Those earlier days

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Heb 10:1-17; Pro 11:12-13

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Hebrews 10:32-33
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.

REFLECT
The writer of Hebrews continues his letter of earnest encouragement to early Christians who were suffering greatly for their faith. Here, he reminds them to remember. Yes, to remember the time when they first saw the light, and how willing they were to endure hardship because of the joy they found in Christ. Yet somehow, that joy had faded away, and some of the believers were now in danger of turning their backs on Jesus and choosing the easy way … which could lead only to death.

RELATE
Yes, I remember my early days as a Christian, some 30 years back. Such great was my joy and awakening that there was little that I would not do for God. So sweet was the fellowship of believers in my first church that I eagerly awaited our weekly small group and Sunday service. Most of all, the fear of God was so strong that all temptations seemed easily overcome. Well, that was special grace, and a foretaste of heaven! Now that the honeymoon period is over, my faith must be tested so that it becomes deep and mature. But whenever the going gets tough, I must remember that holiness is possible. I had a glimpse of it in “earlier days”!

REST
Lord, I need you, now and forever. May I always love You as my First Love!

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Day 321

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Thessalonians 5:2-3
You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “Everything is safe and sound!” destruction will suddenly strike them. It will be as sudden as labor pains come to a pregnant woman. They won’t be able to escape.

Jesus is coming again.
When He comes, this world will end and all will be judged.
The day will come suddenly as described above.

How ready am I for His return?

1 Thessalonians 5:4-9
But, brothers and sisters, you don’t live in the dark. That day won’t take you by surprise as a thief would. You belong to the day and the light not to the night and the dark. Therefore, we must not fall asleep like other people, but we must stay awake and be sober. People who sleep, sleep at night; people who get drunk, get drunk at night. Since we belong to the day, we must be sober. We must put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. It was not God’s intention that we experience his anger but that we obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Great reminder to:

  1. Put on faith and love to protect myself from straying or falling away near the End. Faith that Jesus will surely come again rather than have doubt take possession of my mind and no longer persevere on this Christian journey. Love that Jesus has shown to me – and remind me of His place in my life and my place in His heart.
  2. To guard my mind and thoughts with this hope I have in Jesus. “I am saved by Him and through Him, no matter what happens.” Bad things may happen but in Jesus, I know I will experience victory in the end.

With the above, may I be faithful to Him until the very end.

Day 320

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Jesus is coming again to judge the world.
We are told to encourage one another with these words.

No matter the injustices we may be facing – He is coming again to put an end to such injustices in our world.
No matter the condition of our bodies – He is coming again to give us bodies that are imperishable.
No matter the state of our finances in this life- He is coming again to receive us and take us to His Father’s house with rooms He has prepared for us.

When Jesus comes again, He heals the broken hearted and makes the incomplete whole.
That is why – though He comes in judgment – we rejoice because we know our sins have already been forgiven and we are already His, citizens of the Kingdom of God.

I long for Jesus to come again because I know He has a better life and a better world in store for us, when He comes to put an end to this world.

A child in right relationship with his father, does not fear his father’s return from work. Rather he longs for it. In like manner, we should live desiring His return.

Day 319

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Thessalonians 3:5
But when I couldn’t wait any longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith. I wanted to see whether the tempter had in some way tempted you, making our work meaningless.

We are called to have a persevering faith. Not a one moment in life kind of faith.

We do not just make a decision for Christ and fall into apostasy and cease to follow. It makes the initial profession meaningless.

How can we hang on and keep our faith despite persecution and pressure?

I believe that the community of faith that we surround ourselves with, matters.
Stuff rubs off. Who we hang out with matters.

That is why the apostle writes:

1 Thessalonians 3:12
We also pray that the Lord will greatly increase your love for each other and for everyone else, just as we love you.

The church builds one another up and encourages each to persevere in the Lord as they witness to one another, that God is still acting in human history through the testimonies of their lives.

Testimony giving – is a necessary part of church life.
It helps the struggling to see God’s hand manifest in the lives of others so that they may draw hope amidst the present struggle.
It helps those who have overcome to encourage and share tips on how to remain faithful through trials.

