Matthew 5:10

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 5:10 records Jesus as saying “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

It is not always easy to do what is right. It is possible that we may be persecuted for following God’s ways rather than the world’s ways. But holding to our beliefs when it is difficult, is what true conviction is. Jesus recognizes those who do and He declares that the Kingdom of Heaven welcomes citizens such as these.

Wisdom in friendship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 2 Kings 3:1-4:17; Proverbs 17:22

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
2 Kings 3:7 “And he went and sent word to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to battle against Moab?” And he said, “I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

REFLECT
Due to the rebellion of Moab, Jehoram (king of Israel) decided to march and attack the Moabites. He called upon the alliance of Jehoshaphat, then king of Judah as well as the alliance of the king of Edom. Jehoshaphat agreed to assist Jehoram, not knowing that a week later, they would be stranded in the wilderness of Edom.

Jehoshaphat was known in the history of Judah to be a king who mostly did what was right in the eyes of God. However, Bible commentators noted that Jehoshaphat’s main weakness was to ally himself with people who were evil. Often, these people such as Jehoram and earlier on Ahaziah as well as Ahab, were totally “capable” of leading Jehoshaphat to his utter ruin. If not for the intervention of the prophet Elisha who looked upon Jehoshaphat with favour (2 Kings 3:14); the three kings and their vast army would have been led to self-destruction due to the folly of Jehoram (2 Kings 3: 8-9).

Are there times when we are like Jehoshaphat? Do we cling on to relationships that we know will lead us to trouble? Do we give in to bad advice in order to avoid trouble or “looking bad” in front of others? Do we have a weakness to please all people even though among these are people who can lead us to the path of destruction?

RELATE
At a point in my life, I was in the company of a few friends whom I was very aware were leading me to self-destruction. Yet, I cling on to them because it seemed that no one else was willing to show me as much concern. If not for the grace of God that woke me to my senses and tore me out of their company, I might have gotten myself into troubles which would have altered my life forever.

REST
Dear Lord, help me to be wise in friendships and may it never be that I ally myself with evil in order to please the crowd or even a few “prominent” people. Amen.

Jonah 3:6

by Rev Joel Yong

Jonah 3:6 records ‘When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.”

Even though he was the king, he humbled himself when confronted with his sins. Rather than saying ‘I am the king, how can I ever be wrong?’ he repented and admitted his sin. His leadership in humble repentance influenced a nation, and caused God to change his mind about the fate of Nineveh. That’s leadership when it matters the most.

Grace and mercy of God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: Acts 13:16-41; Psalm 138:1-8

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Acts 13:38-39 “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

REFLECT
In his exhortation to the people in Antioch, Paul listed the various events which took place prior to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If we are to look carefully at these events, we cannot help but observe God’s immense patience and grace for His people. Some like to make comparisons between the “God of the OT” with the “God of the NT”; thinking that in the OT, Yahweh seemed harsher. Where Yahweh’s divine purpose is concerned; this is simply not true. God is always constant and consistent in His faithfulness. If not for His grace and mercy at the beginning of time; all of us would not even have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

RELATE
If not for the mercy and grace of God, I would not have come to know Jesus. Even after knowing Jesus, I am still dependent on the mercy and grace of God to lead my daily life. God’s grace and mercy reminded me of my relationship with my children. While the Scripture speaks of not sparing the rod else we would spoil the child; I learn that discipline must come with words as well as actions to assure the child that he or she is deeply loved. Deeply loved, that is, by his or her parents, and even more so by Yahweh.

REST
During this season of Advent, may we take time to pause all that we are doing (even if for a little while); and reflect on the grace and mercy of God shown to us through 2016. Thank you Lord for who You are in our lives. Amen!

Matthew 4:17

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 4:17 records Jesus as saying: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Repentance refers to a two-step process – firstly we STOP the behavior that is wrong & sinful. Secondly we TURN, by embarking on a new pattern of behavior that is, instead righteous in God’s eyes. May we all stop & turn from wicked ways this day and follow Jesus’ way of life instead.

Earnest Prayer

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: Acts 12:1-23; Psalms 136:1-26

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Acts 12:5 “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

REFLECT
The early church lost one of their apostles James to the hands of the enemies and another apostle Peter was arrested and awaiting judgment. Yet the church did not lose heart but kept Peter in “earnest prayer”. I cannot help but notice that this verse was deliberately written; not merely as an observation by the author; but a commentary on the strong sense of dependency that the early church had of God. Such dependency on God seemed a stark contrast to the arrogance of Herod; who loved to feed his own ego by pleasing the crowd and being called a god (Ref: Acts 12:22). In the end, God in His sovereign will acted mightily and sent His angel to rescue Peter; while Herod died a horrible death.

RELATE
I wonder if the church would be in earnest prayer when we are in a crisis similar to the apostle Peter being arrested. I believe we would. Yet, would we only be in earnest prayer when something went terribly wrong? Or would we cultivate dependency in God by being in earnest prayer even during more peaceable times? I believe as a people of God, we need to be in earnest prayer at all times. After all, we can only make Christ-like sense of daily living in earnest prayer as the Lord is the source of all that we have and do.

