Day 364

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 11:3-13
I will allow my two witnesses who wear sackcloth to speak what God has revealed. They will speak for 1,260 days.” These witnesses are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing in the presence of the Lord of the earth. If anyone wants to hurt them, fire comes out of the witnesses’ mouths and burns up their enemies. If anyone wants to hurt them, he must be killed the same way. These witnesses have authority to shut the sky in order to keep rain from falling during the time they speak what God has revealed. They have authority to turn water into blood and to strike the earth with any plague as often as they want. When the witnesses finish their testimony, the beast which comes from the bottomless pit will fight them, conquer them, and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie on the street of the important city where their Lord was crucified. The spiritual names of that city are Sodom and Egypt. For 3½ days some members of the people, tribes, languages, and nations will look at the witnesses’ dead bodies and will not allow anyone to bury them. Those living on earth will gloat over the witnesses’ death. They will celebrate and send gifts to each other because these two prophets had tormented those living on earth. After 3½ days the breath of life from God entered the two witnesses, and they stood on their feet. Great fear fell on those who watched them. The witnesses heard a loud voice from heaven calling to them, “Come up here.” They went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. At that moment a powerful earthquake struck. One-tenth of the city collapsed, 7,000 people were killed by the earthquake, and the rest were terrified. They gave glory to the God of heaven.

In the last days, 2 powerful witnesses for God will appear.

Some think – they will be Moses and Elijah, who met Jesus when He was transfigured.
Some think the apostle John will be one of them, for Jesus said to Peter:” If I want him to remain alive until my coming again, what is it to you?”

Regardless of who you think these witnesses are- note that they will preach for an exact number of days.

Almost 3 and a half years. During this time, anyone who attempts to hurt them or destroy them, will be destroyed.

But when the time is up, the beast will kill them and then like any cold blooded dictator, leave their corpses as an example of what happens to any that crosses his path. The evil people who belong to the beast, will celebrate this too.

But after 3 and a half days, they will be resurrected and an earthquake will destroy those who celebrate evil- leaving the survivors shocked and concluding that it must only be God who has done this.

These things will happen.
Let us be alert and watchful.
Let us be among those who sigh and groan at evil.
Rather than those who hate reproach and correction that comes from God.

Anger, Empathy and Love

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13; Psalm 77

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 13:5
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

REFLECT
While I don’t usually subscribe to the NIV, its translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is the most helpful for me. Most challenging to me is the part on not being easily angered and not keeping record of wrongs. How difficult that is! I often ask myself, what makes a person lose their temper so quickly? Genetics? Physical and emotional tiredness? Perhaps. But I suspect the culprit is often the inability to empathize. We get angry with someone because we cannot understand why they behave so differently from what we expect. Be it with an inconsiderate driver, incompetent colleague, imperfect spouse, or uncooperative child – our quickness to anger reflects our own inability to love.

RELATE
How easy it is to point the finger. When I lack love, I quickly put the blame on the other. It’s her fault. He made me so angry. Yet an honest look into my heart would reveal the root of the problem – my own pride, and my inability to embrace the weak and imperfect. No one can make me angry. I need to be reminded that anger need not be my only response to another person’s actions. Try mercy. Try sorrow. Try love.

REST
Lord, the next time I am tempted to react angrily – show me a better way to live.

Day 363

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 7:1-4
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:

In the last days, God will mark those who belong to Him.

He mentions this in Ezekiel – and again here.

Ezekiel 9:4
And the Lord said to him, Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.

The purpose is to set apart the people of God who hate sin, from those who indulge in sin before judgment comes upon the land.

It’s not new. The same was done during the Passover when God passed through Egypt.

Satan is a copycat and he attempts to copy this when the Antichrist seeks to mark those who belong to him, as a sign of allegiance.

Revelation of John 13:16-18
Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

God will mark us.
The Antichrist will ask us to take his mark too.

I choose God.
It will mean persecution and tribulation in the end times. But I fear not the one who can destroy the body but not the soul.

