Matthew 18:11

by Rev Joel Yong

Matthew 18:11 says “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”

When I lose something that matters, I don’t shrug my shoulders and forget about it. I seek it persistently, until I find it again. That’s what Jesus came to do. His love for us is shown by the extent He went to, to save that which was lost. Its forever represented by – the Cross.

Awareness of God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 6:12-8:10; Proverbs 19:24-25

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

REFLECT
God’s conversation with Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 formed part of His response to the king’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 6:14-42. As i read the prayer, the phrase “awareness of God” came to mind. It seems to me that Solomon (at this point in time) had such a strong sense of the awareness of God. This allowed him to understand that before the Almighty, all men are deeply sinful and in need of God’s mercy. This also allowed Solomon to plea on behalf of Israel that if the nation should sin in the days to come but manage to repent; may the Lord forgive. Ironically, such an acute sense of the awareness of God seemed to fade as Solomon grew in his “awareness” of the affection of his many wives and accompanying idols.

RELATE
In comparison, the world is always telling us to cultivate “self-awareness”. While trying to cultivate an awareness of self is well intentioned; it can never lead us to a wholesome understanding of how much we need God and the depth of God’s grace for us. Why? Because we are trying to use our sinful self to know self.

As Jeremiah 9 suggested, the heart (and therefore the self) is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it? We definitely cannot; but God can. Therefore, we need to ask God to help us develop an increasing sense of the awareness of Him. This is so we have a more reflective and wholesome understanding of who we truly are and how God can redeem aspects of us that are not pleasing to Him.

REST
God Almighty, You created us and so You know us better than ourselves. Help us to grow closer to You so that we “hear” what You require of us for the ongoing work of redemption in our daily lives.  Amen.

Matthew 18:4

by Rev Joel Yong

In Matthew 18:4, Jesus says: “Whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Our world would never equate a child with the status of a ‘great man’. Children haven’t accomplished much in life. Yet the faith by which they approach God, is something adults often struggle to have. Talk to God like a child again today, compared to Him, we all are children anyways.

Seeking the Lord

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 1:1-3:17; Proverbs 19:20-21

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
2 Chronicles 1:6  “And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the LORD, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.”

REFLECT
We often marvelled at how Solomon chose wisdom over possessions; but did we notice how he sought the Lord prior to the “famous” conversation in 2 Chronicles 1:7-12? While God fulfilled His promise to David to use his son Solomon mightily; we witnessed that at the early days of his reign, Solomon was someone who was serious about his faith in God. He sought the Lord and was therefore able to hear God clearly and responded honourably when the Almighty spoke to him. The contrary happened when at the later part of his reign, Solomon sought not after the Lord but after the many wives he had. According to 1 Kings 11, these wives turned Solomon’s heart away from God and even towards other gods such as Ashtoreth and Milcom.

RELATE
Seeking after God is not a natural way of life; even for the believer. Every single day, we have to struggle with the help of God to overcome temptations to tune our hearts towards the Almighty. Only then can we hear Him clearly and live out the life He wants us to. Seeking after the Lord is not about seeking after the dream that someday God might say to us as He did to Solomon: “Ask what I shall give you.” (2 Chronicles 1:7) Seeking after the Lord is about waiting upon Him throughout our lives so that when God does speak, we are ready to respond.

REST
Lord, help us to live a life of seeking after You; this is so we can do all things in Your strength and with Your guidance. Amen.

 

John 8:11

by Rev Joel Yong

Jesus said to the adulterous woman in John 8:11 “Neither do I condemn you: go and sin no more.”

She was guilty, but He who could sentence her, showed her grace. His grace wasn’t to be cheapened though, by her continued life of adultery. No, He let her go with the words “… go and sin no more.” A transformed life shows true understanding of grace.

