses, and you also support and help us.  May the Spirit of the Lord move among us, give us strength and help us in our time of need.  I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 4:12-13

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

This passage refers to the Word of God. Firstly, the Word of God is living and active. It is not dead. It is not merely letters, but each word brings power. God's Word not only brings about the faith for salvation, but also the faith for victory in our lives. Secondly, God's Word is effective. It will come to pass. God does not go back on his word. If you have the faith to believe, God's Word will definitely be accomplished in your life.

Thirdly, God's Word is sharper than any double-edged sword, judging thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God's Word is like a spiritual surgery. It enters into our thoughts and reveals them. The book of James says that God's Word is like a mirror, it helps us see the darkness inside us. I grew up in the church since I was little. When I was growing up, I used to think so highly of myself. I was self-righteous. When I started reading the Bible, I realized that my sin of pride is so great and God would oppose the proud. I suddenly understood that there was so much rebellion and hardness in my heart.

How should we face God's Word in our lives? Firstly, we need to read God's Word. God's Word is so precious and brings much power. We need to treasure God's Word and read His Word each day, just like we eat three meals regularly. God's word will be the source of our strength. Secondly, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts. When we read God's Word, ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, so that we can see what is in us that is displeasing to God. If we have sinned against God, let the Holy Spirit reveal that to us.

Thirdly, we need to obey the Word of God in our lives. Since God's Word is so precious and will not return void, we know that God means what He says. Hence, we need to act according to God's Word each day. When we obey the Word of God, it can bring about transformation to our lives. Many Christians view reading the Bible as gaining additional knowledge so that they can pride themselves for knowing more than others. May God have mercy and help us change, so that we may obey God's will each day.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, I thank you because your Word is so precious and brings us the power to live our lives each day. Lord, I pray that your Spirit will give us a heart to hunger for your word each day. We welcome the Holy Spirit to move in our lives so we may act according to your word. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen! 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 4:10-11

Hebrews 4:10-11

...For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

First of all, to enter into rest, one needs to rest from his own work. Entering into God's rest is not about having all the talents and things. God's salvation is not accomplished through talent and strength, but purely by the grace of God. God's salvation cannot be added to or subtracted from, it is solely the work of Jesus. All we can do is to rest from what we think we can accomplish, and allow God's salvation to be in control.

When Moses was young, he discovered that he was a Jew and tried to resolve an argument between two Israelites by his own strength. One day when he saw an Egyptian mistreating a Jew, he killed the Egyptian in anger. The next day, he tried to resolve an argument between two Jews and onen of them said, "Do you plan to kill me like you killed that Egyptian?" Moses was afraid and ran off into the wilderness. 40 years later, God called him to rescue the Israelites. 40 years ago, Moses would not have hesitated to do so. However, 40 years later, Moses found all kinds of excuses because he recognized his own limitations. But praise God, in the last 40 years of his life, Moses experienced how nothing is impossible for God. And God used him mightily to accomplish great things. Moses' life can be divided into three stages. One is the "I can" stage, second is the "I cannot" stage and third is "I can't, but God can" stage. This is what you and I will experience when we serve God.

Secondly, we need to make every effort to enter into that rest. This is in contrast to the latter part of this verse, where there are those who fall because of their unbelief. Hence we need to be very careful so that we do not neglect such a great salvation. From this perspective, we need to make every effort. Making every effort is about our heart attitude, not what we can do on the outside. We need to be constantly reminded to have a child-like faith and to pursue God more than anything else. We should not be like the Israelites back then. People are usually influenced by their environment. When the environment is good, we will praise God, but otherwise, we will grumble. The grumbling of the Israelites is a recurs frequently in the church history, except in a different time and place. Aren't we like the Israelites ourselves at times? When we face difficult circumstances, we grumble as well. May the Lord have mercy on us so that we will not be weak and fall. May our attitudes be corrected so that we will turn to God and the enemy will not have a foothold.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, I thank you because in Christ all salvation has been accomplished. We can only come and receive your grace. Help us to make every effort to run the race and draw our hearts close to you so that the enemy will not be able to steal the blessings that you have bestowed on us. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!


Monday, March 20, 2017

Today's Passage - Hebrews 4:6-9

Hebrews 4:6-9

It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;

The author of Hebrews says here that there remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. The Sabbath-rest referred to here is not the promised land that God promised the Israelites thousands of years ago. The things of this world are often a symbol of the spiritual things to come. The land that God promised the Israelites was an inheritance and symbolized the coming of Christ. What truly saves us is not the land of Canaan, but the salvation of Jesus Christ. The Jews do not accept Christ because they misunderstood this. They thought they knew God's law and God's prophet. However, they did not understand that the law and the prophets were speaking of the work of Jesus Christ. What truly saves us is not the law nor the prophets, but the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ.

Many people do not understand the principle behind symbolism and easily use material things or things on the outside to replace God. Some people replace God with rituals and focus on solemn music and ceremonies. This may appear grand, but people are only worshiping the feeling of grandeur, but not worshiping God. Some people replace God with doctrines and wreck their brains to figure out the perfect doctrine. However, in the process they lose sight of God. This is one of the crises that the seminaries face. They often exalt the word of men, but neglect the word of God. The church today may say they welcome Jesus, but in actual fact, they use all kinds of methods to replace Jesus. It is like you were invited to your own birthday banquet, and you were supposed to be the star. Yet when you arrive at the banquet, no one paid attention to you because everyone was celebrating their own thing.

We are often busy with our own thing and our own needs even when we gather together. We often lose sight of the one we should be focusing on - Jesus. If you were the Lord Jesus, how would you feel? May the Lord help us to once again focus on Him, because He alone is God and worthy of our worship. There is nothing in life that can stop us from coming before God. Nothing can truly satisfy our needs except for the Lord Himself. May the spirit of God draw us to cast all things aside and to worship Him only.

Pray with Pastor Tong

Lord, I thank you because you are our precious Savior. May you draw us near to you in our everyday lives so that we can focus on you and depend on you solely. If there are things in our lives that keep us away from you, may you remove them Lord, so that our hearts can be focused on following you. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!