What about you?

Day 362

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 3:15-19
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

The church in Laodicea was wealthy.
It had its belief, but was neither enthusiastic nor was it seriously corrupt. It was in-between.

It was prosperous and known for trading a certain eye ointment. Its wealth made the believers in the city comfortable and their passion for God cooled as they were distracted by other earthly pursuits.

No wonder, God speaks to them in the way He does.
He chides them – their expensive clothes, riches, eye ointments are nothing in reality.
They have not relied on God and were losing their dependence upon Him and instead had begun trusting in themselves.

Then God reminds them, saying He disciplines them because He loves them, not because of hatred or condemnation.

We are prosperous too, as a people. We have a freedom to worship, that other believers in the world may not enjoy.
It’s easy to get distracted and cease to pursue God as fervently in such comfort.

Beware. Our self-sufficiency is an illusion.
We are constantly in need of God.

Let us remember that we are nothing without God.
He alone is everything.
We are nothing.

Day 361

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 3:8
I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

The church in Philadelphia had been persevering. It has been hard but they have hung on.

Ever been there?
You are doing the right thing.
But people around you and the circumstances are not in your favor.

God’s word of comfort to persevering believers, is the same one He gave to the church in Philadelphia:

Revelation of John 3:11
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.

He will come and save us.
He always does.

Don’t let go of God.

Day 360

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 3:1-2
And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

Wow … the church in Sardis had a reputation.
It meant they were famous and people knew it.

They had a rep for being alive.
Maybe they were vibrant and enthusiastic and had many programmes!

But God says He sees the truth.
They are dead despite the superficial impression of being alive.

Jamieson Fausset Brown records these observations: “The address to this Church is full of rebuke. It does not seem to have been in vain; for MELITO, bishop of Sardis in the second century, was eminent for piety and learning. He visited Palestine to assure himself and his flock as to the Old Testament canon and wrote an epistle on the subject.”

What about ourselves?
Do we project an exterior of life when our souls are really dead?
Do we merely sing louder and are more vocal than most but do not have an anchor deep inside of us, that grounds us in God’s truth?

It’s no wonder that when God instructs the Old Testament priests to dress a certain way … that the instructions include the type of underwear to put on.

Because the priest may look on the outside, to have worn everything God commanded. But only God and the priest will know if he is wearing the right underwear.

Obey God down to the innermost parts of your life.

Exodus 28:42-43
You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him.

Day 359

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 2:23
… And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

There are those in the church in Thyatira – that are, warned of impending judgment and urged to repent.

They had been misled by a Jezebel in their midst and gone after false teachings that led to them compromising their sexual morality.

God reminds them that He searches our minds and hearts and knows our thoughts and intentions.
There is nothing we can hide from Him.
We may be able to hide it from our spouse or our boss but God knows EVERYTHING.

Let us come clean before God every day.
Confessing our sins.
Seeking His help in our weaknesses.
And trusting that He loves us enough to want to help us overcome our weaknesses, one step at a time!

The disqualified preacher

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13; Proverbs 12:12-14

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

REFLECT
Christians like to preach and / or share the Gospel to others, which we should. The Apostle Paul loves to preach too since as he said, he became all things so that he can do it all for the sake of the Gospel (v.23). Yet, Paul was humble and experienced enough to be aware that as much as Christians love to preach, he must “discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”.

Question is, how can this happen? How can the one who loves to preach be disqualified from the content of the preaching? Isn’t it true that all who loves to share the Gospel with others also walk in the Gospel? Yes and No. We might be walking in the Gospel at first, but after learning how to share the Gospel and witnessing its power to save; we could become complacent. We could be preaching / sharing so much and so powerfully that we even forgot that we need the saving grace of God each and every day. Even as our lips are involved in the ministry of the Gospel; our body could be so out of control because we deceived ourselves that being involved in such a powerful ministry is enough for sanctification. That is precisely the reason why people are saying that the church is full of “masked” individuals.

