Sunday, February 28, 2021

Gospel Reliability by Mike Licona

 Shalom Church! This week we were blessed by a preaching on Gospel Reliability by Mike Licona via zoom. Have a blessed Sunday & a good week ahead!





Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday Devotion: 1 Corinthians 16:13 - 14

Paul was writing to the Corinthian church to encourage them as he knew there were issues in the church such as divisions within the church, sexual temptations, and questions about worship.

Be on your guard.

Paul commands us to stay alert and watch. This brings to my mind military movies that watched where the soldiers are asked to keep around the clock watch of their military base as the enemy can attack at any time. The Bible has told us repeatedly to be on the watch and put on our spiritual armor because we are told that Satan is constantly prowling. He has come to kill, steal and destroy. For those of us who have gone hiking, we need to always be on the lookout for branches of trees overhead and especially on the guard for the roots of branches on the path because it can trip us. I know many friends who have sprained their ankle tripping over those roots because they lost attention for a split second. The moment we think the path is safe and lose our focus, we may trip and fall. The moment we think we are not prone to temptation, that is the moment pride takes over and temptation sees the opening. Jesus told the disciples, our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. We cannot let our spiritual walk with God sleep. We need to be spiritually awake at all times. In this life, we will never be in a place where we don’t have the danger of sinning.

Stand firm in the faith

Standing firm is an active phrase and not a one-off event. To stand firm in faith means to stand about God’s truth in His Word at all times, 7 days a week. No matter what the world says or what temptation that comes our way, we can confidently and obediently say no. We stand firm on God’s word for that is our firm foundation. We cannot be like infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful teaching. In the past couple of years, we have heard world-renowned preachers fall into temptation and sin. The better we get at something, the more proud we become. As our pride increases, God decreases in our life. We should not start strong and finish badly. I remember when I was a new Christian and I keep hearing this phrase ‘on fire for God’. I asked Pastor Margaret Seaward who around 90 years old at the time when she preached. You can just sense the fire she had for God and see it too.  I asked her how to keep that fire burning because I do not want it to ever extinguish in my life. She said the key is the keep the flame steady. Keep the flame steady means our faith will persevere, persist, hold our ground until the end.

Points for reflections:

Are we staying in God’s word?

Stay alert to the tactics of the deceiver, Satan.

Reflect on how do we want to be remembered in this life.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we want to be faithful to you for all of our lives. Teach us, O Lord, to run this race well. May the Holy Spirit guide us in all our ways and strengthen us not to fall into sin. Give us the strength to preserve in our faith so that we can stand firm in the face of any adversities. Amen.

 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thursday Devotion: The Power of the Empty Tomb (1 Corinthians 15:50 - 58)

Source: https://todaydevotional.com/devotions/the-power-of-the-empty-tomb

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? — 1 Corinthians 15:55

Life on this earth is not without dark times. We can identify periods in history when evil and darkness seemed to be in control. We can look back on our own lives and recall times of grief, hurt, loneliness, or despair. Or maybe those times are happening right now, and life seems empty of meaning or purpose. Maybe all of life seems like a dark, empty space.

Jesus knows what that’s like—and even more. On the cross he suffered the agony of complete separation from God so that we wouldn’t have to—and his body was placed in a tomb till he rose to life again on the third day. Jesus’ work of salvation for us would not have been complete if he did not suffer the full punishment of “unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul” on the cross to pay the price for all our sins. And on the third day he rose in victory over death so that we might share in the power of his resurrection and enjoy new life with God. (See also Luke 23:42-46.)

Our journey into new life in Christ may take us through times of darkness. Yet, as hard as those times may be, we can be assured that death, loneliness, and despair do not have the final victory; Jesus conquered them. As you walk through valleys of shadow in your life, lean on Jesus, the Savior—who knows you and is walking with you into new life.

Amen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday Devotion: 1 Corinthians 15:29 - 34

Does the resurrection power of Jesus transform your life today?

