You frequently come across the term, “fifth column,” in military and spy literature. It refers to a clandestine group of people who attempt to undermine their own country from within through subversion and sabotage.Read More
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Towards the end of 2018, the Lord spoke to me concerning what He had in store for our church and us in 2019. Initially, I heard it faintly. It was not vague; it was clear though faint. The prophetic word is 2019 is going to be a good year for our church and most people in our church.Read More
Like the apostle, Peter, Christians believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This is a fundamental Christian belief. Jesus, Himself, made the same claim on many occasions as seen in the four Gospels.Read More
Somehow, the focus of the Christmas season has shifted from the birth of Jesus Christ and related biblical stories to theglitters of Christmas trees and decorations in the homes, streets and shopping malls. The world has adopted Christmas as its holiday. Christmas is now celebrated in almost every country in the world, but ironically without Christ. Christmas has become a time of festivity, fun and merrymaking.
Even Christians are guilty of such Christ-less celebration. Ask the people around you what Christmas is all about and they would most probably associate it with Christmas trees, exchanging of gifts, Santa Claus, reindeers, sleighs, winter wonderland, log cakes, mistletoes and parties. None of these things has anything to do with Christmas at all.
As Christians, let us be sober-minded and not be caught up with the noises that distract us from the significance of Christmas. The first Christmas two thousand years ago was a momentous day when Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, was born.
During this Christmas season, I urge you to pause and marvel at the many wonders of Christmas. Let us recapture the true spirit of Christmas and be enthralled by it.
Consider the beauty of that day when the transcendent God,who lived in unapproachable light, drew near to humanity. The Son of God took on flesh and dwelled among man. The hope of salvation was incarnated. What a glorious day!
The Saviour’s birth is no ordinary birth. His mother was a young virgin who had not slept with any man. Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit of God as announced by the angel, Gabriel. It was a miraculous conception. The prophet, Isaiah had prophesied concerning this miracle some seven hundred years before – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”(Isaiah 7:14 - ESV).
This is not the only prophecy concerning the coming of the Saviour, or Messiah as the Jews would call Him. There were numerous other prophecies and all of them were scrupulously recorded in the Old Testament portion of the bible. For example, another prophet, Micah, prophesied the precise place of His birth - Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). All these ancient prophecies, which were given several hundred years to more than a thousand years before, came to pass. How amazing is that?
Consider the probability of hundreds of these prophecies about the coming of the Saviour, His life and death and resurrection. We are not just talking about one or two prophecies, but at least three hundred of them fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. It is mathematically staggering. It shows the hand of God at work.
The miracle and wonder of Christmas do not stop here. Though Jesus Christ was born in the humble surrounding of a stable, God sent angels to announce His birth as was befitting the Son of God. First, an angel appeared to some shepherds in the field and announced to them the birth of the Saviour – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). It was a majestic moment with the glory of God shining around them. Then suddenly, a multitude of angels appeared. Their praises and declaration broke the stillness of the night - “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
The first Christmas is certainly not an ordinary day. It is a day of miracles and wonder like the world has never seen before. The shepherds must have been awestruck to see thosemagnificent angels and afterward came face to face with infant Jesus in a manger.
Sometime later, a group of wisemen from the East came to worship the Saviour-King. They brought with them expensive gifts to pay homage to the infant King. God had sent a star to guide them all the way from a distant land in the East to the house in Bethlehem where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus stayed. This is no ordinary star. This is another miracle of Christmas.
Spend some time to take in all these wonder-filled moments of Christmas. Be awestruck by the power of God and the beauty of the occasion.
Wishing you a blessed Christmas!
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
One of the most loved Christmas stories is that of the wisemen from the East looking for the newly born king of the Jews in the Jerusalem vicinity. To set the record straight, these wisemen did not come on the night when Jesus was born. Neither was it a few days later while baby Jesus was still lying in a manger in a stable. The visit probably took place a few months to a year after His birth. It is often said that there are three wisemen, but the fact is we do not know because it is not mentioned in the bible.
This is a fascinating story. The wisemen followed a star that led them all the way from their homeland in the distant East. There are many debates concerning the nature of that star. It could not have been an ordinary star in the night sky since it led them “until it came to rest over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9). Whatever that star was, God must have sent it to guide the wisemen to the infant Jesus.
The wisemen are not Jews. We are not sure how much they knew about the Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of the Saviour-King. But what is clear is they knew enough to take the long journey and brought along with them expensive gifts. They were seekers of God and God was please to reveal His Son to them. God will reveal Himself to whoever that seeks Him. A true seeker will always find God.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish religious leaders and scribes had no clue regarding the birth of their Messiah. These people were well acquainted with the Holy Scripture. Yet none of them had any idea that their King was already in their midst. God had sent an angel to break the good news to the lowly shepherds and a star to inform a few foreigners, but He said nothing to them. What an irony! Perhaps they were not sincerely seeking God.
The wisemen were very clear about their purpose for visiting the infant Saviour-King. “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). They came to worship Him!
Imagine their surprise where the star led them. It did not stop over the city of Jerusalem as they had expected. Neither did it stop over a palace or a palatial mansion. The star led them to a small house in a poor neighbourhood in Bethlehem. This is certainly not what they had expected.
Nevertheless, they were overjoyed. Two things happened when they saw baby Jesus with His mother. They fell down and worshipped Him. It must be quite an experience for Mary and Joseph to see these wisemen prostrating and worshipping their son. It further affirmed all that God, through the angels, had told them about the identity of Jesus.
In the past, it was a customary practice to pay homage to a king by the act of kneeling. It showed one’s respect and honour. But there is another reason which most of us, modern folks, are unaware. Kneeling and prostrating were also demonstrations of allegiance. Essentially, these Gentile wisemen were pledging their loyalty and devotion to King Jesus. Never mind He was still an infant. He was destined to be the King of kings and Lord of lords in the future. Now that they had found Him, they would never again worship other gods. Their allegiance would be with Christ Jesus alone.
The wisemen did not come empty-handed. They offered gold, frankincense and myrrh as their worship. These are expensive gifts fit for a king. It reminds me of King David who uttered these memorable words - “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing” (Samuel 24:24). Worship is costly.
Do not be mistaken. Worship is not just singing praise and worship songs during Sunday services. It is more than that. The word, worship, is derived from the old English word, “weorthscipe.” It means worthiness. Because God is worthy, I will honour and revere Him. I will obey Him and be devoted to Him. I will live my life in total surrender to Him. I will lay everything at His feet. Everything that I have belongs to Him. This is worship and it is costly.
