Dust and Joy

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Acts 13:42-14:7; Proverbs 10:5

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Acts 13:51-52
But they shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

REFLECT
How does one face troubles and opposition, yet walk away with joy and full of the Spirit? I quite sure this is not about thinking positively, or the disciples being naive about their situations. I suppose the disciples knew how to let go, and let God. By shaking the dust off their feet, they decided not to let the evil experienced grip their hearts. By moving on to their next task, they chose to trust the God who has called them. In short, to be filled with the Spirit of joy is to know where you are going, and Who you are going with.

RELATE
From my experience, joy comes when times are tough. Those nice fuzzy feeling that we have when we go on a holiday or when we buy something we like, is not joy – at least not joy that lasts. When times are tough, our core is tested and our soul searched. What do we discover in such times of darkness? For some, it would be the sad realization that God was never part of the picture. But for those who find God in the centre of their circumstances, however dark, there can only be one conclusion. Joy.

REST
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

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Day 272

by Rev Joel Yong

Acts 10:27-35
As Peter talked, he entered Cornelius’ house and found that many people had gathered. He said to them, “You understand how wrong it is for a Jewish man to associate or visit with anyone of another race. But God has shown me that I should no longer call anyone impure or unclean. That is why I didn’t object to coming here when you sent for me. I want to know why you sent for me.” Cornelius answered, “Four days ago I was praying at home. It was at this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man dressed in radiant clothes stood in front of me. He said to me, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and has remembered your gifts to the poor. So send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man whose name is Simon Peter. He’s a guest in the home of Simon, a leatherworker who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately. Thank you for coming. All of us are here now in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has ordered you to say.” Then Peter said, “Now I understand that God doesn’t play favorites. Rather, whoever respects God and does what is right is acceptable to him in any nation.

I love these words-“God doesn’t play favorites.”
Often I find there is an overemphasis on a particular nation or race of people- and people forget that God looks at the heart and not the color of our skin.

Peter preached-

Acts 10:36
God sent his word to the people of Israel and brought them the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is everyone’s Lord.

Israel was the conduit for the message to go to the world. It was never just about saving Israel but about saving the world.
We must never forget that.

Furthermore- the Holy Spirit was given to these Gentiles as Peter preached.

Acts 10:44-48
While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came to everyone who heard his message. All the believers who were circumcised and who had come with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured on people who were not Jewish. They heard these non-Jewish people speaking in other languages and praising God. Then Peter said, “No one can refuse to baptize these people with water. They have received the Holy Spirit in the same way that we did.” So Peter ordered that they should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for several days.

It showed that God was going to use the lives of these Gentile believers for His purpose. He accepted them – why should anyone then continue to favor one nation/race/group over another?

This is not God’s way- playing favorites.

Day 271

by Rev Joel Yong

Acts 8:1-3
Saul approved of putting Stephen to death. On that day widespread persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem. Most believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen as they mourned loudly for him. Saul tried to destroy the church. He dragged men and women out of one home after another and threw them into prison.

Saul of Tarsus wanted to destroy the church.
He knew the law and he thought they were a cult and wanted to destroy them.
He had zeal and he had the training in the Scriptures.

But he was wrong.
He did not realize that Jesus was not a cult leader but the Savior who fulfilled the prophecies in Scripture.
He was the One that students of Scripture were told of, who was coming to save the world.

It eventually took a Damascus road encounter for Saul to begin reflecting on what he had thought and done.

He eventually became the Paul who wrote many of the New Testament Epistles.

What are we convinced – is right, in our eyes today?
I wonder what Jesus would think – about these supposed “rock-solid truths” we think we know.

Day 270

by Rev Joel Yong

Acts 6:1-7
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Note this:

  1.  The apostles were focused on what they were supposed to do – prayer and the ministry of the word.
  2. They thought the problem, to be genuine and warranted certain attention.
  3. Seven men were chosen for the task and specifically had hands laid on them, commissioning them for such a specific task.

As the church grew, more issues arose that had never existed before, when the believers were just a handful.
Yet the church couldn’t realistically intend to operate in the same way as before.

So the apostles acknowledged the need and the gravity of the issue.
But they did not wish to be sidetracked and appointed 7 who were deemed fit for the task and commissioned them to attend to it.

  1. What is a new problem that you are tackling today – at work or in relationships – that came about because of growth/age?
  2. What resources are you devoting to attend to it?
  3. Bear in mind, whilst problems are part and parcel of our existence, problem- solving should not be the reason for our existence, for problems are endless. Focus instead on your calling in life and don’t deviate from it just because problems increase. The problems will always be there, manifesting in different ways.

Day 269

by Rev Joel Yong

Acts 3:4-11
Peter and John stared at him. “Look at us!” Peter said. So the man watched them closely. He expected to receive something from them. However, Peter said to him, “I don’t have any money, but I’ll give you what I do have. Through the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, walk!” Peter took hold of the man’s right hand and began to help him up. Immediately, the man’s feet and ankles became strong. Springing to his feet, he stood up and started to walk. He went with Peter and John into the temple courtyard. The man was walking, jumping, and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God. They knew that he was the man who used to sit and beg at the temple’s Beautiful Gate. The people were amazed and stunned to see what had happened to him. They were excited, and everyone ran to see them at the place called Solomon’s Porch. The man wouldn’t let go of Peter and John.

You might be facing a problem – to which, you think it would be solved if only “… I had money/knew persons of influence/had a position of power etc …”

Sometimes what you think you need – is too small a request for God.

The man expected money or gold. But God knew he had a greater infirmity and so when Peter proclaimed healing upon him- it amazed him because it was more than what he had expected!

No wonder it says at the end of the passage that he “… wouldn’t let go of Peter and John.” He knew he had come across something wonderful.

Would you let go of what you think you need- and hold onto what Scripture teaches regarding the greatest Answer to the condition of mankind- Jesus the Son of God?

Day 268

by Rev Joel Yong

John 20:6-18
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them, They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him. Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking? Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said to her, Mary. She turned and said to him in Aramaic, Rabboni! (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, I have seen the Lord—and that he had said these things to her.

If you wanted to invent a new religion in biblical times, you do not write in a female character as the first witness of your founder’s resurrection.
In the patriarchal society back then, it was common to prioritize the male testimony as being more reliable.

Also, to say your founder was conceived before his parents got married, and say it’s the Spirit of God that made it possible- would have raise suspicion as well.

Then to say he was arrested but the charges against him were made up and he was falsely accused, would also invite scrutiny.

Why then didn’t the apostles delete these elements from the Gospel stories?
It would have raised less questions and been easier to believe.

You see, they wouldn’t do so, if it was all true. You cannot edit the truth.
It really happened the way they recorded it.

They were eyewitnesses merely relaying what they knew to be true, however unbelievable it might seem at times!

No wonder Jesus said to Thomas …

John 20:29
Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.