  29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptised for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our. 32 Lord If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 

34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

 Paul begins chapter 15 by telling the Corinthians they needed a reminder of the Gospel. Some of them were seriously straying away from the gospel. In this passage Paul focuses on the importance of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We know Jesus died on Good Friday and that His death accomplishes the resurrection into heaven of everyone who puts their hope in Him. God in His mercy also gave signs of this whilst Jesus died on the Cross, when the graves of many holy people in Jerusalem broke open and they were raised from death, and appeared to many people (Matthew 27:52-53).

 Paul tells the Ephesians:

 “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”

 The captives are those who put their faith in Jesus from Old Testament times. They had died but because the blood of Jesus had not yet been shed, and He had not yet died and been resurrected, they had not yet ascended into heaven. They were in some kind of holding place, not suffering but waiting for their salvation to be realised. Another result of Jesus’ resurrection is that He has given us gifts in addition to our salvation!

How should this affect out lives today? Paul indicates that our response should be to focus on Jesus. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:1-6). Not only are we saved by Jesus’ resurrection, our Saviour instructs us to be transformed, to live by the Spirit and not by the sinful nature (Galatians 5:25). When we see Jesus, we learn His priorities which are different from human priorities. Some of the human priorities are detailed in Colossians 3:1-6.

The additional impact of being focused on Jesus is that we also live in His resurrection power. This means that our marriages and families experience Jesus’ resurrection power, our churches are renewed in resurrection power and our attitudes in our jobs are transformed by His resurrection. When we have died to sin, our lives are filled with the Holy Spirit. Our whole lives are infused with His life and dynamism. In 1 Corinthians 15: 30-32, the resurrection of Jesus inspires Paul to preach the Gospel in Ephesus and to contend with “wild animals” which is his term used to describe the ferocity he experienced of some people strongly opposed to the Gospel. As Paul lived in the resurrection power of Jesus, he became able to find the courage to risk his life for the gospel so that others could be led to Christ. Living in the resurrection power of Jesus is not an optional extra for the Christian. It is a must. It is not merely a belief in the apostles’ creed and a few scriptures. The resurrection power of Jesus is for transforming our lives in 2021.

What areas of your life are touched by Christ’s resurrection? Which areas are not? I suggest you take some time today in a quiet place to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show you where His resurrection power needs to be prioritised in your life.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sermon Series: Equip The Saint II

 Have a blessed Sunday and stay safe.

God bless!



Saturday, February 20, 2021

Saturday Devotion: Nehemiah – Rebuilding Life’s Ruin (Chapter 5 and I Corinthians15: 12-19)

Nehemiah Chapter four ended on a note of great victory. The people of God were doing the work of God, and they did it despite all obstacles. And, they would not let their enemies stop them. But in chapter five, the mission of rebuilding the Jerusalem wall was nearly wrecked by internal dissension and strife, famine, food crisis, taxation. The wealthier Jews had taken advantage of the terrible situation of those who were less fortunate and reduced many of them to slavery.

Nehemiah was under tremendous pressure. There is nothing like the test of your leadership from within your own organization.

It is said that, an internal enemy is potentially more dangerous than the external threats, because it threatens the unity of an organization. Here the rich Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were ill-using the poor. Nehemiah says, "Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words" (Vs 5:6). This is the anger of a righteous man. There are times when the only response to a situation is anger. How did Nehemiah handle his anger?

"I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers…” (v 5:7). Although angry, Nehemiah consulted with himself first- he thought it over, he reasoned the situation through, before he questioned the nobles and rulers. It simply means, he practiced self-control with steadfastness. 2 Peter 1:5-7 “make every effort to supplement your faith… knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness”.

How do we behave and respond at home or at work under pressure? Sometimes it’s the little things that undermine our Christian witness.

