Press on!

“… Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God had called me heaven-ward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3: 13 & 14.

As we enter into a new year, let us heed the words of Paul and forget what is behind and move forward to the goal which God has set for us.

Paul is delineating what he is leaving behind in verses 5 & 6 – his pride of being a perfect Jew in birth and also in all the legalistic righteousness. But he is moving in a different direction now and he can reach his goal, only if he leaves behind the heavy baggage of the past.

We might also have baggage of fear, pride, anger, bitterness etc., in us. If we are to enter into the New Year with them, we would be the same sad person. But if we choose to leave them behind and ponder upon the goals God has given to us, we would move forward.

It is not only the negative things,  but we also need to leave behind our successes and achievements of the past year to reach newer levels in the coming year.

We should not be struck with, either the problems or the victories of the past year. But we need to seek God’s grace anew to face new challenges of the New Year and move forward.

Day 152

by Rev Joel Yong

Job 4:3-4
Behold, you have instructed many, and you have strengthened the weak hands. Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.

Job was reminded that he had been a friend to the weak and an encourager to those who stumbled.

There is a difference between the weak and stumbling and the wayward.
The latter does not seek to hold onto God. They may mention God with their lips but desire not His guidance and persist in their arrogant and rebellious ways.

The weak and stumbling- however want to hold onto God. But because of a lack of understanding or strength, are unable to do so. Job was a friend to such people and in their crisis , whether of faith or of medical or life situations, he supported them.

He “made firm their weak knees” so they could walk right.
Do you know someone who stumbled in their faith and are seeking to walk right in God- pray for them, send them a message and firm their knees today!

Make a difference – support those who are endeavoring to walk on – in your time of need, they can be that strong support for you too!

Day 151

by Rev Joel Yong

Job 2:7-10
Satan left the LORD’s presence and struck Job with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Job took a piece of broken pottery to scratch himself as he sat in the ashes. His wife asked him, “Are you still holding on to your principles? Curse God and die!” He said to her, “You’re talking like a godless fool. We accept the good that God gives us. Shouldn’t we also accept the bad?” Through all this Job’s lips did not utter one sinful word.

Some people only praise God when things are good in life.
Their understanding and appreciation of God is circumstantial.

But the one who is able to praise God amidst a crisis- is the one who understands who God truly is, as his Creator and King.
And even though the situation shows no sign of abating, they are able to praise God because of who He is, not what they are presently facing.

Imagine a child saying “I can only call you Daddy if I get everything I want from you or if my life is on a roll. So no road bumps in my life journey please.”

Choose to know God for who He is, not just in safe circumstances.

Day 150

by Rev Joel Yong

Job 1:1-5
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus Job did continually.

Did you see that?
It says he was very wealthy but yet he was pious.
He did not let all that he had, become all that filled his vision.

He could still see God as the One who had blessed him and whom he was reliant and dependent upon.

Don’t let material possessions crowd out your vision.
Satan thinks it will and that it’s a potent distraction.
That is why Satan said –

Job 1:9-11
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.

Good thing Job always learned to keep God before his eyes rather than let all these riches distract him.

Even the people he had – his children and family, his servants- were no distraction to his pursuit of a life of piety.

Seek God first in your life- that is after all, a life lived right.

Day 149

by Rev Joel Yong

Esther 10:1-2
King Ahasuerus imposed tax on the land and on the coastlands of the sea. And all the acts of his power and might, and the full account of the high honor of Mordecai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?

The Biblical book is named after Esther.
But the story ends in the final chapter with an account of Mordecai.

He was not the one who spoke to the King.
But he was the one who urged Esther to do so even when her courage faltered initially.

He stood up against Haman when required to pay homage in a way that contravened his Jewish faith.
He mourned at the gates when he learnt of the impending genocide of the Jews and drew attention to the matter to the highest official he had access to – the Queen.

What about you?
How can you live out your faith in this world- strong and steadfast like Mordecai did?
How can you exert influence and responsibly use what influence you have, for the advance of God’s people and kingdom?

Or do you wield such influence for your own purposes most of the time?
Remember- even your networks aren’t coincidental. God puts certain people near you for a reason- that you might through your influence, help them to achieve their destiny in Him.

Eat this scroll!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Revelation 10:1-11; Psalm 138:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Revelation 10:9 “So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”

What does it mean when John was commanded by the angel to eat the scroll and that it will make “your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey”? This scenario reminded of a similar one in Ezekiel 3 where the prophet was also commanded to eat a scroll and then “speak to the house of Israel”. Hence, eating of scrolls seems to be a symbolic act for the prophets to “eat” the Word of God and then proclaim it to the people. “Eating” here does not just mean the reading of God’s Word, but rather a full “digestion” of what God has said – which can mean deep understanding, conviction and obedience.

Given what Ezekiel and John had to say to the people, it was only right that they truly understand and be convicted of what was going to be proclaimed. What they have been told to say were difficult messages; yet they chose to obey because the faithful prophets understood the sins of their people and were convicted of the need for repentance. Such a process of proclaiming God’s Word can also be applied to all of us. Whether we preach, teach or share the Gospel, we need to “eat” what we are suppose to preach, teach and share. We need to be diligent to understand and be convicted of what God’s Word is saying to us even as we seek to proclaim to others. So even if a particular message is going to be “bitter to the stomach”; let it be so and let us just obey. Otherwise, it will just be all “talk” and no “walk”.

Lord, help us to put in the effort to understand and meditate upon Your Holy Word even before we proclaim it unto others. This is so we do not misrepresent what Your Word says and lead others to the wrong path. Amen.

Day 148

by Rev Joel Yong

Esther 9:1
Now in the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s command and edict were about to be carried out, on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them.

On the day the Jews were due to be exterminated- they destroyed their enemies instead.

How did such a thing happen?
They recognized that this was not possible via human action alone but God had intervened to save them!

Their response was to celebrate annually, in remembrance of what God had done for them.

Esther 9:20-22
And Mordecai recorded these things and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year, as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

The purpose of such a festival goes beyond archival or historical purposes- rather it reminds the new generations that God is willing and able to save them so that when difficulties happen, the new generation will be reminded to look to Him for help. In like manner, even those who witnessed the deliverance of the Jews from Haman’s genocidal plans- will also be reminded lest they forget.

How has God intervened in your life?
What do you do to remind yourself of this on a regular basis?