Abraham understood that worship was costly. That is why he was willing to lay down his son, Isaac, on the altar of sacrifice. He would allow nothing – not even his dearest son - to come between him and God.
During this season of Advent, let us reflect seriously on our relationship with God. How are we doing in terms of our allegiance and worship? Would God consider us loyal and devoted? Is God pleased with our worship?
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
Eliezer prayed this prayer. This is the first recorded prayer in the bible, and it is a prayer for divine guidance.
Eliezer is a trusted servant of Abraham. He is an ordinary person like us. He is so ordinary that his name is not even mentioned in the entire story in Genesis chapter 24. We know his name from an earlier reference in Genesis 15:2. Eliezer prayed a simple prayer, and it was effective. God answered his prayer.
Abraham entrusted Eliezer with an important task. Eliezer was to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac. Abraham gave very specific instructions. The woman must not be from among the Canaanites. Eliezer had to go back to Abraham’s homeland in Mesopotamia and find a suitable young woman from among his relatives. The distance was long, and the journey arduous. To find an attractive woman is easy, but to find one with good character in such a short time is a tall order.
“How am I going to find the right woman for Isaac?” Eliezer must have thought to himself as he took the hazardous journey with a few other servants and ten camels loaded with expensive gifts. Eliezer is probably a resourceful person for Abraham to send him on such an important mission. But Eliezer knows the difficulty of the task. Even if he could find a good woman, she might not be willing to follow him back to Canaan.
What did Eliezer do? He prayed and sought God to help him. He knows the power of prayer. His name is a testimony to that. Eliezer means ‘my God is help.’
There are three precious lessons that we can learn here concerning praying to God for guidance.
First, put your trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). That was what Eliezer did. Though he was a capable and resourceful man, he did not rely solely on his own judgement. He committed the matter to the LORD. He prayed earnestly to God to show steadfast love to his master and grant him success in his endeavour. Then, he waited for God to help him.
So often, we put our trust in our own abilities. We might not be consciously aware of it, but our action betrays us. Unless we are desperate, we do not pray seriously. We merely go through the motion of prayer. It is both necessary and helpful for us to cultivate a spiritual posture of trust and utter dependence on God if we want to enjoy God’s guidance and the blessing of answered prayer.
Second, Eliezer was specific in his prayer. He was looking for a kind and hospitable young woman. So, he prayed that the woman would not only give him a drink as requested but also volunteer to draw water for his camels.
If you know anything about camels at all, you would see that it is not easy to find such a woman. Conservatively, a camel can drink up to 100 litres of water in just 10 minutes, and Eliezer had ten thirsty camels. Let us assume that just 20 litres of water is enough for each camel. Ten camels times 20 litres equal 200 litres. If each water jar can hold 5 litres, that woman must draw water from the well, walk to the trough and pour into it 40 times. That is a lot of work.
Eliezer was specific with his request because he wanted to be sure that he had selected the right woman for his master’s son. And God answered his prayer by sending Rebekah, who did exactly as he had prayed. That is amazing.
It is not a problem for us to be specific in our prayers. But we must be open if God chooses to answer our prayers differently. Just know that God is good, and He wants to give us the best. But His best may not quite fit our desires. Sometimes, God answers us according to what we ask. Sometimes, He does not. Either way. It is for our good.
Finally, reflect on God’s answer. Do not be too quick to jump to conclusion especially if it is something we want so badly. Most people tend to interpret things according to the desire of their hearts. Therefore, you want to be sure by carefully considering if God has spoken.
Eliezer did not jump to conclusion hastily despite Rebekah doing precisely what he had prayed. He observed her silently until Rebekah had finished watering his camels (Genesis 24:21-22). That took a while. Eliezer was patient because he wanted to be sure that Rebekah was God’s choice. He is a wise man.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
These last three verses of the Gospel of Matthew contain one of the most important words spoken by Jesus. These words are generally known as the Great Commission. While Jesus gave the Great Commission to the eleven apostles, it is meant for everyone who professes to be His follower and disciple.
The Great Commission is a command. That is what the word, commission, means. It is a command given to the church corporately and the individuals that make up the church. The Great Commission is not a suggestion, and we cannot conveniently ignore it. Unfortunately, many Christians do not take it seriously. They do not bother about it. But you must not disregard it. To put it bluntly, to ignore it is to disobey God’s will and one of His most basic commands.
The reason for the continual spread of Christianity throughout history – beginning in Jerusalem and Judea, and moving on to Samaria and the Roman Empire, and then to the rest of the world – is a testimony of the disciples of Jesus Christ taking the Great Commission seriously. Many willingly make sacrifices, and some fearlessly lay down their lives so that the gospel is preached. Will you be counted among the faithful ones?
Our church will have our usual Christmas evangelistic service. We are mobilising everyone to pray for five unbelieving family members and friends. We want to see these unsaved people come into the kingdom of God. Lay hold of this opportunity as we join our hearts together in unity to pray and believe God for a good harvest of souls.
Many Christians mistakenly equate the Great Commission merely with evangelism, that is, preaching the gospel to the lost unbelievers. This is only partially correct. The Great Commission certainly includes evangelism. It begins with evangelism, but it does not stop there.
Jesus’ command is to make disciples. The biblical text for this pastoral reflection makes it very clear. Notice from the text that making disciples encompasses two things.
First, ‘baptizing them.’ Baptism is more than just a necessary ritual where believers act out what had transpired spiritually in them when they confessed Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. That is, their old selves are buried together with Christ in His death, and they rise in the newness of life in Christ. More importantly, in the context of making disciples, baptism is a pledge of allegiance to Christ. The world is behind us and the cross before us. Our allegiance is only to one God – our Lord Jesus Christ - even as we have forsaken all other gods. This is the mark of a true disciple.
Secondly, ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’ In a nutshell, it is to obey Christ and all His teachings. This is what allegiance to Christ looks like. Obedience is the mark of allegiance. Mere profession with the mouth is not good enough. Sometimes, talk is cheap. How often had God accused the Israelites of drawing near to Him with their mouths but their hearts were far from Him! God is not impressed with people who merely say that they would follow Him. He is only interested in those who genuinely follow Him. We must show our faith with our works.
How do we make disciples?
The discipleship process begins with sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with unbelievers and bringing those who believe into the church community. It continues with training these new believers with the Word of God and equipping them for ministry. Different churches have different programmes and activities for these training and equipping purposes. Fundamentally, discipleship always involves a few things.
