The Zacchaeus in us

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 19:1-27; Proverbs 22:17-19

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

REFLECT
Whenever I read about Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, it never fails to amaze me on how the chief tax collector radically transformed from being a loyalist of the Roman Empire to becoming a loyalist of the Lord. When Jesus wanted to come into his house (of which no Jewish leaders had done before); he was so filled with joy and declared that he will generously compensate anyone he had defrauded and give half of his money to the poor. While the Jews grumbled against Jesus’ action to go into the house of a “sinner”; Zacchaeus was so full of gratefulness that the Messiah was receiving his hospitality. Notice that it wasn’t until Zacchaeus made the faith call for restoration that Jesus pronounced salvation. Zacchaeus’ heart was truly for the Lord. This is in deep contrast to the story a chapter earlier, where the wealthy young man found it difficult to let go of his immense wealth to follow Jesus; though ironically he asked what must I do to inherit eternal life.

RELATE
Indeed, God had come and will come again to save the lost. His primary purpose was and still is, to save and sanctify those who are remorseful of our sins, willing to repent and seek grace from God to be saved. Anything else is to be in support of this primary mission. Even for those who had believed; we must make the decision on a daily basis to be sanctified. We must work with God to grow in holiness and worship.

As I read this passage, I am convicted that there is much of me that needs the heart of Zacchaeus. There is much of me that needs to climb that sycamore tree, seek Christ and be filled with joy that He is already my Lord and Saviour. There is much of me that needs to extend the love of God to others, to receive the poor, the lost and the outcast just as Jesus did. There is much of me that needs to follow the primary mission of God; to be used as an instrument for leading others into the kingdom. Therefore Lord, help me to be like Zacchaeus, who abandoned the many things in this world to sincerely follow You.

REST
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love!

Amen.

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Truly Praying

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Luke 18:1-17; Proverb 22:16

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Luke 18:7 (NIV)
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?

REFLECT
This parable always intrigues me. Jesus compares God with a lazy judge! Yet the point is clear. If a lousy and lazy judge would give justice to the woman, how much more the best Judge in the world! The condition? Faith expressed in perseverance. The widow was prepared to be stubborn, for she believed she would get justice. Do we?

RELATE
How often do I ask, once, then stop asking. God is not deaf, I’m sure he heard it the first time. Yet I wonder if my “prayer” was merely cursory and courtesy. Was I really asking and trusting God, or just placing Him as one of my many options? When I keep asking, it shows that I’m serious about Him answering. Yes, it’s not that God enjoys seeing us “cry out to Him day and night”. He just wants to be sure we are actually calling Him.

REST
Lord, increase my faith, and help my unbelief!

Humbled

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 14:7-35; Psalm 44:9-26

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

REFLECT
When Jesus was at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, He noticed how the invited guests were choosing for themselves places of honour. Such places of honour might not be very much different from those in today’s context. They could have been places at the head or upper corners of a dining table.

Jesus then told a parable about how those invited to a wedding feast should not choose for themselves places of honour but to go to the lowest place. Otherwise there is potential for the person to be shamed. Jesus ended off with the teaching that those who exalt themselves will be humbled while those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Here, Jesus was talking about the hearts of those who consider themselves righteous in comparison with those who surrender to the Lord as penitent sinners. For those who are prideful and self-righteous, they will be humbled by God. On the other hand, for those who know that they are sinners and walk with God in humility shall be exalted. Such is the nature of the kingdom of God.

RELATE
Self-exaltation can come in many forms. Most of us do not do it blatantly but it could manifest in subtle ways. I know of one person who thought so highly of himself that he treats people around him as “second class” citizens. He don’t really say it outright; but for those who know him well will attest that this is a self-righteous man. To this person, few or none is holier than him. He is always the righteous one. The person next to him is always inferior. Recently, I got to know that God humbled him through a series of events. I am praying that he will turn to God for grace and growth.

Knowing this helps me to reflect on my own walk with God. How am I walking with the Lord? Do I exalt myself and think that I am better than others? Do I post pictures or thoughts in the social media to make people think that I am great? Or worse, do I post stuff on the social media to exalt my own position at the expense of others? Do I think that I deserve a better seat in God’s kingdom? Am I walking with Him as one who needs His grace and mercy consistently? Or am I always deluding myself that i am “OK” and only go to God sporadically?

May the Lord help me to know of the times when I am self-exalting; for He will humble those who have such a corrupted heart. May the Lord help me to repent if there are times when i exalt myself and may He bring me to my knees to get right with Him. Indeed, only God is worthy to be exalted. Let me exalt God rather than myself. For only the Almighty is worthy to be praised.

REST
Thank you my Abba Father, for you love me more than myself; and because of Your love for me, You are always ready to humble my arrogance and pride for the sake of Your glory in my salvation. Amen.

Mercy First

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Luke 13:1-21; Psalm 44:1-8

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Luke 13:8-9 (NIV)
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”

REFLECT
This parable was told in the context of repentance. God will have mercy on us always. He will give us time. He will “dig around” our heart to find a soft spot. He will pour out His grace so that we might be fertilized and grow. His goal is that we bear fruit. Yet time is running out. There is an end to all things. After mercy, there will be judgment for the unrepentant soul!

RELATE
The recent saga of the NUS student who filmed a female student showering has received national attention. Should the culprit be shown mercy, or given a harsh sentence for the sake of deterrence? It seems that most people want the guy jailed for his shameful act. Yet I wonder how would our response change if he was our brother, or son? Sure, the victim was traumatized and lost something precious. Yes, imagine if it happened to one of my daughters! Still, I believe that mercy triumphs over judgment. One more person in jail would not make the world a better place. Only grace will.