How to grow strong in the faith

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Romans 4:13-5:5; Psalms 14:1-7

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Romans 4:20-21 “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

REFLECT
In Genesis 17, we read that God made a promise to Abraham. God promised that he and his wife Sarah will enjoy the gift of a son (Isaac). In worldly terms, it was considered an unbelievable promise because at that time Abraham was close to 100 years old while Sarah was close to 90 years old. Yet, Abraham trusted in God’s sovereignty to make good what He promised. Hence, Abraham was rewarded for his faith. As affirmed by Romans 4:20-21, a person can grow strong in the faith like Abraham – if he or she gives glory to God. Giving glory to God means to be fully convinced that God is able to do what He promised. Being fully convinced of what God is able to do can mean two things: (1) in hope of what God is giving to us (2) in hope of what God is asking us to abandon.

RELATE
Promises from God might not be fulfilled on a bed of roses; it could even encompass much suffering of the flesh. At the age of 90, Sarah’s pregnancy might be met with a lot of ridicule from the family and neighbours. Yet, Abraham and Sarah persevered and God counted such trust as righteousness to them.

One of God’s biggest promises can be found in John 8:31-32; where Jesus promised that those who abide in His Word will be His true disciples and be set free from the clutches of sin. Abiding in Jesus’ Word involves a very intentional (and hence difficult) way of living: Conversing with God in His Word on a regular basis and living out His Word. Yet, our faith can only grow stronger by trusting God in the most intense of disciplines or adversities; not blindly but with the knowledge that God is good all the time.

REST
“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:19-25

Amen.

Matthew 26:41

by Rev Joel Yong

In Matthew 26:41, Jesus reminds the sleepy disciples: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Our enemy Satan, desires that we be led astray from the way Christ calls us to follow. The key habit to combat Satan’s deceitful ways, is to stay alert, praying often to God – for He grants us strength in all the areas of weakness in our lives. That’s grace.

God of the poor

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Romans 3:9-31; Psalm 12:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Psalm 12:5 “Because the poor are plundered, because the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord;”

REFLECT
It is always comforting to know that God will bring forth justice for the poor and needy; especially those who suffered injustice from the hands of those who are powerful and wealthy. At one time, i was asked to do a presentation on the Gospel of Luke. My task was to explore the question: “According to the Gospel of Luke, is God biased towards the poor?” While Psalm 12 and the Gospel of Luke do chart out certain emphases on God’s attention to the poor; i thought it was a wrong question to ask. It was a wrong question because God is never biased towards anyone or a certain group of people. Instead, what God is concerned about is that His justice be done and that we have love for one another. One of the key words in Psalm 12:5 is “because”; God will arise to mete out His justice “because” the poor are plundered and the needy are in pain.

RELATE
While we are comforted by the truth that God fights for the poor and needy; we could be less comfortable learning about “who” He has been calling to fight for the poor and needy. The “who” is none other than the church. The church has a lot to learn and do where our calling to watch out for the poor and needy is concerned. Employees especially those who came from afar, suffered abuse in terms of low pay and bad working environment.  Single parents are forced to raise children on their own because their spouse dishonoured the marriage vow. Seniors are chased out of their homes by their children because they wanted to make a fast profit from the sale of the house. Children grew up scarred for life due to physical and emotional abuse from their own parents or step parents. The Lord is calling the church to arise as the poor are plundered and the needy groan.

REST
Lord, may you help us as the church to hear and do your call for us to be a beacon of light and comfort for the poor and needy. May your Name be glorified as the church carries out Your mission for justice, peace and reconciliation. Amen.

2 Corinthians 5:10

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Corinthians 5:10 reminds us that “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”

Let’s remember that everything done in this life, requires an accounting for, someday. May we live our lives well, seeking a life that honors the way taught to us, through the life of Christ Jesus alone.

Consequences

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 1 Chronicles 19:1-21:30; Proverb 19:10-12

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Chronicles 21:7 “But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel.”