RELATE
One of the books I am reading is Paul David Tripp’s “Dangerous Calling”. In this book, he spoke of how bible colleges these days could have “academized” the Word of God. This happens when well informed seminary students, after having graduated to be pastors of His flock, gradually failed the exact thing we are trained to be i.e. being examples of how we can love God and one another. This happens when the seminary train the idea of God in us; but not so much as the formation of our souls in the grip of God Himself.

With this, I recalled the days at seminary, when I could be reading and studying the Word of God almost every single day; yet there were times when I caught myself to be more excited with the idea of God, then how I should allow the Word of God to transform and nourish my soul. As a result, my body and soul were “de-linked” from the Word I was studying and preaching. As a result, I suffer exhaustion easily and made certain foolish decisions with respect to my studies.

Paul’s warning is not just to those who are called to the pulpit; but in everyday living where we share and teach the Gospel. Much as the Great Commission is important; we really can’t do that without the joyful obedience of the Great Commandment in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, preachers / teachers / sharers of the Word can be disqualified if we our bodies are not kept under control in the Word.

REST
Lord our God, help me not to be a believer who only gets excited with the preaching and sharing of the Word of God; that I lose self-control when it matters the most. Let me not be the disqualified preacher that Paul is warning us all. Amen.

Day 358

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 2:13-16
I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.

It’s hard not to be influenced when you live in a place whereby the inhabitants are not for, the ways and teachings of God.

It might be that there is widespread idolatry, or the people are deeply entrenched in a corrupt and immoral way of life.

Beware – for such influence seeps in … even though we may be trying to be faithful to God externally.

It happened to the church in Pergamum – false teachings and practices (even those of Balaam) began to influence them!

It happened to Lot and his daughters.
The influence of Sodom and Gomorrah was implanted in their heads. Even though the cities were destroyed and they lived in the mountains- the corruption had entered their minds.

Lot’s daughters conceived a plan to commit incest in order to become pregnant!

Genesis 19:30-32
Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. And the firstborn said to the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.

Day 357

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 2:10-11
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

Smyrna is one of the two churches who do not get faulted for having done anything wrong.
Instead they are told that they are about to undergo a period of tribulation.

They are encouraged to press on and remain faithful. God knows that under pressure and torture, its possible for us to cave in, and be forced to deny the faith.

But He encourages those in Smyrna- that there is no destruction of the soul, if they do not depart from the faith.

Matthew 10:28
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

This is what it will be like in the last days as prophesied. Under threat of death we will be pressured to deny the faith.

Nevertheless God has said He will not abandon us and will be with us and may we be found faithful till the end.

No more meat?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Corinthians 8; Proverbs 12:11

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

REFLECT
What a radical statement! Then again, Paul was very radical – for he had followed a radical Master. For Paul, food was food, whether offered to idols or not. Food is God’s gift to us, and we should not think that it can poison us just because it was offered to idols. Evil has no power against the saints of God. But some saints are still trapped in their troubled past, and those who are “freed” must be patient with them. For if our freedom stumbles another, then we are not truly free.

RELATE
How often do we ask if our actions affect those around us? While we should not be overly self-conscious, we must learn to be aware of the influence we have on others – be it in the office, at home, or online. Life is not about who knows more, but who loves more. This week, ask God to show you one area where you might have inadvertently stumbled someone. And if you need to, take action to address it!

REST
Lord, help me to live my life in such a way that it draws others nearer to You. Grant me the grace to surrender my freedom for the sake of another person’s salvation.

Day 356

by Rev Joel Yong

Revelation of John 2:3-5
You have endured, suffered trouble because of my name, and have not grown weary. However, I have this against you: The love you had at first is gone. Remember how far you have fallen. Return to me and change the way you think and act, and do what you did at first. I will come to you and take your lamp stand from its place if you don’t change.

The church in Ephesus is commended for many things. But it is criticized for losing the love it first had for the Lord.