Nehemiah called upon the leaders to stop the evil behavior (V 5:11). There is a symbolic act described in verse thirteen where Nehemiah is seen shaking out his garments as a prophetic warning that God would hold accountable anyone who had promised to do the right thing and disobey. Nehemiah was calling upon a prophetic judgment of God for disobedience. And they, nobles and rulers agreed with him and said “amen”. They believed that one day, they will stand accountable to God and therefore dealt with the mistake immediately.

If God has made you sensitive to any situations in which you need to voice your opinion or take action, would you take that bold stand? A prompt and thorough dealing with wrong in our lives is essential.

To finish, we read of Nehemiah’s personal testimony from Vs 14-19. One of the advantages of being governor was the food allowance granted him by the Persian officials for entertaining guests. Nehemiah did not take advantage of this benefit that was rightfully his. He provided these needs from his own personal funds.

He truly, was a man of integrity. He did not take advantage of the "perks" that come with the job. He stayed within his own means and used his personal wealth to feed the less fortunate. Nehemiah's life was a public demonstration of an honest administrator. There was no abuse or misuse of power, privilege or money. "The fear of God" (V15) was the motive of Nehemiah's service. He was dealing with the people as God would have him to do - just as God would.

How is God challenging us to be that blessing of His grace to others in our lives today? Give forgiveness to someone when it’s not even asked for? Give a dinner or a lunch to hurting friend? Give time to someone who needs to talk?

At the end of the day, like Nehemiah can we honestly go before God and say, “Remember me for this day, for good, for all I have done for Your people?” (Vs 19)

The love of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only motive that inspires a person to stay right before God and keep his life pure and clean. Where do we find the power to overcome? It is in the resurrected power of our Lord Jesus Christ that Paul talks about in I Corinthians 15:12-19.

Suggested prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, let me be honest before you, about the little things that are not right in Your sight. I pray that I will be a faithful servant in the place where You planted me. Please teach me to identify with those hurting around me and whose “outcry” I need to hear. I look to You to give me the strength to walk in integrity and work hard for an audience of One.

Amen.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thursday Devotion: Broken walls (Nehemiah 1-3, 1 Cor. 14:34 - 40)

Broken walls are not uncommon. In Nehemiah, it was the broken wall of Jerusalem. Without the wall, the enemies entered with ease and no resistance. The Israelites lived in fear. 

In Corinthians, it was the wall of unity and worship. This was in bad shape. Thus, Paul's words sounded harsh and often misunderstood. It was every person for themselves, abusing the spiritual gifts, using them as a trophy for self-glorification. And in today's reading, we often interpret it as Paul disallowing women to speak in church. This is not so. This was for the church in Corinthians only, not something to be applied to all churches. The women had added to the confusion and disorder in worship. In simple terms, the wall of unity and worship was broken and required repair. Here the believers lived in pride and comparison, fighting for attention. Paul reached out as God's apostle to mend the wall.

The epistle to the Corinthians must be remembered as first and foremost a pastoral letter.

Pastorally, this is the question- what wall in your life or your family or your church or others is broken and needs repair? What is broken?

Let's begin by looking at my own life. My trust in God, my relationship with another person, or a deep personal pain? Bring it to God in prayer, seek His word out to bring healing to this brokenness, or speak to a godly leader.

Secondly, what is broken in the life of people we love? In Nehemiah, each household built a wall in front of their house. We can do something to repair the wall. It is often near and accessible and doable to us. A prayer, a word of love and encouragement, forgiveness, or choosing acceptance. What you can do may seem small, do it anyway. Each act is likened to a brick. When we keep doing it, we mend a broken wall.

Don't leave the wall broken, otherwise, we don't just become believers that are broken but we surrender Christ's precious victory in my life to the enemy. Let God repairs the broken wall.

Prayer

Dear Lord Jesus, you are the God who builds a wall of protection and unity over my life. Forgive me that I have neglected the wall or even contributed to breaking it. Come and help me rebuild this wall again, in my life, in my relationship, in the church, and in people I love. Amen

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Tuesday Devotion: Godly Sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

The context in which Paul was writing is that he has been correcting and rebuking wrong behaviours and actions in the Corinthian church. Although he was sorry to have hurt them, he rejoiced that his letter brought them godly sorrow. Godly sorrow is that which brings the repentance that leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:8–9). There are a couple of biblical examples we can read about in order to understand how Godly sorrow is different from worldly sorrow. 