The biblical discipleship model is simple. There is nothing complicated about how the early church made disciples. The believers learnt from their leaders. They listened to their teachings and watched how their leaders lived. They had regular fellowship with one another. They spent time with one another. They talked about their lives, shared their testimonies and discussed the apostles’ teachings. They broke bread regularly, and they prayed constantly. Prayer is the missing element in the life of the modern church. I have observed that many Christians are afraid to pray with other believers. This should not be the case.
As the early disciples engaged in these simple God-ordained activities, the Holy Spirit moved powerfully in their midst. They witnessed many signs and wonders, and the church grew rapidly (Acts 2:43-47).
We can learn a valuable lesson here. The early church thrived because they were hungry for God and they sought Him with all their hearts. They also came together in the unity of hearts and purpose to make disciples. They had only one agenda, and that was to seek God and do His will. It was not some methodologies that propelled their phenomenal growth and successful disciple-making, but God’s response to their earnest pursuit of Him and His purpose.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
Do you praise God? Do you love to praise God? Are you enthusiastic about praising God? Do you know the power of praise? Do you know that great power is released when we praise God?
Singing and praising God have been a significant part of church worship throughout history. The practice dates to the Old Testament times. Temple worship included praising God. The duty of some Levites was to praise God through music and songs. The book of Psalms contains many psalms where the psalmists break out into exuberant praise with poetic words or songs. Worship has always included the element of praise.
Most Christians love to praise and worship through singing, but few are aware of the power of praise. If they knew, they would be more engaged and enthusiastic about it. I notice that most Christians are too reserved to express themselves when praising God. Praise is not praise without joy and exuberance.
The bible teaches about the power of praise.
When a vast army comprising of the Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites converged against the nation of Judah, King Jehoshaphat was alarmed. Immediately, he sought the LORD God for help. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast in the entire nation and gathered the leaders in his court to seek the face of God.
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel and spoke through him. It was an encouraging word – “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you” (2 Chronicles 20:17). Twice the LORD said that they did not need to fight this battle because the LORD would fight for them. They could only wonder what God meant.
God revealed a fascinating battle plan to his prophets. The army would still have to take up their positions for war. But instead of the elite troops, the singers and musicians were to take the lead. They were to go before the army singing praises to the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:21).
Who would fight a battle in this way? If you were a commander of a battalion, would you do that? People would think that you are crazy, or maybe you are too spiritual. But Jehoshaphat believed God and the word of the prophets. He took leadership of the situation and executed this unique battle strategy.
So, the singers and musicians went before the army singing, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” They praised and proclaimed the goodness of God in the battlefield. It certainly looked funny and out of place. The enemies watching through their binoculars must be scratching their heads in bewilderment.
As they were praising God, something happened in the supernatural realm. God set an ambush on the enemies. The LORD sent confusion into their ranks and these three armies ended up slaughtering one another. Just as the LORD had said, they did not need to fight because the battle belonged to the LORD. That day, the people of God won a major victory without having to lift a single weapon against the enemies except the weapon called praise.
In His wisdom, God has ordained praise to be a means of releasing His power. I believe there is a good reason for it. Whenever we face a difficult situation, our attention is often focused on the situation instead of God. That is why we get anxious and fearful. But praise focuses our attention on God instead of the problem. Praise causes us to focus on the bigness of the wisdom and power of God instead of the magnitude of the problem before us.
Praise steadies our faith and refocuses our trust in God when we are sailing through stormy waters. So, the next time you encounter a problem, do not grumble and complain. Instead, try praising God and tell God that you are putting your trust in Him to fight the battle for you.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
The reference is to Cain’s offering of sacrifice and worship to God. This is the first time the bible mentions worship. From the beginning, God has made it clear that there is a right way to worship Him.
Cain brought an offering of fruits while his brother, Abel, brought an animal sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s offering.
While the reason is not explicitly stated, we can read between the lines. Both Cain and Abel knew the proper way to worship God. Otherwise, God would not have said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” God could not have possibly accused Cain of wrongdoing if he had not known the requirement.
The brothers must have learnt from their parents, Adam and Eve, that God required blood sacrifices. Animals had to be slaughtered and their blood shed. Remember after they had sinned, God ‘made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them’ (Genesis 3:21). Animals, most likely sheep, had to be slain before their skins could be used to make those clothes. Blood must be shed for the atonement of sin. That has always been the way for sinful man to approach God.
God did not arbitrarily accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s offering. It was based on principles. What are these principles? Both the offeror and the offering must be right. We must come to God on His terms. We cannot come to God on our own terms. There is a proper way to worship God. Failure to understand these principles have serious consequences.
Cain worshipped God, but he refused to approach God on His terms. Instead of bringing sheep, he brought fruits. Maybe, it is out of convenience as he was a farmer. If he wanted sheep, he would have to barter trade with his brother, who was a keeper of flocks. Maybe he was too proud to ask. Perhaps, he was lazy. Maybe, he just could not be bothered.
Cain had an attitude problem. He did not take his relationship with God seriously. Reverence was missing in his worship. When God rejected his offering, he became angry. Even when God persuaded him to do the right thing, he refused to heed God’s warning. Instead of repentance, he reacted by killing Abel.
Abel was different. He worshipped God on God’s terms. Abel did exactly as God required. He did not just sacrifice sheep. He offered the best that he had to God – the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.
The offeror and the offering must be right. God rejected Cain’s offering because his attitude toward Him was disrespectful and he brought the wrong offering. Whereas for Abel, God accepted him because he approached God reverently and he brought the right sacrifice.
You may be surprised to find many people like Cain in the church. These people come to God with a casual and frivolous attitude. They take the grace of God for granted. It is true that we must approach God and His throne of grace with confidence, but that does not mean that we forget to come with an attitude of deep reverence. He is still the great and glorious God who is the ruler over the entire realm of existence while we are just mere mortals saved by grace.
We must come into God’s presence on God’s terms. We must come with the fear of God in our hearts. We must always come in a spirit of repentance. The sacrifice and blood of Christ have opened the way for us to enter into His holy presence, but repentance is still required. The Holy Communion serves as a constant reminder.
One of the tell-tale signs of a truly reverent heart is our attitude toward the weekly church service. Do you attend regularly? Do you come on time? Do you prepare yourselves to worship and receive the preaching of the Word of God? These are basic measures of your reverence toward God. They also reflect your attitude toward worship and your relationship with God.
Another tell-tale sign is whether your take tithing and offering seriously. These are basic requirements of worship. Do you pay your tithes? Concerning offering, do you give the ‘fat portions’ or bones?
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
Ezekiel 2:7 (ESV) - And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house.
