When people in the same office don’t get along, the company or organization suffers, sometimes without even realizing something has gone terribly wrong. As Selwyn Hughes said, “Ultimate reality is not propositional but relational.” In our pursuit of what is best and what is right, we must not sacrifice people or relationships. Jesus said, “The world WILL KNOW you are My disciples if you love one another the way I have loved you.” And the love we have for one another must stem from our deep understanding and experience of God’s divine love – which is unconditional and sacrificial yet righteous and pure. One of the best images of that kind of love is the scene in which Jesus lovingly accepted and forgave the woman caught in adultery, and after that, He said to her, “Go and sin no more”, because Jesus knew the heart of the Father and He knew that those who are sexually immoral (amongst other defiant ungodly people who deliberately continue in sin) will not inherit the kingdom of Christ and of God. When people in the same office get along and love one another, that company or organization will accomplish significance in the eyes of God because love, authentic love, is able to do just that. (Jn.13:34-35; Jn.8:10-11; Eph.5:3-7; Heb.10:26-27)
by Rev Jason Phua
Bible Readings: Joshua 9:3-10:43; Psalm 104:24-35
READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Joshua 9:14 “So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.”
The inhabitants of Gibeon were afraid of the military successes of Israel especially of what they have done with Jericho and Ai. So they decided to deceive Israel by pretending to come from afar seeking peace. Joshua and the leaders fell for their deception because they did not “ask counsel from the LORD”. When it was discovered that the people seeking peace were actually their neighbours who feared destruction; the Israelites “murmured against the leaders” (ref v.18). The conflict between the people and their leaders was resolved when Joshua insisted that they should stick to their covenant made with the Gibeonites since it was made in the Name of the LORD (ref v.19). Nonetheless, it was an episode which could have permanently disrupted Joshua’ campaign to conquer the whole of Canaan.
For all of Joshua’s successes, this episode was recorded as an epic failure on his part. I believe this was the author’s deliberate attempt to give to us the real history of what had happened; and not to sugarcoat. This is also one of the major reasons why I have faith in the Bible. It is as authentic as it should be.
We are not told why the Lord spared Joshua from such an epic failure. It could be because he and the leaders recognised their failure in the midst of the congregation (v.16-20), gave reverence to the Lord’s Name and did what was necessary to right the wrong.
In any case, this episode is a strong reminder to me. If my daily living is dependent on the grace of God; then all the more I will need to consult Him on the important matters of life, family and ministry. I confess that there are times when I just rely upon my own wisdom and knowledge. It was much “easier” that way. However, as a consequence, the results were not as ideal as I need them to be. Seeking the Lord’s counsel is important for it is not just a matter of wanting ideal results; but walking the talk that we trust in His wisdom and grace. It is after all, the living out of our faith and whatever knowledge we have of the Word.
Lord, help me to live out Your Word by spending time to seek Your counsel; not just on issues which are challenging, but as and when You like me to. Amen.
by Rev Lai Kai Ming
Readings: Joshua 5-7; Psalm 104
READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
It was indeed strange that Joshua did not recognize the One who stood before him. Had he not by now gotten acquainted with the Presence of God? Maybe not. Or maybe it was intentionally kept from his perception. Nevertheless, Joshua recognized that this was a man of authority, or he would not have bowed down immediately upon the man’s declaration as “Commander”. But why the question – “are you for us, or our enemies”? Would one more person with a drawn sword matter? I think so, especially if that person was about to bring you the Word of God.
Lord, are you for me, or my enemies? This question seems dumb, and the answer obvious. Why would God not be for me, His beloved child? Maybe we sometimes look at our enemies and see them more blessed than ourselves. Perhaps the difficult situation we are in right now make it seem like God has stopped fighting for us. Lord, are you for me, or against me? You sent Your Son to die for me … how can You be against me? Perhaps I should focus less on my own troubles, and more on Your goodness and glory. Like Joshua, I should listen carefully to the Commander’s reply regarding who he was for. “Neither”. (Jos 5:14)
Lord, help me to realize that Your purposes are greater than all my pain.
I am afraid that for many, being a Christian is merely about going to church on Sunday, joining a cell group, serving in a ministry and playing Christian songs in the car or while traveling on public transport. It’s more than that. Being Christian is primarily about repenting from our sins, turning to Jesus, obeying His Word, following Him and living a holy life pleasing to God all the time, 24/7. And this includes all the time between Sunday services, between cell group meetings, and between spending time serving in a ministry. It is about being truly Christian and faithfully obeying the Lord ALL the time. While we can’t be sinless on this side of eternity, we can sin less, helped by the Holy Spirit living in us. It is about knowing His truth and letting His truth set you free from sin, it is about having a God-honoring temperament, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, loving people, being kind, gentle, good, it is about having self-control too. It is about following Him and the leading of the Spirit wherever we go. It is about the relevance of the Christian faith in my workplace, my school, my neighborhood, amongst my colleagues, my friends, my family members. It is about not compartmentalizing my life into faith, work, and family. My whole life is my Christian life and my faith life. It is about not ranking God as #1, family as #2, work as #3 and church as #4, but about making God #1 and the only ONE we give top priority to in relation to family, work and church! It is about thinking about how to glorify God in everything we do. How do I glorify God through my work – whether I am a pastor, doctor, businessman, lawyer, hawker, bus driver, engineer, accountant, clerk, receptionist, singer, actor, songwriter or full-time church worker? Do pastors need to be conscious about glorifying God at work? Most certainly! Do people working in a non-Christian environment need to be conscious about glorifying God at work? Absolutely! What does it mean to be truly Christian? It means less of me, more of Him; His will be done, not mine; His Kingdom come, not mine. It means ALL for Jesus. Sharing here a song that I have missed singing in church amidst the many new songs we have – this is pure worship, unconditional offering and complete surrender! “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil.1:21)
In your anger, do not sin! That’s what Paul tells us in Eph.4:26. This often means not to lash out and express our feelings and emotions without retrain. The person you and I are talking about could really be in the wrong, and our anger may be justified but the Bible says not to sin in our anger, so how you and I respond and react makes all the difference. Above all, show forth the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control (Gal.5:22).