Day 318

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!

The Greeks persecuted the Thessalonian church in the same way the church in Jerusalem was persecuted by its fellow men.

The writer says that the Jerusalem persecution of the church- displeased God and was a disservice to mankind.
Why?
Because it was of paramount importance that the gospel be shared to the nations!

It’s a treasure that should not be withheld.
It is necessary and beneficial for mankind to receive it in order to escape destruction due to bondage to sin.

Let me explain it this way:
Withholding it – would be like withholding water from a man dying of thirst!

It’s a great reminder to me the next time I have an opportunity to share the gospel and when I hesitate to do so, out of fear of being shut down!

Day 317

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Thessalonians 1:8
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.

O what a church!
Matthew Henry writes of its conversion:
“The effects of their faith were famous. [1.] They quitted their idolatry; they turned from their idols, and abandoned all the false worship they had been educated in. [2.] They gave themselves up to God, to the living and true God, and devoted themselves to his service. [3.] They set themselves to wait for the Son of God from heaven.”

If only our church would be famous for:

  1. Our transformation, in the sense, of turning from our sinful ways.
  2. Our dedication to God, prioritizing God above all else, making Him first in our schedules, in our finances, in our participation in His ministries.
  3. Our conviction to live for the kingdom of heaven and its treasures, rather than the treasures of this fallen world.

Surely many would be drawn to Christ by such a lighthouse of a faith community.
It would be a witness to God’s power indeed.

Why just wish it?
Let’s be such a church, starting with our own individual faith journey today.

Lord we yield ourselves to Your transforming work.
We desire to turn from our errors and live for You above all else, making You our first priority in our tome, our finances and our service.
Help us to store up treasure in Heaven rather than on earth alone, thus accumulating eternal treasures that will not be destroyed with the end of the world.
Help us and change us, Lord.
You are everything, and we are nothing without You.
Amen.

Are “the laws” a mistake?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Hebrews 7:18-28; Proverbs 11:8

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Hebrews 7:18-19 “On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”

REFLECT
Were the laws / commandments a mistake? Since they were declared as “weak and useless” by the author of Hebrews? Did God gave them by mistake to the people of Israel? No. The author of Hebrews did not say that the laws (“a former commandment” refers to the Levitical system or Old Covenant characterized by the Mosaic legislation) were a mistake but that they were “useless” for salvation. They were useless for salvation because of our sinful nature and the Levitical system only provided a temporal atonement of sins through the blood of animals.

The laws are useful in that they define our sins; without which we will not be aware of how sinful we are in the face of a holy God. Rather the laws are to be “set aside” since now, a “better hope is introduced” in Jesus Christ. Only through Christ can we find salvation as sinners accused by the truth of the law for death. Christ is the permanent solution for salvation. Without Jesus, we are only destined to destruction because of the laws. Yet, Christ came so that even us, can have life in Him.

RELATE
Without a study and understanding of the laws, we might not be able to appreciate the depth of God’s mercy and grace in His offer of salvation. We might not even come to a realisation of how sinful we are / can be or what Jesus had really saved us from. Yet, there are churches in Singapore and worldwide that teach her disciples that believers do not need to care about the Old Testament. The New Testament is all that we need. This is simply untrue and reminds one of Marcionism.

I used to think that way as a young believer when listening to sermons in an independent church. Then, when the Holy Spirit convicted me of how much of the Old Testament were quoted in the New Testament; am I convinced that believers are to be people of “one Book” and not only half of it. Indeed, the holiness of God as explained in the Old Testament, the laws that were given in grace for His people to live in the midst of Him and the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ so that we can draw near to Him tells the complete story. We need the complete story (and not just half of it!) of God’s love and faithfulness; this is so we can truly live a life of hope, faith and love in His grace. This is also we can share the complete Gospel with others, and not just half of it.

REST
Lord, as we read the Bible, enable us to read in context of the Old and New Testaments. Restrain us from reading into what our hearts desire or be tardy in the studying of Your Word; but allow our hearts to be taught and convicted of what You desire. Amen.