This is an interesting statement. God spoke these words to Ezekiel at the beginning of his prophetic ministry. Imagine being called by God and given a mission for life to speak on His behalf. God would speak very clearly to Ezekiel, and Ezekiel would hear with equal clarity. Then, Ezekiel would convey what he had heard to the Israelites. What a privilege!
But wait! God had something else to say. God forewarned Ezekiel that the Israelites would not listen to him. They would not take him seriously and they would disregard his warnings. Why? Because they had no interest to listen to God (Ezekiel 3:7).
That is Ezekiel’s call. It is a difficult call. Imagine having to spend the rest of your life speaking to a stubborn bunch of people who refused to listen to you. Worse, they would be hostile to him. I do not think it was any comfort to Ezekiel when God assured him that He would make him as resilient and long-suffering as these people were stubborn.
Ezekiel’s ministry would bear no fruit. He was a voice in the wilderness like John the Baptist, whose reward for fearlessly proclaiming God’s words and preparing the way for the Messiah was martyrdom. He was beheaded for daring to tell King Herod about his sin of adultery with his sister-in-law. The persecution from the religious establishment and the seeming fruitlessness of his ministry drove John to the extent of doubting his call. While in prison, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was indeed the Messiah. John was no longer certain (Matthew 11:2-3).
Would you blame John for doubting that he might have pointed out the wrong Messiah to the people? God had sent him. He was the one Isaiah prophesied about who would ‘prepare the way of the LORD’ (Isaiah 40:3-5). Jesus affirmed that, and He went on to say that ‘among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:10). But what is the purpose since John did not bear any visible fruit in his ministry?
Ezekiel faced the same heart-wrenching question. What is the purpose of such a ministry? Having a hostile audience that had already decided to spurn God’s words and warnings. They were not going to repent anyway. Why speak to them when they refuse to hear?
These are not irrelevant questions in case you think that this is the Old Testament. We are in an Ezekiel moment! Many contemporary Christians are not taking the Word of God seriously, and public morality has gone down the gutters. Many Christians, including regular church-goers, do not have a biblical worldview. They do not think and process issues through a biblical framework. They do not care whether their views and opinions line up with the Word of God. The current debate on Section 377A and related issues on LGBT rights have exposed this raw reality.
So, if these people, both Christians and non-Christians, do not care about what God thinks and says, why should we continue to speak and make a representation of the truths of God’s Word and about morality? Why did God want Ezekiel to speak regardless of whether the Israelites would hear or refuse to hear?
The answers to both questions are the same. Firstly, by speaking, we bear witness to the people concerning God’s will. On the day of judgement before God, no one can claim ignorance. Secondly, it serves to warn people of their sins and the consequences. Some people might hear and decide to change their minds.
Take the current debate on the LGBT issues as an example. Many Christians believe that there is no point in fighting this battle since we are going to lose in time to come. The younger generation is getting more liberal, and the global trend is irresistibly strong in their favour. The world is corrupt anyway. Besides, speaking up is not going to convince anyone. On the contrary, it will strengthen the non-believers’ flawed perception that Christians are intolerant and bigoted, which serves only to alienate them further.
Such arguments sound logical except that they do not line up with the Word of God. God knew that the southern kingdom of Judah was going to fall, yet He commanded Ezekiel to speak. Ezekiel knew that ultimately the nation would go into exile in a foreign land, yet he faithfully spoke the words of God. The purpose was to bear witness to the Israelites and warned them of the consequences of their sins. Likewise, we must speak up whether people will hear or refuse to hear.
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
Matthew 5:13-14 (ESV) - “You are the salt of the earth... You are the light of the world…”
On 6 September 2018, India’s Supreme Court unanimously struck down the ban on consensual gay sex. With one stroke of the pen, gay sex is decriminalised in India. It is a ground-breaking victory for gay rights activists. The reverberation was quickly felt in Singapore. A local top-level diplomat openly ‘encourage our gay community to bring a class action to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377A’ and another senior civil servant called Section 377A a ‘bad law.’ Basically, Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code criminalises homosexual activities. The next day, our Law and Home Affairs Minister commented, “The government is in the middle” and “society has to decide which direction it wants to go, and the laws will have to keep pace with changes in the society and how society sees these issues.”
Singaporeans on both sides of the fence reacted to this news and comments. LGBT activists and the liberals began calling for our government to repeal Section 377A while the conservative and religious segments of our society pushed hard for status quo. For the first time, the silent majority is galvanised into action. As of this writing, the online petition for Section 377A to stay has garnered over 97,000 signatures.
This is a hot-button societal issue. How should Christians respond?
Rise and act! Jesus has given Christians the salt-and-light mandate. We are familiar with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). It is a command to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. When Jesus says that His followers are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world, it is essentially a command to influence our society. It is in our interest to influence our society because in its welfare will be our welfare. That is the reason God instructed the Jewish exiles in Babylon to seek its welfare (Jeremiah 29:7).
Likewise, we should seek the welfare of our society. Allowing Section 377A to be removed will lead to wide-ranging ramifications, which many people, including some Christians, remain unaware.
Those on the liberal camp have long argued that there is no justification in criminalising homosexual acts done in private. Besides, the police are also not enforcing the law. So, why keep 377A? This also seems to be the personal position taken by some of our top policy-makers. It makes sense on the surface. However, precedents in countries like Canada and the U.S.A. clearly show that there is more than meets the eye. Once 377A is repealed, the LGBT activists will follow up with a host of demands and push aggressively for various initiatives. Please understand that LGBT activism is a global movement with a clear agenda. The activists are not shy to state their intention openly.
If Section 377A is knocked down, several things will happen quickly. Homosexuality will become mainstream very quickly. There will be easy accessibility to media and films with explicit homosexual content. The activists, emboldened by their newfound legitimacy, will step up their effort to promote the gay lifestyle. All these will result in more young people falling into this moral chaos. HIV cases will most certainly shoot up.
The activists will soon demand the inclusion of homosexual content in sex education curriculum in schools. In California, the state has already passed such a law. Children as young as 13 to 14 years old are taught that LGBT practices are normal. They are even encouraged to explore certain graphic sexual acts with one another.
Here is another serious consequence – the violation of the freedom of speech, religion and conscience. Again, there are precedents in Canada and the United States. When you say that gay sex is sinful, it will be considered hate speech. When bakers refuse to bake wedding cakes for gay couples, it will be deemed as discriminatory. Both are prosecutable offences. You think that this is madness, but it is a fact.
These are just a few examples of what can happen if Section 377A is repealed. My prayer is that our policy-makers will consider the ramifications very carefully.