by Rev Jason Phua
Bible Readings: Romans 14:1-23; Proverbs 14:15-16
READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Romans 14:1 “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
Who were the ones considered to be “weak in the faith”? They were the ones who ate only vegetables and esteemed that one day was better than the other (14:5). Apparently, these were Jewish Christians who insisted on observing certain days of the month / year and ate only vegetables in loyalty to the Mosaic Law. For such a matter, the church was divided because the Gentile Christians felt that these laws should no longer be followed under the New Covenant.
While it was understood that under the New Covenant, Christians no longer need to follow such laws; Paul was saying that this should not be an issue which the Christians should be quarrelling about. The observation of these laws, if done on a personal basis, does no harm to the Body of Christ. They were assumed to be done in honour of the Lord. In any case, everyone will have to give an account to the Lord for what we have done; whether in the private or publicly. Therefore, Paul told the Gentile Christians not to despise their Jewish counterparts; but to welcome them as God has welcomed them. On the other hand, the Jewish Christians were also told not to pass judgements against the Gentile Christians’ integrity for the Gospel.
Interestingly, the word “welcome” in verse 1 and 3 is translated from the Greek word “proslambono” which has a stronger meaning that what the English word “welcome” conveys. “Proslambono” means to be accepted or received into one’s home or society. Therefore, when Paul commanded those who were stronger in the faith to “welcome” those weaker in the faith; he was telling them to treat one another as a family in faith. Do not pass judgement, but receive one another as one Body in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s main point was that we should not allow issues that are not essential to the faith to divide us. Instead, we should be watching out for and make the effort to journey with those “weak in the faith” so that they too can be “strong”!
Some years ago, I was serving communion to a Christian elderly lady. She told me that she would not celebrate Christmas or attend to any Christmas services because it began as a pagan festival. Apparently, some of her family members were quite upset with her for that.
Back then, my first instinct was to have a good discussion with her about the historical events leading to Christmas. According to historical data, Christmas did not start off as a pagan festival; but it was some church leaders’ attempt to redeem a popular pagan festival (Saturnalia) for the glory of Christ.
However, as I thought about it, it occurred to me at that point in time, what my fellow sister in Christ needed was not a good theological discussion. What she needed was a good listening ear to hear also; about her struggle with daily inconveniences as she discovered that she was no longer sharp enough to drive a car to anywhere. True enough, as time went, this issue about her physical immobility proved to be much more troubling to her than the issue with Christmas.
This episode taught me an important lesson. Even if I am passionate about certain issues of ministry, life or the church; I need to ask myself some questions before taking action:
- What is my motivation for speaking out?
- Will my speaking out at this moment in time promote peace and mutual upbuilding (ref verse 19) help the person or cause the person to stumble even more?
May the Lord help us indeed, as a family of faith, to learn more and more to truly receive one another even as God had received us in Him.
Help me O Lord, to be discerning and sensitive to the needs of persons whom I am ministering to. This is so I do not cause them to stumble but instead, to build them up from strength to strength in the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
by Rev Lai Kai Ming
Readings: Romans 12; Proverbs 14:13-14
READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Some things don’t depend on us. We can’t stop a nasty neighbour who insists on being inconsiderate and quarrelsome. We cannot prevent a colleague who looks for every opportunity to attack or provoke us. Some things don’t depend on us. But many things do. We can choose not to retaliate. We can choose to keep quiet. We can even choose to return evil with good.
How does one live peaceably with others? One way is to not take offense easily. I have to constantly remind myself of this when I’m driving. Singapore roads are merciless, and Singaporean drivers are aggressive. When someone does something unkind or ungracious, my instinct is to react in kind (not kindness), or to “teach him a lesson”. I must now choose if I should respond in wrath, or in peace. If I take offense, then my anger needs to be satisfied. But if I opt for peace, then I can remind myself that the other party is probably not ready for a driving lesson, and the most loving response is to say a prayer for him. “Lord, bless him, and teach him how to drive!” 😉
Lord, the next time I say to myself that “I have no choice” – help me to realize that it’s probably just an excuse, and then to choose wisely. Amen.