Good evening. I want to thank you for inviting me to speak at the Bible Conference. There are so many speakers who are more worthy than myself to bring you the Word of God. I accounted this distinct privilege to share the Word with you. I consider myself a small potato, a nobody. And I keenly aware that I am but a sinner who is saved by grace. But one day, in my quiet time, the LORD spoke to me, “Son, I am sending you to the Chinese-speaking world.” I said to God, “LORD, I have two problems. Surely I will go anywhere you send me. But I am an English-speaking preacher, and I don't have connections in Chinese churches. And even if I do, my schedule is filled up; I don’t know if I have the time to do it. But if you send me, you lead me, you show me how, and I will follow.” However, in my mind, I don’t see how it is possible.
Then, some time back, I was here in Hong Kong visiting Dr. Maak Hay Chen, my beloved principal when I was in Singapore Bible College. We had a wonderful visit together. In the end, he shook my hand and said to me, “Thank you for ministering to the Chinese-speaking churches.” I took that as a gracious confirmation of the LORD for sending me to this Chinese-speaking world. Then my good friend Joshua Ding asked me, “Can you come and teach in the CCCOWE?” He said, this is the first time CCCOWE invites a speaker to speak for discipleship. It was amazing that, when I check my schedule, there was an open opportunity for me to do so, so I went to Taipei for it. Then my old friend Rev. Ken Chan asked me, “Can you come and speak in the Hong Kong Bible Conference?” 10-day is a long time. And the amazing thing is, between New York, Taipei and Sydney, there was this 10-day available. And because the LORD said “I am sending you to the Chinese-speaking world”, I said “yes”, because I have a strong conviction. I want to see Chinese church to arise, that churches in each part of the world are making a difference together. The Latin American churches and African churches are arising. Of all of the amazing churches I have visited, it is the Chinese churches. When the LORD gives us a revival fire in our heart, the Chinese church is an awesome church in a whole.
But there is a key that makes it necessary – the Chinese church arising must put God at the center of the church. Otherwise, the church is too busy, the pastors are too tired, and the members are too discouraged. We must come back to the mission of discipleship and disciple-making. We must come back to the core to follow Jesus. And together we must come back to the call to God-centered life. So that is why I chose the Book of Ecclesiastes – it is a book to call to a God-centered life.
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In 10 days, it is impossible to cover all 12 chapters. I stopped at the middle of Ch.7, and I hope you will continue to read the rest. But tonight we come to the grand conclusion of the book which is the main thrust of the main idea of the book. Once again, I ask you to join in a prayer as we ask LORD to bless us in study the Word together.
Eternal God, Heavenly Father, open our eyes to your Truth. Thank you so much for Your Word. Help us to hear Your Word and receive it in our hearts. Help us not just to hear Your Word, but to do it also that we might truly grow there by. We thank You in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Book of Ecclesiastes highlights the dilemma of men and enigma of life. It examines FOUR questions:
(1) Why is life so frustrating? It is about struggle of life.
(2) Where does life come from? It is about the source of life.
(3) How is life to be lived? It is about stewardship of life. And
(4) What is life all about? It is about the secret of life.
As we come towards the end of the Book of Ecclesiastes, it gives TWO main verbs to pay attention to: in Ecc. 11:8, “So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.” So in Ecc. 12:1, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth…”
Tonight, in the final message, I want to highlight these two ideas for you – “let him rejoice”, and “let him remember”. Rejoice, so as to live life fully; remember, so as to live life faithfully. Let’s look at it one at a time.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, it tells us the answer to life is not found in the work, nor in wisdom; it cannot be found in entertainment nor pleasure; nor is it found in wealth. The secret of life cannot be found in life itself because life is short. So what is the missing link? What is the secret of life? The secret of life is REJOICE in God and remembering Him. It is because when we remember His name, in many circumstances in life, there is a joy in the LORD and in His presence. Whatever pain we have, in God’s presence, we can rejoice.