Morality is tumbling like dominoes. What are you going to do? Stand there and do nothing? Do you want your children and grandchildren to grow up in such a perverse environment? Who knows, someone close to you may fall victim if you do nothing now. Do not live to regret. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” So, will you rise and act?
Pastors Leslie & Adeline Chua
Matthew 6:24 (ESV) - No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Some modern scholars are sceptical that Matthew is the author of the Gospel of Matthew. Their objection stems from the fact that the Gospel of Matthew is a superb piece of literature. It is polished and rich in Greek prose. Whoever writes it also displays a high level of understanding of the Old Testament Scripture as well as the Jewish cultural background.
More Old Testament passages and verses are quoted in the Gospel of Matthew than the other three Gospels or any other books in the New Testament, except for the book of Revelation. In other words, it would take someone who is learned as well as well-educated in the Scripture to write the Gospel of Matthew whereas Matthew is a tax-collector. The common assumption is that the tax-collectors at that time are not educated. Besides, it is also common knowledge that the twelve apostles are unschooled.
But we must bear in mind that tax-collectors are shrewd people with good business minds. Otherwise, they cannot succeed at doing this trade. Tax-collection is a franchise business in the Roman times. The chief tax-collector would have to pay the Roman authorities all the monies upfront before he and his network of tax-collection franchisees collect taxes from the people. It is a lucrative business, but it is not without risks. It is certainly not a business for the dim-witted. So, the traditional assumptions cannot be necessarily correct.
My contention is Matthew is educated and he is well-versed with the Old Testament Scripture for the reasons cited above. If that is the case, why does he become a tax-collector? Surely, he knows that tax-collectors are despised and shunned. It is ranked together with the prostitutes (Matthew 21:31). The prostitutes betray their own bodies and families while the tax-collectors their own people. They collect taxes for the oppressive Roman authorities. Usually, these tax-collectors hedge their business risks and line their own pockets by collecting more taxes than are required. So, it is an inappropriate and unethical profession. Matthew is in this business for only one reason and it cannot be a good reason. What is the reason? Money!
For a pious person who knows the Scripture deeply to turn to tax collection, something must have happened to Matthew along the way. There are many possible reasons. But the most plausible explanation is greed. Tax collection during the Roman time is a lucrative business. For the love of money, he is willing to trade his faith in God for worldly wealth.
No one should be surprised. This is not uncommon in our time. Probably, we have encountered such kind of people. Maybe, you also have been tempted before. Money has a way of luring even the most pious people away from God. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus warns of the deceitfulness of riches. Its potency cannot be underestimated. It can potentially choke the Word of God rendering it ineffective in a person’s life and making him unfruitfully spiritually (Matthew 13:22).
Because of money issues, many marriages have broken down and families destroyed. People compromise their integrity and morality for the sake of money. The love of money drives people to do the most stupid and unthinkable things.
Paul warns, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9-10).
Jesus likens money to a personality. It seeks to control whoever gives in to its allure and rival God as the master over one’s life. If given a free reign, money is a poor master. Throughout the ages, many people who have been enslaved by an unhealthy love for money suffer destructive consequences as a result.
Jesus is clear. You cannot serve two masters. Either you serve God or money. The choice is clear. It is one or the other. There is no third option.
Matthew finally came to his senses. He must have been struggling with his guilt for some time. So, when Jesus came to his tax booth and called him to follow Him, he seized the opportunity without any hesitation. He dropped everything and followed Jesus. Previously, he chose money. Then, he chose God.
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua
Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV) - And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes.
The prophet, Ezekiel, is describing a very special river. It originates from the temple of God and flows through the dry Judean wilderness into the Dead Sea. It is a river of life. Wherever it flows, it brings life and flourishing. It changes the geographical landscape of the entire region. The barren lands along the river banks become covered with vegetation and fruit-bearing trees. The Dead Sea, which was once dead as its name suggests, is now teeming with fishes and marine life. Ecologists will tell you that the all these changes will have a profound effect on the climate and ecology of the entire area. The resultant transformation is nothing short of stunning. Read this exciting transformation in Ezekiel 47.
Ezekiel is clearly not describing a physical transformation in the natural realm. Without tributaries, rivers do not increase in its size and volume, from a mere trickle to a deep river, as it flows along. There is more to it. The prophetic vision is clearly an allusion to something of a spiritual nature. The Old Testament prophets frequently used the imageries of water, river and stream to describe God’s blessings of His Presence and the consequent spiritual revitalisation.
God, through Isaiah, offers water to those who are spiritually dry and thirsty (Isaiah 44:3, 55;1). Jesus used the same metaphor. He offered living water to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well and claimed that whoever drank this water would not be thirsty again (John 4:10-14). During a Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus invited everyone who was thirsty to ‘come to me and drink,’ and He went on to said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38).
The next verse (John 7:39) gives us a clearer picture. This living water is the Spirit of God who is given to all who believe in Jesus (John 7:39). The metaphor of the rivers of living water gives us an idea of the divine life and power that are operating in us. You might not feel the tangible presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, He is at work in us.
In his vision, Ezekiel was led along the whole length of the river. Initially, the water was only ankle-deep. After a distance, it was knee-deep, then waist-deep. Soon, he could no longer walk in it because it was too deep. When the prophet emerged from the water, it was no longer barren stretches of land that he saw and to which he was accustomed, but luxuriant greenery and fruit trees all around. The Dead Sea was no longer dead, but it had been resurrected to life with sea creatures.
Ezekiel’s prophetic vision is an invitation to those who are spiritually dry and thirsty not just to drink but to plunge deep into the Presence of God. You can engage the Spirit of God in different ways. You can go ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep with Him or you can choose to immerse yourself completely in Him. At the deep end, which Ezekiel describes as ‘a river that could not be passed through,’ you are no longer in control of your own life. It is a picture of complete surrender to God and the control of His Holy Spirit.
To cede complete control to God is a frightening prospect for many Christians. You just have no idea what God may be up to. He may lead you to a place and get you to do something that you do not like. Most Christians prefer to be in control of their own lives, yielding to God to the extent that they are comfortable. For some, it is ankle-deep. You are in Christ, but you retain absolute control of your life. You can easily get in and out of the river as and when you choose. For others, it is knee-deep or waist-deep. A little deeper. Nevertheless, you still retain a level of control. You can still say no to God and walk out of the river.
But not when you are at the deep end. Here, you give up control and abandon yourself in the hands of God. The current and tide of the Holy Spirit take you wherever and whenever He desires. It is uncomfortable, potentially dangerous and mostly inconvenient. Nevertheless, it is the place where you will experience the richest blessings. A life under the total control of God yields incredible returns of abundance in this life and the next one.