REST
Lord, help us to understand that earnest prayer is so important. It really shows our heart condition towards who you are in our lives. May we as a church moves towards the direction of being a house of prayer and not lose heart. Amen.

Matthew 3:15

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 3:15 records Jesus as saying: “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.”

Though He is the Son of God, with the powers of the Almighty, Jesus was obedient in every sense to His Father. He came to earth, send by His Father – not to enjoy a life of luxury, but to be crucified and to die for the sins of the world, that through Him, it might be saved. What a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus!

Limping between two opinions

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 1 Kings 18:1-46; Proverb 17:12-13

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Kings 18:21 “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word”.

REFLECT
The people did not answer because they were precisely doing what Elijah suggested – limping between two opinions. It was only after the Lord God showed His might through the utter defeat of the 450 prophets of Baal, the people “fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God”.

Do we need to always “see” before we would bow to the Lord our God? Must we always taste victory before we know that victory is already Jesus’? Must we always have a witness of God’s miracles before we would believe that if He choose to, He can do it? Must we always be disciplined by God’s sovereign hand before we know that He is serious about helping us to grow in holiness?

We have a tendency to limp between two opinions about God; not so much because we are ignorant; but because we are still so much in love with the world.

RELATE
After making the decision to go for full time studies in Trinity Theological College; i received the great news that my wife was expecting our first child. Yet, even as I was elated at the idea of being a daddy, I was also worried about how we were going to cope financially. I realised that I was really limping between two opinions. If I said I trusted God to give up my job and go for theological studies; then why did I even wonder about His provision? Throughout the time I was in seminary and Belinda making the tough decision to stay home to look after the children (we had our second during my third year in TTC); God had not let us go hungry. It was a challenging time but God gave rain when everything else seemed bleak and dry. Glory to God because He is faithful even when I was limping with my lack of trust.

REST
Lord God, You are more than enough. Help us to trust you more and not limp on two opinions. You are God, so be it. May our obedience to you grow in humility as well as in intensity. There is really no other way. Amen.

Matthew 2:8

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 2:8 records Herod as saying: “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child, and when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him too!”

He had no intention to worship Jesus but wanted to eliminate the threat to his throne. Many may seek to see Jesus – but few do so with sincere intent – to honor Him as King. This Christmas, may we see Christ through the perspective of the Scriptures.

Hiding from God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 1 Kings 14:1-15:24; Proverbs 17:7-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Kings 14:6 “But when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend to be another? For I am charged with unbearable news for you.”

REFLECT
Jeroboam asked his wife to disguise herself so that no one may recognise her when she went to seek the prophet Ahijah. But as soon as Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, the prophet knew that it was Jeroboam’s wife. It was the Lord who informed the prophet of the pretension and also gave him the words to say. In this situation, the Lord not only knew of the pretension; but also all the evils that Jeroboam had done. Why did Jeroboam think that he can hide from a true prophet of the Lord or even God Himself? Didn’t he know that God knows all things? Indeed, nothing escapes the Lord.

RELATE
Some of us can perhaps identify with Jeroboam. Sometimes we think that we can actually hide from God; even though we know in our hearts that it is such a ridiculous idea. We think we can hide from God; by erasing the internet history from our computers. We think we can hide from God; by running away from our problems instead of facing them. We think we can hide from God; by wearing masks in church and being totally different persons outside church. We think we can hide from God; by pushing blame to others for things we know that we are accountable for. Yet, God always know. God is also just and holy. Yes, He is full of grace, but He knows and He will also act according to His purpose. What can we do? We can only seek His forgiveness for trying to hide, face our iniquities and repent.

REST
Sovereign God, help us not to even entertain the idea that we can hide from You. Help us not to give in to the evil one to think that we can hide from You. Help us to seek You in humility, authenticity and repent of the things we have done that are not pleasing to You. Amen.

Matthew 2:2

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 2:2 records the Magi as saying: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

They had been traveling for a long time, and far, from their homes in the Orient. They undertook this long journey because they viewed the destination to be worth the effort. They came to see the Christ. Perhaps you are on a journey with God and it’s a long one. Take heart, He’s worth it.

We are suffering … for whom?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings:  Acts 9:1-25; Psalm 131:1-3

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Acts 9:16 “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

REFLECT
I like to think that most if not all believers know that suffering do not go away with conversion. If we read Acts 9:16 in tandem with Paul’s expression of his apostleship and perspective on Christian living; bible passages such as Philippians 1:27-29 seem to suggest that precisely because we are believers, we are to suffer for Jesus’ Name sake. Question is, do we always get it right when we thought we are suffering for Jesus? Some might think that by surrendering to temptations, we suffer the flesh for Jesus. Yet this has more to do with our lack of self-control and failure to live in the Spirit. Some might think that every time a bad thing happen, it has to do with God’s intention to test us and hence suffer for His sake. Yet, this might have more to do with our own depravity which created bad consequences. We cannot think that we are noble when we are just trying to use God as an excuse for our sins. Some might even think that by sacrificing family time for ministry, they are also suffering for Jesus. Yet this could just be an excuse for the failure to manage one’s life and priorities in God. As in the example of Paul, suffering for Christ has nothing to do with our personal interests, failures or insecurities; but everything to do with the obedience of God in living out the faith despite oppositions.