REST
Lord, you have shown me mercy, and grace. Help me to do the same – to be a mediator, and not a judge. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Huh? I am the good neighbour?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 10:38-11:13; Proverbs 22:7

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 10:36-37 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

REFLECT
When the lawyer asked Jesus in verse 29 “who then is my neighbour?”, Jesus did not answer his question directly. Instead, Jesus gave a parable which highlighted the issues of the day: (1) the lawyer, who was one of the Pharisees, considered the Samaritans to be enemies because of their lineage as well as differing views on the word of God and where to worship (2) the supposedly teachers of the law did not seem too keen to do what the word of God says. The Gospels was filled with examples of how Jesus considered the Pharisees to be hypocrites.

So when the lawyer asked: “Who then is my neighbour?”, the Gospel writer highlighted that he was merely trying to justify himself. Perhaps he had hoped that Jesus would respond by saying: “Your neighbours are your fellow Jews who go to synagogues with you”.

Yet, our Lord is no fool. He knows the hearts of all people. Through the parable, Jesus’ loud sounding message to the lawyer was like “Stop trying to justify yourself by asking who is my neighbour; but BE the good neighbour to everyone, including those you considered to be your mortal enemies. By doing this, you would have truly lived out the greatest commandments of loving God and neighbour.”

RELATE
So it is for everyone of us who consider to love God and our neighbour.

I am the good neighbour. If I can be the good neighbour, then it does not really matter who are my neighbours. I have no need to ask who are my neighbours because as the good neighbour, God has called me to love everyone. The love required of me is not just about doing the minimal; for the Samaritan who showed mercy had done an extraordinary act of love for the injured Jew. To Jesus, the giving of love is always sacrificial. After what Jesus had done on the Cross, Jesus’ disciples will recall what He said at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34).

To be the good neighbour is not a natural thing to do. We all have our biases and histories with people. We have days when we don’t feel like doing any “loving” at all. We could even have “enemies” whom we have not spoken to for a long time. So the good neighbour must learn to love God; primarily through His word. The good neighbour must draw from the everlasting supply of God to love as He had loved in the Spirit. To be the good neighbour is an extraordinary call which can only be accomplished when we surrender our lives to the Lord on a daily basis.

“You go, and do likewise.”

Yes Lord, with You as my Helper.

REST
Dear Lord, help me to be the good neighbour. Give me the strength, patience and joy to do so. Amen.

Calling fire down

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Luke 9:51-10:12; Proverbs 22:5-6

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation
Luke 9:53-54 (NIV)
but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”

REFLECT
Why did the people not welcome Jesus – was it because they were Samaritans, or because he was heading towards Jerusalem for His death? While we might never know, the disciples’ response is memorable – “kill the whole village, Jesus!” Apparently, James and John were quite confident that they could call down fire from the sky … something which only Elijah has done before at Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). I am so glad that Jesus did not agree with them!

RELATE
Sometimes I do wish that all the evil people around me are destroyed. Like the disciples, I don’t like people who reject me, and block my path to “Jerusalem”. Yes, the easiest is that these difficult people be removed – in Jesus’ name! I am thankful that Jesus would never answer such a prayer. In fact, He would rebuke me. Why? Because Jesus came to save, not kill. Because I have called others evil without looking into my own heart. Because, Christ has called us to love our enemies, not burn them.

REST
Lord, teach me to love my neighbor as I love myself. Show me that I too have often rejected Jesus, and prevented Him
from His way in my life.

How do we hear?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 8:4-21; Psalm 39:1-13

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 8:18 “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

REFLECT
How do we hear?

In Luke 8 (Parables of the Sower and Lamp), Jesus gave a fair bit of warning on how we hear the word of God. Do we hear but allow our hearts to be choked by cares of this world? Do we hear but grow skeptical of the Lord when we face challenges in life? Do we hear and allow the evil one to tempt us to discard faith and sin against God? Do we hear, was convicted and yet not do anything about it, like how we would put the lamp under our beds? All these lead to fruitlessness where Jesus’ warning was that even of the things one think he has, will be taken away. On the other hand, those who hear and put into action what was heard, shall be given more.

RELATE
Fruitlessness is not an incubation stage where Christians “goes back” to being worldly for a season of time; and then hopefully “comes back” to God when he or she is happy to. In my experience, none has been able to do that without severe influences to their personal walk with God.

Rather, fruitlessness is the refusal to put God’s Word into action. It is the exercise of our will to suppress convictions by the word of God to bear fruit for His kingdom. It is a deliberate rebellion against the call of the Spirit to grow in God’s grace. So fruitless persons often hear; but often do not put into action what was heard. So someone could be so called Christian for a long time but do not bear much fruit. To these persons, Jesus warned that they might lose whatever little they think they have.

I thank God for this reminder that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian. Either one follows the Lord, even if imperfectly, or one is not. I was reminded of a conversation i had with a friend many years ago. He told me that he did not want to follow Jesus because he knew he had to sacrifice what he had. I am sad for this brother of mine and is reminded today to pray for him. Nonetheless, i thought at the very least, he is not a hypocrite. He didn’t profess to follow Jesus and then live a fruitless life. May the Lord help me not to be hypocritical but to put what I heard into action. Let me walk the talk in the grace and strength that God provides.

REST
Lord my God, help my dear friend to see the truth and help him to know that you are the most important Person in his life; and not the things of this world. Amen.