They were initially commended in the following verse in Ephesians 1:15:
“I, too, have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people.”

Thirty years had passed between the Epistle to the Ephesians and the letter in Revelation.
Their initial passion had withered into a lifeless religion.

Perhaps they may have had the functional ministries going on in church but they did it without love and joy-

After all, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:2:

“I may have the gift to speak what God has revealed, and I may understand all mysteries and have all knowledge. I may even have enough faith to move mountains. But if I don’t have love, I am nothing.”

Good reminder to check ourselves. Is our faith an ongoing relationship with Christ or a religion filled with mindless rituals and repetitive ministry without meaning?

Day 355

by Rev Joel Yong

Jude 5-7
I want to remind you about what you already know: The Lord once saved his people from Egypt. But on another occasion he destroyed those who didn’t believe. He held angels for judgment on the great day. They were held in darkness, bound by eternal chains. These are the angels who didn’t keep their position of authority but abandoned their assigned place. What happened to Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities near them is an example for us of the punishment of eternal fire. The people of these cities suffered the same fate that God’s people and the angels did, because they committed sexual sins and engaged in homosexual activities.

We often like to think of God as loving and gracious and rightly so, He is!
But we cannot forget that He also hates sin. His wrath descends upon those who do not heed His warnings and continue in sin.

He has already shown in the Scriptures that He does not turn a blind eye to sin and He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah as an example to all.

Something happens when children realize that their parents do not deliver on the threats to discipline them. The children lose inhibitions and begin to test all the boundaries and even break them freely. They become kids with no boundaries set upon their behavior. And the parents soon find themselves in a situation whereby the kids are beyond parental control.

Parents know that if we tell a child, there is a consequence to them breaking the rules- then we must deliver on that consequence.
Else the rules we set are mere words and kids soon realize there are no consequences for their behavior.

All hell breaks loose.

That is why God, while He loves us, also sets boundaries for us. Boundaries that if we go breaking them, He will punish us for doing so.

Day 354

by Rev Joel Yong

3 John 3-4
I was very happy when some believers came and told us that you are living according to the truth. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that my children are living according to the truth.

What would you wish for your children?
Lots of money?
Big house and big car?
Great career?

Well the above items are great. But they do not guarantee happiness. Neither do they deliver on eternal life.

Living life God’s way.
That provides joy, peace, security …
And yes, eternal life.

No wonder the writer says he rejoices in knowing that the church is walking in God’s ways.
That it has not caved in to worldly pressure and forsaken the truth. In so doing, it would have won some riches or some earthly benefit but lost out on its eternal destiny.

Live for what lasts.

Day 353

by Rev Joel Yong

2 John 6
Love means that we live by doing what he commands. We were commanded to live in love, and you have heard this from the beginning.

If we love our Father, we obey Him.
If He matters little to us, then so do His words.

So let’s live following His commands- not for the sake of earning His favor, for He already loves us. But as a response to being loved by Him.

Too often people treat God as a vending machine, they follow the ‘rules’ and push all the ‘right buttons’, they get what they want and they forget about Him until the next need arises.

There is no real reverence and no real love.
No relationship whatsoever.

Day 352

by Rev Joel Yong

1 John 5:19
We know that we are from God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

The whole world under Satan’s influence. Wow.
That explains the horrifying crimes that we read of in the news headlines.

To me, it also serves as a warning.
A reminder that if I am not careful – that I would sink into worldly habits that lead me astray, and away from God.

For example, the obsession we have with our phones.
Its functions are amazing and we rely on it so much to get work/life done in our world today- email, social networks, information sources that tell us who someone is, when the next bus is coming or what time the next film show slot will be at the local cinema and so much more.

Yet it crowds out time for face to face interaction and it has been blamed for shortened attention spans. And it has been a major distraction in church – we fiddle with it during worship and prayer, and even more during sermons!

A nice gadget, and a great invention.
But even then, something popular, that is easily used by the Enemy to influence us and draw us away.