RELATE
There was a time when I misunderstood the suffering wrought from spending too much time in ministry to be “suffering for Christ”. The Lord helped me to come to my senses when He used people to admonish me. Only then, did I realized that I am just trying to create a big excuse to hide my failure to set good priorities in life.

REST
Help me O Lord to have the spiritual self-awareness to discern between truth and self-deception. This is so I can continue to serve You for righteousness sake. Amen.

Matthew 1:16

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 1:16 records “Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.”

This ends the long list of Jesus’ ancestors in Matthew 1 – many of whom had colorful lives. Amongst those mentioned are prostitutes, adulterers, kings who wandered from God. But it doesn’t matter how colorful your past is – what matters is that it ends with Christ. Jesus redeems us from our colorful past and gives us a hope for the future!

Stopping our ears against the truth

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: Acts 7:51-8:13; Ps 129:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Acts 7:57 “But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.”

REFLECT
As Stephen preached boldly of how the Jews had grieved the Holy Spirit and persecuted prophets sent by God; the crowd grew angry, ground their teeth and eventually stoned him to death. We are told specifically in verse 57 that the crowd stopped their ears and rushed to persecute Stephen. Why do the crowd stop their ears from listening? If they find that it is not the truth, they can simply turn away and not listen. Why were they so enraged with something they did not agree upon? Couldn’t they have just ignored Stephen? Or maybe they couldn’t ignore Stephen?

I believe God’s truth has the ability to do something like that. God’s truth in the power of the Spirit has the ability to convict us of what is not right, make us extremely uncomfortable and lay before us a choice: repent or continue to be locked in sin’s spiritual prison. In this situation, when we choose not to change; we could feel guilty. Yet, we want to hold on to our sins. When we are confronted with this spiritual dilemma, we need an outlet for comfort and relief. For some, we find comfort in convincing ourselves that we are in the right though God’s truth revealed that we are wrong. For some….like in the case of the people who stoned Stephen, they found comfort in stopping their ears. They found comfort in getting so enraged with Stephen that they stoned him to death. Depravity is scary.

RELATE
There was a time when my wife pointed out that I have wrongly accused one of my children for doing something wrong. After some investigation, it turned out that my wife was right. Even though I know that I was in the wrong, I took quite some time to apologise to my child. I reflected on why I took such a long time and realised that it all have to do with pride. I have allowed my pride to stop my ears from listening, or rather be more prompt to do what is good and right.

REST
May the Lord help me to learn from this precious lesson and learn to nurture my children with the love of Christ and humility. Amen.

1 Samuel 7:3

by Rev Joel Yong

1 Samuel 7:3 records Samuel as saying “If you are really serious about wanting to return to the LORD, get rid of your foreign gods, and your images of Ashtoreth.

Determine to obey only the LORD; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” We cannot claim to follow God and yet worship other idols. God is not a god amongst gods. He is the Almighty God, and there is no one like Him. Let’s commit to following after Him whole-heartedly, even in the secret areas of our lives that no one but we ourselves know about.

Priorities

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 1 Kings 7:1-51; Proverb 16:31-33

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Kings 7:1 “Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house.”

REFLECT
King Solomon chose to build his own house after building the house of the Lord. For his own house, he took 13 years to build while the house of the Lord, given all its elaborate and grand details, took only 7 years. There are at least two things we can learn from King Solomon in this phase of his life:

  1. He got his priorities right. He chose to focus on building what is God’s before building what God wanted to give to him. He understood that it is always important to anchor his life on God; seeking God’s kingdom first before anything else.
  2. He seemed less enthusiastic to build his own house as compared to the Lord’s. Such a passion for what belonged to the Lord gave him the right perspective when managing the kingdom of Israel. That is why prior to Solomon’s disobedience from 1 Kings 11, it is said that “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind.”

RELATE
Most of us want to be wise like Solomon – being able to put first things first. However, we are often tempted by the flesh to put last things first and regret thereafter at the lack of “time”. Sometimes we complain that we have no time for serving others in the Gospel; we have no time to read the Bible every day or we have no time to come for Life Groups or even Church. Yet, will the Lord force us into a situation where we have no choice but fail to worship Him? Or is it more of a matter of misplaced priorities? If it is so, then we need to ask God to help us to let go and reset our priorities with Him.

REST
Help us O Lord, to have the wisdom, passion and discipline to put you first in all that we do. Amen.

Matthew 24:4-6

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 24:4-6 records Jesus as saying: “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah’.

They will deceive many.’ When the end comes, there will be many false saviors promising hope unto the world. But there is only 1 who is All-Powerful and yet All-Loving – that is, our true Savior, Jesus Christ. He is more than able to save us from our sins and yet He is loving enough to be willing to use that power to help us climb out of the pit of sin. Seek after Jesus alone, for He cares for you.