How deep do you want to wade into the river of God’s Presence? The decision is yours. God is sovereign, but He is also a gentleman. He will not barge in and interfere in those areas of your life that you have designated off-limits to Him.
How will you choose? Choose to flourish. Choose wisely.
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua
John 8:31-33 (ESV) - So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Please read the entire passage of John chapter 8 from verses 31 to 59 to appreciate this reflection better. This passage has divided biblical commentators. What is the problem? Jesus was speaking to those people ‘who had believed Him.’ Yet, no sooner had He clarified with them what real faith in Him means, they turned against Him. They could not agree with Him. Eventually, they picked up stones to kill Him. Some commentators have problems reconciling the fact that the apostle, John, called these people ‘believers’ when their reaction clearly shows that they did not believe. This passage also challenges the flawed assumption that one can be a believer but not yield to Christ’s full authority.
Jesus emphatically told these so-called ‘believers’ that they must abide in His word. Otherwise, they were not truly His disciples. To abide in His word means to obey His word. They must listen, hold fast and carry out the His bidding. Only then would they be set free from their bondage to sin. Mere believing is not going to cut it. If one truly believes in Jesus, he obeys Him. He must come under the Lordship of Christ.
These so-called believers thought that they believed, but Jesus peeled off the layers to expose their unbelief. They argued that they were Abraham’s descendants. In the physical sense, they were, but not spiritually. Abraham’s response to God is always in faith. This is evidenced by His obedience. Even when God demanded the sacrifice of his son, Abraham obeyed though it did not make any sense to him.
But here in this conversation, Jesus charged that His word could find no place in these ‘believers’ (John 8:37) and they were incapable of heeding His word (John 8:43). It does not matter that they were Abraham’s children. It does not matter that God had called and chosen them. They disqualified themselves from His Kingdom because they could not accept and abide in His Word. Abraham’s merits would not cover their demerits. Jesus crushed the commonly held dictum of that day that ‘the circumcised do not go down to the Gehenna (hell).’
Similarly, you cannot appeal to the fact that you come from a Christian family and therefore you are saved. Neither does church attendance nor service rendered to God count. What matters is whether you abide in the word of God. You are a child of Abraham if your faith response is obedience to Christ. Only then are you truly a disciple.
Biblical passages like this one is disturbing to those Christians who baulk at the demand of total surrender and submissive obedience to the lordship of Christ. The gospel call to faith is not an intellectual acknowledgement of Christ but it is a call to discipleship. It is a call to follow Jesus as disciples. The sheep hear the voice of their Shepherd and follow Him unquestionably.
In the context of this passage, these Jews believed in Him after listening to Him teach. Jesus was a powerful communicator and He spoke profound truths that moved the masses. So, understandably, people were inspired by Him and drawn to follow Him.
The Jews were also attracted to Jesus and believed in Him for another reason. He performed astounding signs and wonders. People are always drawn to the spectacular. It was so then and it is the same now. Again, it is understandable.
But to believe in Christ because of His charisma and eloquence or miracles would not be the right reasons. Saving faith involves the acknowledgement of and repentance from sin. It also involves yielding to the authority of Christ as this passage in John chapter 8 teaches. Obedience is non-negotiable.
That is the reason Jesus often talked about discipleship and the cost of discipleship whenever people tried to follow Him. In John 8, He challenged their flawed premise in believing Him. On another occasion recorded in the Gospel of John, Jesus was sceptical when many people believed in Him after witnessing Him performing miracles (John 2:23-25).
It is so important for us to believe and abide in Christ and His word. This is the evidence of true faith.
Pastor Leslie & Adeline
Not everyone who acknowledges Jesus as Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of God. This is a shocking statement! And it sounds harsh. Essentially, Jesus is saying that there are true and false disciples. Does it surprise you?
Jesus is always direct and to the point. He does not beat around the bush. We like to couch hard truths in palatable language; not Jesus. He tells you things just as they are. The reason is simple. This is a matter of eternal life and death. Therefore, people, especially Christians, need to know the truth plainly so that they are without any doubt.
Jesus is speaking to Christians. This is clear. These people acknowledge Him as Lord and they are involved in active Christian service. Not just the ministry of helps and they are not those who sit on the fringe. These people move powerfully in spiritual gifts. They prophesy. They cast out demons. They perform miracles. They do all these things in Jesus’ name.
Yet, Jesus excludes them from the kingdom of God. He asserts that He does not know them. In other words, He has no meaningful relationship with them. Many so-called Christians will be shocked on the day of judgement as they find themselves out of favour with God. No wonder the apostle, Paul, says that he does not run his Christian race like someone running aimlessly or like a boxer beating the air lest he himself be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
What disqualifies these false disciples? They practise lawlessness. In other words, they disregard the Law of God. Simply stated, they fail to obey God and His Word. Do not be surprised that you can attend church service regularly, serve actively and participate in Christian activities but you do not order your life according to the Word of God. Your mind is not renewed, and your life is not transformed. You do not think and live biblically.
In case anyone does not quite get His point, Jesus goes on to tell a parable (Matthew 7:24-27). He begins the parable with the conjunction, ‘therefore,’ clearly indicating that He is still on the same topic. The lesson of the parable is obedience to God – hear the Word of God and do as God says. Many people hear but they do not put what they have heard into practice. They do not obey. They do not follow God’s ways. These are the ones whom Jesus says He does not know them because they have no meaningful relationship with Him.
Obedience is consistently taught and emphasised in both the Old and New Testaments. Obedience is not the condition for salvation. Faith is. But obedience is the expression of our gratefulness to God and our love for Him. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. However, later, God tested Abraham. God asked him to sacrifice his son. Abraham obeyed proving the genuineness of his faith in God.
Anointing is not a proof that you have a genuine relationship with God. Neither is Christian service nor church activities. Obedience is. Obedience is the mark of authentic faith in Christ. It is the outward and visible sign of the inward and genuine faith. Our obedience shows that the grace of God is at work in our lives.
Coming back to those false disciples that Jesus is addressing, they are not living in the will of God because of their disobedience. God is displeased with them for many reasons. It could be an integrity issue. It could be greed. It could be pride or sexual immorality. Maybe, they are serving their own self-interest, promoting themselves and seeking their own fame and glory. While we may be taken in by their outward appearance and apparent good works, God cannot be deceived.
Therefore, take heed of Jesus’ warning seriously. Obey God. Obey Him in everything, unconditionally and wholeheartedly. Then, you will enter the narrow gate that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). Otherwise, your Christian life may just be a house of cards (Matthew 7:27). Finally, our hope is to hear Jesus saying to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:23) and not “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua
Jesus made two puzzling statements here.