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Last year, just before I went to Bangkok to preach a discipleship conference, there was a strategic meeting that all the leaders from 27 provinces in Thailand gathered together. A night before, when I was opening the luggage door of my car, I stepped back a little bit, and my right leg stepped into a small hole. As I was lifting up the door, I stretched my back, and there was an excruciating sharp pain in my back. It was so painful I needed to sit down. But I could not bend down and sit on the road; the pain was very sharp. Every movement was painful. So I very slowly moved to the front door of the car – it took me 5 min to reach the front door and sit down. And I wondered, on the next day I was supposed to leave for Thailand, how could I possibly go?
Some Christian might think, “Well, maybe God is slowing you down in your fast-paced life.” That is conventional wisdom, and is probably is true for most. But it is not true for three reasons. (1) I did not choose for a fast-paced life, nor is my esteem or sense of self-importance rooted in my business. (2) And I knew that God sent me. These are divine appointments God has set for me. (3) When I pray, the LORD spoke to me, “This is the attack of the evil one. You go in faith.” It is not for slowing me down; it is the determination of the LORD to let me press on in faith.
So I went to the airport on a wheelchair, and I arrived at Bangkok, Thailand on a wheelchair. But the amazing thing is, by the time I stood up to the platform to preach, the pain was gone. And of the few messages I was preaching, I felt the strength and power of the LORD. My friends could tell the difference between me coming in pain in the airport on the wheelchair and me standing up preaching pain-free. The organization was also surprised because during the season there are thunderstorms in the afternoon and floods. But in the days of the conference, there was no rain and no floods! And everybody gathered on time. After the final message was over, rain and floods came. I took it as a sign of LORD’s sustaining grace. And I found that whatever the pain maybe in life, in the presence of god there can be great rejoice.
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Last year, Ann and I were ministering in London. We were taking a train to preach in my friend’s church. When we were in the Victoria Station, Ann fell from the escalator. The fall was so bad that she broke her arm. And yet we moved by faith and went to the church and preach on Sunday. Immediately after, on Monday, she flew back to Singapore for her surgery. On the flight from London to Singapore with a broken arm, she was painful. But the grace of God was there to sustain. We arrived in Singapore, and we received an e-mail from the senior pastor of the church, saying, “We are humbled. We saw your wife with a broken arm, but she was still praying for our church members and ministry to them in spite of the pain.” Because the truth is, whatever the pain, in the presence of god, there is the deep joy.
Two nights ago, here in Hong Kong, Ann and I were talking; I asked her, “What you think about your broken arm? Why did God allowed it?” her reply touched me. She said with a smile, “It could be worse. I could have broken my neck, or I could have sustained severe head injury.” So her focus was not “why is my arm broken”; Ann was thankful because her neck was not broken. Whatever the pain in the presence of god, there can be rejoice.
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I learned the power of rejoice in for my grandfather. My grandfather was simple man, but he was a prayerful man. Every morning at 5am, he woke up to pray. He loves his wife dearly; when my grandmother was in hospital very sick and dying, his heart was of course very sad. One point my grandmother was already in a coma in the hospital. To an old woman, her life was about to end. It was an afternoon when I went to the hospital, and grandpa was already there; he was always there in the hospital besides his wife. I walked in very quietly not to disturb him, because he was an old man with his wife, singing songs to her. He sang “How Great Thou Art” and “Great is Thou Faithfulness”. When he sang with faithfulness of God, I could sense his gratitude to God and to his wife.
They were married for many years. My grandfather was not a conventional Chinese man; in his generation, marriage was arranged but he didn’t want this arranged marriage. He fell in love with a woman that the family relatives did not approve; this woman was twelve years older than him. But he loved my grandma and married her. And they told him, his marriage would be very short, even shorter than one bag of rice. So I heard my grandpa telling grandma, “Thank you for loving me, our marriage has lasted for many bags of rice. You have given me my children and my grandchildren, and you have taken good care of them.” So I was standing behind my grandpa, hearing him giving thanks to God and to his wife.
