The unlikely believer?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Acts 10:24-48; Psalms 35:17-28

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Acts 10:45 “And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.”

REFLECT
The believers who came with Peter to the house of Cornelius were amazed at how God saved those they considered to be “outside” of God’s covenant with Israel. They were intrigued by how the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For the Jews were taught from young that the Gentiles were “unclean”; and that the Gentiles were pagans who did not know the true God. In other words, to the Jewish believers, Cornelius’ household seemed unlikely to be able to believe in God. Yet, God had proven them wrong through Cornelius’ faithfulness. Even prior to Peter’s preaching of the Gospel, we were told that Cornelius was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God” (Acts 10:2).

RELATE
Yesterday, I had the privilege of baptizing an elderly lady who is currently 94 years of age. She had never attended church but because of her grandchildren, she came to know the Gospel and desired to be baptized. We spoke with her and found that she understood the faith and could express to us that in Christ, she found peace. At her home, we sang songs of praise and witnessed how joyful she was, singing and praising God with us. If this elderly lady had not say that she want to be baptized, perhaps many believers might not know that she has the fear of the Lord in her. Some might even think that she is an “unlikely” candidate for the faith; as she is already so elderly in age and had never attended church. Yet, the Lord knows everything. Like all of us, she is a precious child of God and God knows that she believed. Unlike many of us, God does not discriminate and His love is divinely free for all.

REST
Lord our God, please take away our biases, and help us to discern with His wisdom and heart of those who have the fear of the Lord in them. This is so we can be used more effectively by the Lord to disciple and lead people to Christ.

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Day 267

by Rev Joel Yong

John 15:1-2
Then Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father takes care of the vineyard. He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that does produce fruit to make it produce more fruit.

This is a familiar passage.
What strikes me, is that even the productive branches (good disciples) get pruned.

You’d think no cutting would happen to branches that do well.
But you see, the Gardener – who is God Himself- also knows the potential of each branch and it’s His desire to help us reach the full potential He has imbued in us.

I have 2 sons – I rejoice when they reach developmental milestones. I high five them and tell them I am pleased.

But here is the thing, I know they can now do more- having crossed the previous milestone (say for example, going to the potty).
I am not going to let their life achievement be that they made it to the potty on time … I know they can do more.

So I teach them more, show them more and it won’t be easy – but I wait anticipating their next achievement.

That is why He prunes productive branches.
That is why even good disciples will experience hardship.

Stay faithful even in such times- He is waiting our next greater crop of fruits!

Day 266

by Rev Joel Yong

John 14:1-3
“Don’t be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in me. My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again. Then I will bring you into my presence so that you will be where I am.

Jesus knew it was going to be a stressful and anxious time for the disciples- once He is arrested and falsely accused.

So He reminds them- not to let their hearts be troubled. Instead- as an antidote to this stress and worry- they are to focus on God instead. To look to Him and keep their eyes on Him.

Then He tells them why He is to be taken from them … He says He goes away to prepare for our future. That we too might be with God someday.

That is a great thing to think about- instead of the “what if’s” and instead of the “big obstacles” in life’s pathway.
Think about God and His great love and His might.
Think about the destiny you have in Him.
Think about what it will be like when we enter into His presence.

Martyr or Misdirected?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Acts 9:26-43; Ps 35:1-16

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Acts 9:29-30
And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus.

REFLECT
As we read about the early ministry of Paul, we cannot help but notice that wherever he went people wanted to kill him.  Why was this so? The once fanatic Pharisee turned into a passionate Christian; perhaps they saw him as a traitor. But why did the apostles send him off to Tarsus? Why not let Paul keeping speaking in Jerusalem, trusting God to protect His holy servant? Could it be that Paul himself needed some soul searching on how to declare the Gospel with wisdom and humility?

RELATE
The fact that every time we speak about Christ people want to kill us doesn’t mean that we are doing the right thing. In 1 Pet 3:15 we are called to share the gospel with gentleness and respect. Instead of trying to shove God’s truth down someone’s throat, we need to learn how to discern if he or she is open to drinking the water of life. If we are the kind who like to argue about any and every thing (including our faith), let us be reminded that not all martyrs are martyrs.

REST
Lord, give me boldness to share my faith, and wisdom to share it where it matters.

Day 265

by Rev Joel Yong

John 12:4-6
One of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold for a high price and the money given to the poor?” (Judas didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the moneybag and carried the contributions.)

Things are not always what they seem.
A question asked, may come with a hidden agenda.

But God knows all.
There is nothing that can be hidden from Him, for He is omniscient- all-knowing.

So come clean before Him.
Not for His sake – He has all the info He needs on you.
But for yours, so that you might let the Healer heal you, correcting your heart and giving you new life in Him.

You don’t have to keep doing the same old year after year.
You can address your tendencies to blow your top, to lust after what is not yours, to worry day after day over everything … and so much more.
Just come to God, and confess your failings and your need of Him.

Day 264

by Rev Joel Yong

John 9:1-3
As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, why was this man born blind? Did he or his parents sin?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. Instead, he was born blind so that God could show what he can do for him.

The disciples’ question revealed a seemingly karmic understanding of the imperfections of life.

They thought that the man was being punished and that is why he was born blind- presuming it was due to his parents’ sin.

Jesus’ reply- showed a different perspective.
Rather than consider the finality of the suffering or imperfections we possess in life, we ought to consider the possibilities of our situation.

That God might be glorified.
That God might show us what He can do for us.

In that failed marriage.
In that dismal health report.
In a downward-spiraling career.
In the case of a prodigal child.

Consider what God can do.

Day 263

by Rev Joel Yong

John 6:1-2
Jesus later crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or the Sea of Tiberias). A large crowd followed him because they saw the miracles that he performed for the sick.

People followed Jesus for various reasons.
A large crowd did so because of the healings he did.

It’s nice that they appreciated what He could do.
But it would have been better if they appreciated Jesus for who He was … and not just what He could do.

The crowds turned against Jesus when they saw Him powerless, strung upon a cross, crucified.
He no longer seemed able and doubt crept into their hearts …

Their chief taunts were variants of this: “If You are the Christ, save Yourself from the cross …”
They wanted to see what else He could do.
And if He did not perform according to their expectation- then He was not the Christ they were looking for.

The people weren’t seeking God, they were seeking an idol- one to perform miracles to meet their needs.
They weren’t seeking God, to know His will and bend themselves to follow His will.
They were seeking to find a ‘god’ who would bend to their will. That’s idolatry. That is why their loyalty to Jesus was so fickle.

They did not see nor understand the significance of the cross.
That by choosing to remain on the Cross- Jesus saved us from our greatest bondage – our bondage to sin, and He liberated us from our greatest prison – not the prison of an ailing body alone, but from the prison of an eternity in Hell that awaits each human soul.