The first such statement is ‘my food is to do the will of Him who sent Me…’ What does food have to do with the will of God? Apparently, Jesus had Deuteronomy 8:3 in mind – ‘that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.’ That is, a man should not live for himself or for pleasure, but he should live to do the will of God. Jesus lived in such a way. He found satisfaction in doing the will of God. Specifically, evangelism is in view here. That is why He said that His food, instead of His mission, is to do the will of God.
Is your food to do the will of God? Do you share the same excitement as Jesus in sharing the Good News with the lost souls? Do sowing seeds of the gospel and reaping the harvest of souls bring you satisfaction?
The second puzzling statement from Jesus is – “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Listen! I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest.”
Jesus seems to contradict Himself. The harvest was four months away. Yet, He said that the field was ripe for harvest. Here is how you resolve the conundrum. Jesus was talking about spiritual sowing and reaping. Sometimes, it follows the normal farming timetable. Sometimes, it does not. As soon as the sowing of the gospel seeds is done, the souls are ready for harvest. The prophet, Amos, prophesied concerning this.
Jesus was telling His disciples that this prophecy was becoming a reality before their eyes. He had just sown the gospel seed in a Samaritan woman with whom He had an interesting conversation, and He was expecting a bountiful harvest of souls. Jesus had barely finished talking to His disciples when many Samaritans came to look for Him because of the woman’s testimony. After Jesus had spoken to them, many of them believed Him.
This amazing phenomenon would be the new spiritual reality. We just need to open our spiritual eyes to see the ripen field of lost souls as God sees. Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields.” Earlier in the story, Jesus sensed an opportunity to preach the gospel to a desperately lost woman, but the disciples were only aware of their own hunger. So, they went looking for food while Jesus waited for the divine appointment.
Are your eyes always open to opportunities to share Christ? Are you usually sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading to preach the gospel?
Whether we are or not boils down to our passion to do God’s will. If we are motivated to save the lost, we will see opportunities and possibilities. We will sense what the Spirit of God is doing and saying and then we respond accordingly. More importantly, we will pray and intercede for the unsaved people around us. The moment God opens a door, we would jump at the opportunity. This ought to be the mindset of all believers since the Great Commission is given to every believer. It is the will of God. So, none is exempted.
Unfortunately, most believers are not focused on soul-winning. They are preoccupied with their own lives. Those in this category are not capable of identifying opportunities for evangelism even when the Lord places opened doors in front of them. They cannot see the field is already ripe for harvest. They can only see hard ground. Many of us are guilty of this.
What should we do?
Pray for ourselves to be eager to do the will of God, especially in soul-winning. Start praying for our loved ones and friends that have yet to know Christ. Be serious in your prayer. Take these two simple steps and we will begin to see as Jesus sees, that the field is ripe for harvest and the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). The problem is not with the hard ground or the hardened hearts of the unsaved people, but our lack of passion and motivation to reach out to them with the gospel.
Pastor Les & Adeline Chua
Mark 11:22-24 MEV) – Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. For truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you will have them.
In this passage, Jesus gives His disciples the secret to the kind of faith that moves mountains. Nothing would be impossible for anyone who possesses such kind of faith (Matthew 17:20 – MEV). This is the stuff that dreams are made of. I must add a caveat here before we get ahead of ourselves. God will only answer prayers that are within His will. Granted, sometimes our desires might not be in line with His will, but I wonder how many of our legitimate prayers have gone unanswered because of our lack of faith. If we had faith, I am certain that the results would be vastly different. Many more of our prayers would have been answered.
The withering of the fig tree after Jesus had cursed it a day before must have stunned His disciples. Jesus used this teachable moment to give His disciples a precious lesson on faith. Jesus gave them two criteria for developing the kind of faith that moved mountains.
First, faith must be rooted in God alone.
Jesus said, “Have faith in God.” This is simple to understand but it not easy to practise. We direct our prayers to God but so often we place our confidence in ourselves and in our circumstances instead of God. We do not realise that this is the case until the circumstances begin to change and dark clouds gather on the horizon. Suddenly, we lose confidence and our faith level plunges. This happens because our faith was misplaced in the first place.
When a person’s faith is anchored in God, he has the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1 – MEV). The circumstances are irrelevant. He is confident that God, who is both able and trustworthy, will fulfil His promise despite changes in the circumstances.
It follows that mountain-moving faith is faith that focuses on God and not our circumstances. It is so easy to do the opposite like in the case of the apostle, Peter. Peter was walking on water when he kept his eyes steadfastly fixed on Jesus. As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the howling wind and choppy waves, fear gripped him and his faith in Jesus took a plunge. As a result, he started to sink.
Second, do not doubt but believe.
Belief is a powerful word in the bible. It is the operating word for faith. Belief opens the door to God’s grace and favour. Belief accesses God’s power. Belief is the necessary condition for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The Israelites believed, and the walls of Jericho collapsed. Mary believed, and she conceived the Son of God.
On the other hand, unbelief is destructive. God put the ten spies to death for their unbelief. Israel wandered in the desert wilderness for forty years because of their unbelief. Zechariah was struck dumb because of unbelief. The apostle, James, warns that God would not answer the prayer of those who doubt (James 1:6-8 – MEV).
David took on Goliath and defeated him. It was not his size that matters. Neither was it his armour nor weapons. He had only a sling and five stones. Instead, it was his childlike faith that gave him victory over the giant. Faith was his lethal weapon. The army of Israel was quaking in fear of Goliath, but David believed that God would deliver Goliath into his hands (1 Samuel 17:45-47 – MEV).
Do we take the story of David and Goliath seriously? We love the story, but I suspect that only the Sunday school children believe in its veracity. Even if we believe that it is true, we do not really believe that the same thing can happen to us. But we must believe.
What did Jesus say? Do not doubt but believe that what you say will come to pass. In other words, believe in your heart and proclaim with your mouth, and the desires of your heart will come to pass. Then, He goes on to say that this must also be the posture when we pray – ‘whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you will have them.’ What an amazing revelation of the power of faith in God!
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua
Galatians 2:11-12 (NIV) – When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group.
Paul and Peter are the two most prominent apostles and giants of the Christian faith. Yet, they are profoundly dissimilar in many ways. Peter was one of the first followers of Jesus while Paul was a vicious persecutor of Christ’s followers. Peter was an unschooled fisherman while Paul was a learned man and he was well-schooled in the Torah. Peter had a checkered record while Paul’s walk with the Lord was impeccable.