Finally, his wife passed away; at the funeral, he was comforting those who came to comfort him. Close to God and His glory, she is now in Heaven, happy with Jesus. Then he was preaching gospel to everybody, “Jesus saves! In Him there is eternal life! In there I will see my wife again!”
When my grandfather died, it was a sad day for me; I grew up with my grandfather, so he was like a father to me. When we received news that he was in hospital and died, and when Ann took her handbag as we were about to go out the door to go to the hospital, immediately the LORD spoke to my heart. So I stopped, took Ann with her handbag to the bedroom, bowed down and pray. Because I have learned from my grandfather thanksgiving. When we were rushing to the hospital, my wife and I were praying, giving thanks to my grandfather, giving thanks that I grew up in his home and watched his prayer life; giving thanks the childhood with my grandfather. And there was a joy coming to my heart which comforted me. It was the joy of the LORD that gave me strength. So by the time I came to the hospital, the peace of God and Presence of God was already there in my heart. No matter the pain, in the presence of God there is joy, because the biggest joy we can find is the victory that is in Jesus. Jesus have taken the victory and given us peace; and in His peace, we can find deep joy.
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In the battle of Waterloo, Lord Wellington defeated Napoleon. In the great aftermath of the battle, Wellington sent a message back to England. The telegraph message was simple: “Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.” That is great news. However, because of the war and the telegraph stations were damaged, the wire only transmitted the first two words of the message: “Wellington defeated…” You can imagine, when England received the news that Wellington was defeated, they were very sad. Until finally the telegraph station was repaired and able to connect again, the whole message was sent: “Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.”
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For us Christians, we have great joy because Jesus Christ defeated Satan at the cross. The cross seems to be a defeat because Jesus died; and at the point of His death, his disciples were discouraged – the Messiah was hung on the cross, He was a crucified man. It seemed that Jesus was defeated. But the cross was a victory, because Jesus defeated Satan; and we can have joy, because victory is ours. Because of the victory of Jesus, we don’t pray FOR victory, but we pray FROM victory, because victory is ours in Jesus. So that whatever you pain in life, in the presence of god there is joy. When we enter His presence, we praise, and God enters your circumstances with power. Rejoice, so that you can live fully.
The second secret to victorious life is to REMEMBER so that you can live life faithfully. “Remember” is an important word because we are forgetful creatures.
Many years ago, I was having my Sabbathical in Los Angeles. My wife took a day trip to Mexico for a missionary trip. The trip was about distributing food to the poor, and she was coming back that night. She told me she would be coming back that night, and I totally forgot. That day I was in a theology school studying; I met a professor, and we talked about theology, and I forgot the time. Then I suddenly remembered my wife is coming back. So I told the lecturer, “My wife is coming back. We want to continue our conversation; we drive to our home and continue.”
When I arrived home, Ann was already there; it was winter time, and in Los Angeles it was cold. She was freezing outside the house because she did not have a key. But yet my wife saw us, there was a big smile, and she received us. She did not scold me for “Where have you been!?” She knew me; she knew that I have forgotten time. She made a pot of tea, and continued with a big smile. I saw the joy of the LORD in her. I was thankful, but I wonder how long it would last – I don’t know whether her joy would continue after my lecturer friend left! And when the lecturer left, there was no complain. It is because of the joy that God gives. I was thankful. But that became a remarkable day – I must remember to remember. It is important to remember.
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And here the Book of Ecclesiastes says, there is something very important to remember – remember your Creator. That does not mean just think a bit more about God, nor does it mean “don’t forget God”. It is saying something else –the idea of creation is the idea of ownership. The theology of that God is the Creator is the theology that God owns us because He created us. So “remember your Creator” is a statement that “remember who owns you”. You are not your own; remember who is in charge of your life. Remember your Creator; remember who owns you.
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One of my favorite stories is a little boy who built a beautiful sailing boat. After completing this beautiful boat, he took it to the lake to launch it on the water. But it was a huge lake. There was a strong gust of wind that blew the sailing boat offshore. With a strong wind and waves, the boat went too far for the boy to retrieve, and finally it was out of sight. The boy went back home empty-handed, and he was sad in his heart. He has lost his beloved sailing boat, because he MADE the boat.
A few days later, he was walking pass a shop, and by the window he saw his sailing boat. He went to the owner of the store and told him, “This boat is mine.” The owner said, “I bought it from someone else. I believe it is yours, therefore I can resell you at the price I paid for.” But boy could not afford the price. So he worked for 2 weeks and saved money for his sailing boat. Every day he walked past the shop just to make sure the sailing boat was still there. 2 weeks after, he finally saved enough money, and thankfully the sailing boat was still there. So, very excitedly, he went to buy the boat back. And as he walked out from the store, he said to his sailing boat:
“Oh little boat, I own you twice. First, I made you; then, I bought you.”
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We are twice-owned by God: first, He made us; then, He bought us with a price. It is a great price; it is the sacrifice of blood of Jesus Christ. That why Apostle Paul says, “you are not your own; you are bought with a price.” In the Old Testament, “remember your Creator”, because He owns you. In the New Testament, remember your Redeemer, because He bought you. Remember the One who loves you. We are twice-owned.
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And here it says, “Remember your Creator in your youth…” In other words, learn from young that who is in charge of your life; learn from young that who has the right to own you, because very soon you will grow old. And if you do not have God in your life, you cannot live a life that is fulfilled. Imagine you are 80-year-old now. I know someone may find it hard to image that long, but imagine you are 80-year-old. Now imagine you at 80 and meet yourself at 30, what will you tell yourself? If you have one chance to say one sentence of wisdom, what will you tell? I know what some of you might think – I would tell myself who won the World Cup or some other tips to win gambling to become super rich. But you have to remember, in the wisdom of life, wealth does not really satisfy. You can be super rich but end up committing suicide, or super rich but end up very sad and in depression. So, one chance, one sentence, what would you say to your younger self?
I would say to myself what is said here, in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Remember your Creator.” Before you grow too old. Once you get too old and set in your ways, you will forget your Creator. Remember your mortality, therefore live a God-centered life; remember your Creator.
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The Book of Ecclesiastes gives people a sense of mortality. It brings a vivid graphic picture about growing old. We find that in 12:3-6,
(1) “…when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent…” The “keepers” and “strong men” are referring to our limps – our hands and feet, which become weak.
(2) “…the grinders cease because they are few…” The “grinders” are our teeth. All of us know that, the older we grow, the more dental problems we will have.
(3) “…and those who look through the windows are dimmed…” The “windows” refers to our eyes; our eye-sight becomes dimmed.
(4) “…and the doors on the street are shut…” It refers to our ears that we have hard-hearing.
(5) “…when the sound of the grinding is low…” It is that we have a lower capacity to get on with life.
(6) And since we get up early, “…and one rises up at the sound of a bird…”
(7) “…and all the daughters of song are brought low…” It refers to a weakened vocal cord.
(8) Old people easily get afraid, so “…they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way…”
(9) “…the almond tree blossoms…” What does that mean? When an almond tree blossoms, the tree is white in color. So it is time to dye your hair, because your hair is becoming white.
(10) “…the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails…” Old people lose their appetite with inference of sexual appetite.
(11) “…before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern…” These are the pictures of weakening, the funeral and death, and it is expressed in 12:7, “…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
Some people says, when you die, there is nothing else. But the Bible says no; the spirit returns to God who gave it.
So it calls us to live a life remembering old-age will come. What do you do when you get old? I want to give you a pastoral counsel: When you are getting old, Thank God for what you have, Trust god for what you need.
Conclusion in the Book of Ecclesiastes
Now do not miss the final words, because the final words in the Book of Ecclesiastes are the most important words. Ecc. 12:13, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” The Hebrew word here used means “conclusion”, “the end of matter”. It means the “bottom line”, “something very important”, and this important conclusion has TWO parts: (1) What we are to do, which is found in 12:13; and (2) Why are we to do it, which is found in 12:14.
“What we are to do” is to fear God and keep His commandments. “To fear God” is the foundation of wisdom; “To keep His commandments” is the application of the wisdom. And therefore, “to fear God” means you must keep His commandments. If you say you fear of God but you don’t keep His commandments, you are not fearing God. Why keep His commandments? Because the commandments protect us. Why keep His commandments? Because of the vanity of men’s resources and vulnerability of man’s life. Fear God, and keep His commandments.
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Many people think that this is the conclusion of the Book of Ecclesiastes – Fear God, and keep His commandments. That is not true; that is only the first part of the conclusion. And the second part is actually more important than the first part, because the first part only says “what we are to do”, but the second part explains “why do we do it”. And many people forget the “why”; people often miss this. But this is the key to life; this is secret to life. This is what the whole Book of Ecclesiastes is really about. It gives us the profound picture of theological portrait of God; Ecc. 12:14, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Why are we to fear God and keep His commandments? Because there is a day of accountability. Because one day, God will call you and I to account for our life. Because there will be a day of reckoning by which we stand before the Judgment of God and account for the gift of life is given to us. We have to realize that our life is God’s gift to us. What we do with our life is our gift back to God. We must live soberly because in the day of accounting and reckoning, there is a Judgment before God. He will bring everything into Judgment, every secret thing.
I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I trembled. Because it tells me TWO things: (1) Nothing is hidden from God, and (2) God will judge. We are in trouble if God judges, because man only looks at our accomplishments, but God only sees our heart. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The only way we can stand before God in His Judgment is when somebody has already paid the price for our sins. The Bible says, “On the cross of Jesus Christ, God forgives us all the sins and He remembers them no more.” For all eternity, our sins are forgiven. It is completely forgiven because there was a perfect sacrifice given atonement for our sins. It is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Now we stand before God with sins forgiven, because we have come to believe Jesus died for our sins. Because all the bad things are taken care of, now God only looks at the good things. And He blesses us out of the good, even the good is by the grace of God.
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My dear friends, the greatest joy in Christian is that Jesus Christ died for us. Therefore, the whole Book of Ecclesiastes says this: life is frustrating and meaningless without God. But there is a God, and one day He will judge. Therefore, remember your Creator. Because there is a God, we have to live life carefully and wisely.
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The theme of the Book of Ecclesiastes is not “nothing matters”. If there is no God, nothing matters; because if there is no God, life is meaningless; if life is meaningless, nothing matters. But there is a God; there is meaning in life, and hence everything matters. And because it matters, we have to find our answer to life on the cross of Calvary. Because of the cross on the Calvary, everything is redeemed for mankind.
In John 14:2, Jesus says, “I go and prepare a place for you.” In 14:1, He was comforting His disciples. So He says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
What does Jesus mean when He is saying “preparing a place for you”? Often it is misunderstood. We always assume that “in my father’s house, there are many mansions. And I go to Heaven to prepare for you. I will get your room key ready. I will make sure your room will be ready. You believe in me.” It seems like Jesus is the eternal concierge. But it is not the meaning of it; He is not going to prepare a room and get our room keys ready. In the context of the farewell discourse, He was talking about the cross; He was saying, “I am going to the cross, and prepare a place for you in Heaven. I go to the cross to prepare a place for you, so that you have a place in my Father’s house. That where I am, there ye may be also. ”
My friend, the time has caught up with me. 10 nights pass by so quickly. I want to this grand conclusion of the Book of Ecclesiastes. There is a Judgment Day coming, the day that we account for God for our lives. And the only way that we can account for it, is that God sent his Son to the cross to prepare a place for us. If the Salvation of Jesus does not move you, nothing will move you to live a God-centered life. If you find Christianity boring, it is because you don’t know Jesus; if you find Christianity is merely an outward religion, it is because you don’t know Jesus; if you find your Christian life spiritually dried, it is because you don’t know Jesus; if you are not thrilled by your Christian life, it is because you don’t know Jesus. The key of spiritual revival is knowing Jesus; “I am the one who went to the cross and died for you and prepared a place for you – because I love you.”
Therefore, my friends here and in transmission locations, if you have not come to a place to believe Jesus as your personal LORD and Savior, today you make the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal LORD and Savior. I will tell you why you should do it: because it is the greatest invitation, by the greatest Almighty God, for the greatest gift of eternal life, with the simplest condition – believe in LORD Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved!! He died on the cross for your sins. When you believe in Him, one day at the eternal accounting of God’s judgment throne, you are forgiven. You will realize the joy and glory of your Salvation in Jesus.
For the many of you here who are Christians, I encourage you to live for Jesus, know Him, love Him, serve Him, follow Him, and become more and more like Jesus. When you know Jesus, love Jesus, serve Jesus and follow Jesus, that is called DISCIPLESHIP. Discipleship is not a program in the church; it is the new-ness of life in Jesus.
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Tonight I am closing with a testimony. I was in London with my children; it was my Sabbathical time of study. I was a student of London Bible College. On a Sunday, I went to Westminster Chapel for the service. I told my wife to take my older daughter to one side of the chapel and I took my younger daughter to the other side, so that they were split apart; because when the two sisters come together, they keep talking and cannot concentrate. Although they are very young – both are pre-school, and the younger daughter is ~4-5 years old – I wanted them to focus on worshiping Jesus.
The offering time came. My little daughter opened her little bag and took out a one-pound to me for the offering. She was playing the role of mommy; it is usually mommy who gives them money for offering. This time, she gave me the one-pound and said, “This is one-pound for you to offering.”
I was surprised that my daughter was so rich; because they were young, we didn’t give them money. At the end of the service, at the back of the chapel, I my daughter how much money she had. So she gave me her little purse. I poured out the purse, and there were two 50-pence, four 1-pence, and there was one more pound. I said, “Darling, where did you get these money from?” She said to me, “This auntie and that auntie gave me these. Mommy said ‘don’t spend the money in London; we will go to Malaysia, and British pound becomes more money in Malaysia.’ But I want to give to Jesus.”
So I asked her, “Why don’t you give the 1-pence?”
She looked at me as if saying “From what planet did you come from?”
So I changed immediately, “Why don’t you give the 50-pence?”
Immediately, this 4-5 years old girl said, “Because Jesus is the greatest!! And I want to give Him my best.”
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My dear friends, I have one question as I close tonight. Jesus died on the cross for us; He is the greatest. Why not we give Him the best? Why not the BEST? He deserves it!! Remember your Creator, remember your Redeemer. Jesus is the best; why not we give Him the best?
Would you bow with me and pray.
Father, it comes to the final night, the final session. Open our eyes to Jesus. He went to the cross to prepare a place in Heaven for us. In the coming day of reckoning, in the day of Judgment that we have our lives accounted for, help us to give the best to our master.
My dear friends, if you hear God calls in your life tonight that He loves you, in your heart you say, “LORD, I am twice-owned by You. Jesus went to the cross to die for me; He went to the cross to prepare a place in Heaven for me. Tonight, I want to give Him MY BEST, because Jesus is the greatest. I want to give Him my best.” If it is your heart’s desire, if God has spoken to your heart, then right now, I invite you to stand.
LORD, I stand before you. Thank you for Your Salvation. Tonight, dear God, fill deeply my life, so I might live the new-ness of life. Revive me, dear God.
Heavenly Father, You hear our cries of our heart. Tonight we rise before You. Tonight we give our hearts to You, to give the best to the master. Thank you for this, dear God.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.