REFLECT
Clearly, it was David who sinned against God. Even when Joab warned against the conduct of the census, David went ahead to do it. The consequence was that 70,000 Israelites died in a pestilence because of David’s sin. Isn’t it unfair that others have to perish because of the sin of one man? We think its unfair because we are used to the idea that sin is a private affair or that God’s justice must correlate with our ideas for justice.  However the reality is that sin is hardly a private affair and who are we to even compare our sense of justice with the Creator?

Sin has consequences, for the one who committed sin, for those who are in relationship with the one who sinned and sometimes even for those who are not related at all to the sinner. The consequence for David was that as King, he had to suffer the blood guilt of 70,000 souls. The consequence for the people was that they had to suffer the folly of their king.

RELATE
This passage serves as a sobering reminder that my walk with God can bear deep consequences for the flock He has placed in my charge. Such a reminder also extends to all leaders, parents of households, supervisors in the workplace or even a friend to someone. What we do with the calling that God has given by His grace must be treated seriously; lest others suffer the consequences of our folly.

Even so, we can praise God that now in Jesus Christ, we are privileged to have God as our King and for those who abide in Him, we are assured of the blessed consequence of eternal life (not death) in spite of whatever that may befall us here on earth.

REST
Help us O Lord to walk closely with you so that by Your grace and wisdom, we can serve and love Your people according to Your ways. Amen.

Luke 11:33

by Rev Joel Yong

Luke 11:33 records Jesus as saying: “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.”

Followers of Jesus are meant to shine brightly for Him. They do so, by the good deeds they do, as a result of following His ways. Is your life shining so brightly that it transforms those around you? Or is your light hidden under a basket?

Naked or no?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: 1 Chronicles 15:1-16:36; Proverbs 19:6-7

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 Chronicles 15:27 “David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, as also were all the Levites who were carrying the ark, and the singers and Chenaniah the leader of the music of the singers. And David wore a linen ephod.”

REFLECT
A common understanding of 2 Samuel 6:20 was that King David danced naked while celebrating the return of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. Yet, if we read 1 Chronicles 15:27 (as well as 2 Samuel 6:14), we found that King David wasn’t naked at all while celebrating the return of the ark of the covenant. He was dressed in linen ephod which was a priestly garment worn over a simple robe.

In other words, there was nothing “naked” or “immodest” about David’s clothing (or the lack of it). Michal was probably unhappy that David only had simple clothing as compared to his kingly vestments. To Michal, this could be a “shameful” act in terms of status but not in terms of what was culturally proper. This could explain why her accusations were targeted at David being “exposed” to his servants’ female servants. The result was that Michal was punished for despising the King’s reverence and humility before the Lord (ref: 2 Samuel 6:23).

RELATE
Why do some of us have the idea that David danced naked? This common understanding could come from a misreading of 2 Samuel 6:20 as well as the sensationalisation of the passage to suit a preacher’s intent for certain messages. The reminder for me today is I must be diligent in rightly parting the word of God for His glory. This is so that when i hear a sermon being preached no matter if it comes from a “favourite” preacher; I do not merely take it all in without question. Instead, I must learn to be like the Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (ref Acts 17:11)

REST
Holy Spirit, help us as a church to be diligent in examining God’s Word daily. This is so that we can grow in our discernment of what is true and what is not for the sake of righteousness and God’s glory. Amen.

Luke 6:11

by Rev Joel Yong

Luke 6:11 says: “At this the enemies of Jesus were wild with rage and began to discuss what to do with Him.”

Rather than rejoice that a fellow Israelite had been healed, they saw only the things which they were dissatisfied in, about Jesus. Their eyes weren’t fixed on God but on the laws of men. As such, they could not rejoice even when healing had taken place or when spiritual growth had occurred. Let us fix our eyes on God and not the things of men.

Serving in God’s will

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: Acts 28:1-31; Psalm 9:1-12

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Acts 28:6: “They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.”

REFLECT
How quickly and drastically the natives changed their minds! When Paul’s hand was fastened by the viper, they thought he must be a murderer. When Paul managed to shake off the viper without harm, they thought him to be “a god”. The natives have good reasons to react in this manner. In their lifetime, they might not have seen anyone survived the bite of the viper; much less someone who managed to shake off the viper like he would shake off some leaves.

How about us? Are we equally surprised like the natives? Probably not; since we read in Acts 27:24 that God has promised that Paul will get to return to Rome and stand before Caesar. Yet, if God was able to save Paul from a poisonous viper and a shipwreck, why didn’t He save the Apostle completely from the clutches of those who opposed him? The answer came in Acts 28:20, where Paul said that it is because of the “hope of Israel” that he was still in chains. He remained in chains because God wanted him to proclaim precisely to those who opposed him (as well as others) about “the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (Ref: Acts 28:31)

RELATE
Most of us might not be called to serve the Lord in “chains”; but was there a time in our lives when God called us out of our comfort zones to be totally loyal to His will? What was our reaction? How is it turning out for us? Are we discouraged? Or are we growing in faith because of the step we took? Is the Lord calling us right now to even love and serve our enemies? If so, how can we do so with the joy of the Lord as our strength? It will be very challenging. It might even be humiliating. It might even take all that we have in our possessions. But the question will always linger: “Are we willing to go where the Lord wants us to?” What will our answer be? Are we willing as like the Apostle Paul to surrender in service of God’s sovereign will?

REST
Dear Lord, build our faith and courage to go where You want us to go, and do what You want us to do. Only by doing so, can we grow in Your likeness and experience the true joy and freedom that can only be found in You. Amen.

Luke 5:20

by Rev Joel Yong

In Luke 5:20, it is recorded: “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’”

The friends of the paralytic went to great lengths to grant their ailing friend, an audience with Jesus. Because of their great belief that all would be well, if only their friend could meet Jesus, their friend was healed! Let us fervently use all means to bring our friends to meet with Jesus too! It will change their lives forever!

Allowing failures

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible readings: Acts 27:1-20; Psalm 7:1-17

READ (verses for reflection)
Acts 27:11 “But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and owner of the ship than to what Paul said.”

REFLECT
Paul warned the centurion that they might encounter the loss of cargo and of lives if they so choose to continue with the voyage. The centurion chose to listen to the owner of the ship who otherwise advised that they could try to make a run for the harbour of Crete. True to what Paul forewarned, there was a big storm at sea and along the way, the ship’s cargo was jettisoned and the lives of everyone on board were at risk of being lost.

Why didn’t God intervene even when the centurion chose to listen to the owner instead of Paul? Didn’t God know that Paul was board? There are times when God allow disasters or failures to happen for His glorious purpose. As we read further, we get to know that God used the disaster to speak forth His grace and mercy upon all on board as well as ministering to the natives on an island call Malta.

RELATE
Being in the midst of a disaster or failure could be challenging to the soul. However, we can learn from the Apostle Paul. Instead of focusing our attention on the consequences of the disaster or failure; we can learn to fix our eyes on Jesus. In the midst of a storm, we can learn to trust Him and discern how we can partner God in the furtherance of His kingdom. It could be a painful journey; yet perseverance in the Lord will bear good fruit. The GCE O level results had just being released while the GCE A level results are to be released sometime next month. Every year, some students will rejoice and some will question God on why they must go through such painful failures.

There could be many reasons behind such failures or successes; but one thing is for sure – that the Lord has allowed it to happen and He will not abandon those who continue to persevere in Him. In life, we tend to learn most from failures and if we can cling on to God and use such opportunities to grow in Him; we can become better – not necessarily in the academics but definitely in our relationship with Him. At the end of the day, that is the most important, isn’t it?

REST
Lord, may you comfort those who are grieving right now because of the failures they faced in life. Help them to know that they can turn to You because You love them and care for them. Amen.