Many serious-minded Christians, including me, love Paul. He is a model believer and leader. If you asked believers to pick their hero in the New Testament, I have no doubt that most of them would choose Paul. It is easy to understand why.
Paul persecuted the followers of Christ. But once he knew that he was mistaken, and Jesus was indeed the Messiah, he was totally sold-out for the Lord. He was relentless in his pursuit of Christ and unyielding in his effort to advance the Kingdom of God.
Nothing could hinder or stop him. Not threat, pain or death. This is the man who uttered these famous words: For to me, to continue living is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21 – MEV). He was glad to share in the suffering of Christ. He rejoiced at the prospect of seeing Jesus when threatened with death. He cherished the opportunity to continue preaching the gospel when released. Either way, he saw it as a win. It is hard for his persecutors to deal with him. I can imagine them pulling their hair in despair.
I have always assumed that Paul’s unwavering faith and exemplary life are inspiring. While that is true, some people feel otherwise. They feel somewhat discouraged because they cannot measure up to Paul’s impeccable standard of Christian life. It is true that Paul is a difficult act to follow.
While most people aspire to be like Paul, our experiences are more akin to the experiences of Peter. Like Peter, we stumble and falter occasionally despite our best intention and effort. Sometimes, the fall is hard.
Peter was the first disciple to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah. Jesus said that he was divinely inspired and commended him. But barely a few minutes later, Jesus called him Satan. His flesh got the better of him. It seems that Peter was just as opened to the Holy Spirit as to the influence of the devil.
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He warned His disciples that they would fall away. But Peter insisted that he would stand firm even if everyone else were to fall away. He was ready to go to prison and even die for Jesus if necessary. He was earnest about it. However, barely a few hours later, he capitulated under pressure when asked if he knew Jesus. He denied knowing the Lord. Not once. Not twice but three times! Despite his love for Jesus and his deep conviction, he failed His Lord. He was heartbroken and inconsolable.
But God was merciful and gracious to Peter. After His resurrection, Jesus sought out Peter and gently restored him. After that, He recommissioned him (John 21:15-19 – NIV). Later, Peter was baptized with the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Spirit, he became a fearless witness for Christ.
But years later, the same weakness reemerged. In an incident in the city of Antioch, Paul accused Peter of hypocrisy. Peter had no problem eating and interacting with Gentile believers. But when some Jews from the circumcision group came to Antioch, he began to avoid the Gentiles for fear of the Judaizers (Galatians 2:11-14 – NIV). Once again, Peter capitulated under the pressure of men.
Paul’s life is ideal and exemplary, but Peter’s roller-coaster ride of spectacular victories and catastrophic failings typify our Christian life. But God was faithful to both His apostles. He worked through the strengths of Paul and He also worked through the weaknesses of Peter. That is how the grace of God works.
God is faithful to all who love Him. He will never let go of us despite our weaknesses and failings. He will keep sanctifying, transforming and working in the lives of those who love Him. The key is love. God has promised to show His steadfast love and faithfulness to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deuteronomy 5:9-10 – NIV).
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua
Luke 15:28 (NIV) – The older brother became angry and refused to go in.
Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Son. It is one of the most familiar and well-loved parables. Jesus’ revelation of the Heavenly Father’s love and grace toward repentant sinners have warmed the hearts of many people.
The spotlight of the parable is often placed on the younger son. This is understandable as he was rebellious and wasteful, yet his father welcomed him home with opened arms when he repented. Only a father can love that way. That is a great story to tell. It is easy to spot sinners like the younger son and call them out as sinners. However, many people are unaware that the second half of the story focuses on the older son. He is just as lost as his younger brother though it is not as obvious. He is lost in his father’s house!
The older son did not rebel against his father like his younger brother. He was seemingly obedient and responsible. You would think that he was well, but he was not. The occasion of his younger brother’s return revealed the hidden spiritual condition of his heart.
The older brother thought that it was unfair for his father to welcome his younger brother home. To make the matter worse, his father called for a lavish celebration. After all the nonsense and wastefulness, he was not about to accept his brother, and certainly not allow him to have a second bite of the inheritance.
I would not be surprised if most of us think like the older brother, and we empathise with his sentiment. While the father’s action appears noble, it does not seem to be fair. But that is exactly how our Heavenly Father is like. He is lavish with His mercy and grace to a fault provided there is repentance on our part.
The parable does not have a good ending. It closes with the older brother wallowing in self-pity, bitterness and unforgiveness. Despite his father’s repeated pleadings, he remained defiant.
This surprising twist in the story makes many of us feel somewhat uncomfortable because it is really a parable of our lives. Most of us do not identify with the younger brother. We are not that bad and rebellious. But I suspect that if we are honest with ourselves, we can identify with the older brother. Outwardly, we look prim and proper but in the dark recesses of our heart lurks bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness, jealousy, greed, lust and other vices.
All these are not surprising. The human propensity to succumb to such sinful emotions is common knowledge. But, as Christians, we must learn to humble ourselves and come clean with the Father by acknowledging our sins. The tragedy is not because the older brother had sinned, but his refusal to repent and change his ways. Perhaps the younger brother is the bigger villain in view of the nature of his sins. But in acknowledging his wrongs and repenting, he got right with his father. As for the older brother, he was lost in his father’s house and he continued to be lost, unaware of his lostness. What a tragedy!
Are you surprised that a Christian can be lost in the Father’s house? Do not be surprised.
Jesus told the Parable of the Lost Coin before the Parable of the Lost Son. Where did the woman lose her coin? In the house! The coin was lost in the house!
Judas spent about 3 years with our Lord Jesus Christ. What a privilege! But it was all in vain. Like the older brother, he was lost in the Father’s house. It is hard to explain how this is even possible. But this is a spiritual reality. He was a branch that did not abide in the True Vine. Therefore, we must be careful how we respond when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins. Never ignore His prompting and conviction. Never harden your heart to the pleading of the Father.
As Judas left to make an arrangement with the high priest to betray Jesus, Jesus told the remaining eleven apostles the Parable of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-17 – ESV). This parable warns that the Father would cut away those branches that did not produce any fruit. While He is merciful, God will cut off the unproductive believers. Judas was a branch that was cut off. The unrepentant older brother-type would be cut off. Be careful that bitterness and unforgiveness over the long term are the most common causes of an unproductive Christian life.
I close my reflection with these words of the apostle, Paul: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:21 – NIV). Be mindful of how you live your life and do not take the grace of God for granted. Do not become lost in the Father’s house. It will be unfortunate but not uncommon.
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua