God’s Grace and our responsibility

by Rev. John Jebaseelan

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
1 Corinthians 15: 10 (NIV)

Paul here acknowledges the role of God’s grace in his life at the same time talks about the hard work he has done in ministry. By doing this he is showing us the true path to success in any area of life, be it ministry, family or work.

Paul was graciously saved by Jesus Christ through a supernatural act of God. No one could have any credit in it. God’s grace was abundant in the life of Paul. He says that he was the worst sinner and God chose him to show His unlimited patience (1 Tim 1: 16).

But he also had to put in lot of effort to know God in a better way and to serve him in ministry. For three days he wrestled with blindness before getting direction from Ananias (Acts 9: 9). Though a learned man in Scripture, before starting his ministry he had to prepare himself for three years (Gal 1: 18). His ministry was also filled with hardship (2 Cor 6: 3-5). He often worked as a tent maker for his sustenance and fulfilled his ministry (Acts 18: 3).

Paul’s success was not easy. He utilised the God’s grace given to him. That is why he says that “his grace to me was not without effect.”

Hard work combined with God’s grace produced success in Paul’s life and ministry!

Christians need to avoid both the extremes. On one side we cannot forsake our responsibility by blaming God and on the other we cannot claim success without giving credit to His grace. We should be careful in doing things we need to do by using his gracious opportunities and laying down things, which are beyond our control, in his hand.

God’s grace + Hard work = Success

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Day 31

by Rev Joel Yong

Numbers 23:1-5 GW
Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” Balak did what Balaam told him, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offering while I’m gone. Maybe the LORD will come and meet with me. I will tell you whatever he reveals to me.” Then Balaam went off to a higher place where there were no trees. God came to him, and Balaam said, “I have set up seven altars, and I offered a bull and a ram on each altar.” The LORD told Balaam, “Go back to Balak, and give him my message.”

They wanted to curse Israel.
And they believed that if they gave the offerings and did the rituals right- that God would do what they wished.

That is what many people think about God- that He can be manipulated just because they brought the offering and followed the ritual step by step.

But that is idolatry. That is how they worship their idols and these idols are at their beck and call.

But it is NOT worship of the true God.
God is not manipulated in such a way.

So God appears to Balaam to give him message that it is foolishness to expect God to curse Israel and bend to the whim of evil men.

Numbers 23:7-12 GW
Then Balaam delivered this message: “Balak brought me from Aram. The king of Moab summoned me from the eastern mountains. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me,’ he said. ‘Come, condemn Israel.’ How can I curse those whom God hasn’t cursed? How can I condemn those whom the LORD hasn’t condemned? I see them from the top of rocky cliffs, I look at them from the hills. I see a nation that lives by itself, people who do not consider themselves to be like other nations. The descendants of Jacob are like specks of dust. Who can count them or number even one-fourth of the people of Israel? Let me die the death of innocent people. Let my end be like theirs.” Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you here to curse my enemies, but all you’ve done is bless them!” Balaam answered, “I must say what the LORD tells me to say.”

Faith and the Gift of God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Timothy 1:1-18; Psalm 90:1-91:16

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
2 Timothy 1:5-6 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,”

REFLECT
Before the “gift of God” in verse 6, Paul spoke about Timothy’s “sincere faith” in verse 5. These two verses reminded me of Paul’s first letter to Timothy where the Apostle reminded his mentoree that the aim of his charge as a pastor is love that issues from a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith.

It seemed to Paul that having a sincere faith is foundational for the outworking of the gift of God. Indeed, the Apostle said that it is for this reason (the reason of Timothy having sincere faith) that Timothy ought to “fan into flame the gift of God” which is in him through Paul’s laying of his hands. What is this “gift”? In subsequent verses, it seemed that this “gift” is the gift to be courageous to speak forth God’s Word for the salvation of souls.

Paul’s advice to Timothy seemed to be this: “Get your relationship with God straighten out first; grow your faith by staying close to God, then allow that to direct and enhance the giftings that God has deposited in you.” Indeed, Hebrews 11 reminded us that without faith (and even if with an abundance of talents and giftings), we cannot please God.

RELATE
There are times I observed that the Christian community has gotten Paul’s exhortation upside down. We place a higher priority to “gift” than “faith”; especially when it comes to appointing people to serve in various areas of ministry. We become easily excited by the many gifts that a person expressed, but ask or discern little of the faith that he or she possesses in the relationship with Christ our Lord. We take the easy way out because it is easier to have someone to do the work of ministry than to walk with this person closely prior to or in parallel to the work of ministry. While the work of ministry can help in the growth of faith; we need to take into account what comes first or that which is more foundational. Such a ministry philosophy will help the church save a lot of heartaches and disunity in the future and will also help the one who is called to serve to go in the right direction.

REST
Lord, may You forgive us in times when we turn your priority upside down. Help us to be a people who would not take the easy way out but to serve in accordance with Your Word. Amen.

Day 30

by Rev Joel Yong

Numbers 18:6-7 GW
I have chosen the other Levites from among the Israelites to help you. They are a gift given to the LORD to do whatever work is necessary at the tent of meeting. Only you and your sons may do the work of priests–everything done at the altar and under the canopy. This is my gift to you: You may serve me as priests. Anyone else who comes near the holy place to do this work must die.”

The priests’ role was to carry out rituals at the tent of meeting. But they were not the only ones called to worship God and to follow Him.

In fact the entire nation of Israel was called to do that.
The Levites merely facilitated it.

To ensure that the Levites were not distracted from their role – they were to hold no other jobs.
No land for them to cultivate either.

Numbers 18:20-21 GW
The LORD said to Aaron, “You will have no land or property of your own as the other Israelites will have. I am your possession and your property among the Israelites. “I am giving the Levites one-tenth of every Israelite’s income. This is in return for the work they do at the tent of meeting.

The problem these days is that we think it is the priests’ role to:

  1. Put God’s Word into our souls – every Sunday, and we ignore our own reading of the Scriptures during the week.
  2. Pray on our behalf through incantations he makes on a Sunday or when we call him with a prayer request – forgetting our own responsibility to connect daily with God through prayer as a habit.
  3. Worship while we sit back and critique that worship as if it were a spectator event.

Let us not forget that the priests merely served to facilitate worship.
Every man and woman in Israel was called to be a follower and no priest can do that on their behalf.
Every man and woman was to worship and no priest can do it on their behalf either if they do not come with the specific and prepared sin/guilt offering for their own households.

Let us cease to be consumers.
But grow to be worshippers and disciples instead.

Prayer of the Early Church

by Rev. John Jebaseelan

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him”
Acts 12: 5 (NIV)

Early church was going through a crisis. King Herod had beheaded James. Now their leader – Peter was imprisoned. In midst of this hostile political situation the believers are praying earnestly. They prayed through the night.

But why didn’t they believe the servant girl Rhoda, when she said that Peter was at the door?

Was it their unbelief? If so, their prayer was without faith.

Can a faithless prayer be called earnest? Was the miraculous deliverance of Peter in some way connected with this prayer which lacked the faith? Or the deliverance was just a coincidence?

Based on the context of the text we can say that the early church indeed prayed in earnestness. They had the commitment to gather at an odd hour of the night at a believer’s house to pray for Peter.

Only our presumption about the content of their prayer that it was for the deliverance of Peter makes it look like a faithless prayer. But they could have prayed to God that Peter would be faithful witness to Jesus in the trail next day. Or their prayer was to keep Peter strong so that he would not deny Christ like the previous time when he would be killed like James.

If we look at their prayer in this way their reaction to the announcement of Peter’s presence would make sense.

When Peter met them, he did not condemn them for lack of faith but he explained to them how God delivered him.

Thus the prayer of the early Church for Peter was not for his deliverance but for God’s strength in midst of possible death.

How is our prayer? Do we pray with right intention or only with some material benefit in mind?

Day 29

by Rev Joel Yong

Numbers 13:1-3 GW
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them. So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.

Sometimes we listen to the story of the 12 spies and wonder how could a few spies influence a nation to rebel against God.

But we forget.
Each of these – was a chief.

Can you imagine how a church can rebel against what God is leading it towards- if the majority of its leaders are like the 10 spies who didn’t trust in God to overcome the odds?

Pertinent lesson for us as the Church about how a magnificent destiny can be squandered and put on hold – and an entire faith community wandering purposeless for the next 40 years because of the lack of faith on the part of the leaders and their subsequent influence of the people they lead.

The Least Expected

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Jeremiah 37:1-38:28; Proverb 25:28

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Jeremiah 38:7-10 “When Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, a eunuch who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern- the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate- Ebed-melech went from the king’s house and said to the king, “My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of hunger, for there is no bread left in the city.”

REFLECT
While those born of the house of Israel doubted the very words of God through prophet Jeremiah; it was the Ethiopian eunuch who showed mercy and even rescued him from death. While those who were supposed to inherit the blessings of God turned against His prophet; it was those who were shunned by society that came to the prophet’s rescue. Life is full of ironies. Who would ever imagine that a “heathen” would be the hero of the day? Who would ever imagine, that one of these eunuchs who was considered to be a cruel clan; would be used mightily by the Lord to carry forth His work?

RELATE
Some persons can give all the “right impressions” of being Christian; but might not be really enjoying a close relationship with God. On the other hand, some could be shunned by society but they are really jewels in the eyes of God. This is because of their faithfulness in God which the public eye cannot see. As demonstrated frequently by Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels; those who were considered “poor” by the world were often those who were found to be most faithful. This passage reminded me that in my daily living as a child of God, it is important to pray for discernment and the love of Christ in my heart. This is so I can see what God sees in a person and so do His precious will.

REST
May the Lord help me not to make quick judgments of character; but to be patient and wait upon Him so that I can see what He sees. Amen.