Hmm …

Note to self:
No need to withdraw to a cave and cut self off from all that is in the world.
Be alert of worldly habits, and how these can so easily be used by the Enemy, to wield his influence over us.

Many guides, but a “father”?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21; Psalm 71:1-24

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 4:15 “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

REFLECT
In 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul was telling the Corinthians that while they have many people among them who preached and taught God’s Word; they did not have anyone who like Paul; will love them to the extent of being willing to speak openly and admonish them for the sake of growth. Indeed, much as the Christians in Corinth behaved in a way not pleasing to the Lord, Paul reminded them that through the Gospel, they are still his “beloved children” and the Apostle saw it as his charge to correct them in righteousness.

RELATE
I can really relate to 1 Corinthians 4:15. I do have many guides in Christ; but few I can truly call “spiritual father” or “spiritual mentor”. “Guides” can teach good things in the Lord but when we need someone to speak truth into your life; they might not be willing to do so or at most give a vague response. “Spiritual father” is way different! He is ever so willing to listen, to be there and to act even at the expense of his own “reputation” or relationship with us or other people. Why? Because he really cares. His way of discipleship is love and not self-interest. His way of helping us to grow is the realistic realization that sometimes, admonishment is really necessary. Do you have someone who is willing to do that for you? If yes, I rejoice with you! If not, do pray for one for someone like this can really help us grow in Him.

REST
Lord, help us to cherish persons in our lives who truly cares for our growth in You. Help us not to disdain them especially when they lovingly rebuke us for the sake of righteousness. Bless these persons for they are truly, the living example of Christlikeness. Amen.

Day 351

by Rev Joel Yong

1 John 1:2
This life was revealed to us. We have seen it, and we testify about it. We are reporting to you about this eternal life that was in the presence of the Father and was revealed to us.

We are but witnesses.
We cannot help but to tell others about the great thing we have discovered- that God loves us and He came to earth to save us.

Wouldn’t you do so too – if you were trapped in a burning building on the verge of collapse and you received a call telling you which exit to go to, to safely evacuate from this fiery furnace?

If we don’t tell anyone – but make our own way to the exit – what does that make us?
Selfish people, that’s what.

So think about and pray about who you can tell today.

It matters.
It’s a matter of life and death, isn’t it?

Day 350

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Peter 3:13-14
But we look forward to what God has promised–a new heaven and a new earth–a place where everything that has God’s approval lives. Therefore, dear friends, with this to look forward to, make every effort to have him find you at peace, without spiritual stains or blemishes.

I would love to see that day.
No more death, sorrow, disease, suffering, disappointment, betrayal, hatred, war, crime etc.

A new heaven and a new earth.

It’s where everything that has God’s approval lives.
Sin has no place there. So anyone with a tinge of sin in their life – does not enter.

The good news is God approves of His Son – Jesus.
Holy and blameless. And Jesus has paid for the entry of all who- do not depend on their own reputation but come under the shelter of His name, His acts, His merit.

That is why Jesus is the only thing we need for entry into the new heaven and new earth – and the eternal life God wants to give us.

Now I wouldn’t allow a stranger onto my property. But if my son brings the person home- calling them his friend – sure, entry is granted! Not only that, I would make the guest feel right at home and pull out all the stops to make them feel welcome!

You Can Play Well But…..

You can play well, wear the nicest jersey, pass the ball well, even shoot the ball on target frequently enough, but if you don’t score, you lose in the end! That’s what happened last night in the 2018 World Cup Final match between France and Croatia. Croatia had possession of the ball most of the game, took more shots at goal, passed the ball more accurately and more frequently, yet in the end, it was France who won – beating Croatia 4-2. Thinking about the church, I see a similar thing. We could sing well, worship intimately, spiritually and even prophetically, we could have great fellowship – warm, supportive, caring and loving, we could have many deep, intensive Bible studies and we could have fantastic people enjoying serving the Lord in the ministries of the church BUT if we don’t win souls, we lose in the end! “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Lk.19:10