After David’s sin with Bathsheba, David confessed and repented before God. He wrote Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. David cries out “Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight.” (51:4) And again, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (51:17) We can see his heart and we can see that he was a broken man. In contrast, we read about the downfall of King Saul who disobeyed the Lord’s instructions in 1 Samuel 15 and Samuel uttered these words: “I have sinned” yet he wanted to be honoured in the sight of the elders. He wanted to avoid public embarrassment to save his reputation. He confessed his sin and yet remain selfish until the end.  Saul’s sorrow was just for show and for his personal advantage or comfort whereas David’s sorrow was Godly sorrow because it was sorrow towards God, and cares about the offense to His holiness, and the impact of the sin upon others. 

In the New Testament, we can compare the stories of Peter and Judas. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Peter wept and repented whereas Judas betrayed Jesus and instead of repenting, took his own life. To repent means to change the mind of purpose and to restore a personal relationship with God. Peter repented but Judas only regretted. Feeling regret is not enough, you must go one step further. There needs to be inner transformation and not just outer appearance of regret. Worldly sorrow will not bring about spiritual change. Being sorrowful over things of this world means that they are not grieving over what their sin cost Jesus but grieving over what their sin cost to themselves. It could be that they are focusing on damage to their reputation or losing their friends. The primary focus in on self rather than focusing on God. 

If we learn from the example of King Saul, saying “I am sorry” or “I have sinned” or feeling regret like Judas without any change in behavior is not enough. How is Godly sorrow different? Godly sorrow leads to repentance which is not just a change of mind but it must be accompanied by action. Godly sorrow means you turn to God, seek his forgiveness and commit it to God. The Bible says God will be faithful to those who confess our sins and forgive us and purify us from all unrighteousness. 

Through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, we will experience a positive change in our lives. Letting go and being sorrowful of sin may be difficult for some. However, as believers we are called to a life of obedience and faithfulness to God so we can experience God’s joy, a joy that is worth more than anything this world could ever offer. 

Prayer:

Father, forgive us where we have disobeyed you. Where we have willfully sin or tolerated sinful behavior, we know that it grieves you.  Give us strength to repent and not be weighed down by regret. Change me and bring about a transformation in our lives because we want to live a life that is pleasing to you. Amen.

Tuesday Devotion: How to Be a Wise and Godly Leader (Nehemiah 2)

The book of Nehemiah is an encouraging book to read because it describes a season of restoration and revival for God’s people. Nehemiah is a great example of wise and godly leadership. When this book starts, we know that the Israelites had been scattered outside Jerusalem and were living in exile after it had been attacked by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. The city and its walls had been demolished. Nehemiah was living in Susa (current day Iran) some one hundred and fourty years later, serving King Artaxerxes as his cupbearer.

1. Prayer and repentance.

In Chapter 1 we read about how upset Nehemiah was when he heard the news about how the city remained in ruins with the walls broken down, and how the Jews who had returned to the province were in great trouble and disgrace because they had no safe place to live. The interesting thing about this is how Nehemiah responded to the news. He mourned and fasted and he prayed. He confessed his sins and the sins of the people. He remembered the many warnings that God had given His people. In this way, Nehemiah showed God that he accepted the responsibility for his sins and for the sins of his people. This is a great example of intercessory prayer. Nehemiah was willing to be accountable to God on behalf of his people and he repented.

2. Planning.

Then, he reminded God of His promise to Moses. God had warned that He would scatter the people if they were unfaithful to Him but if they returned and obeyed His commands, He would gather the exiled people and bring them back to the place He had chosen for them. He asked God for favour in the presence of “this man”, referring to King Artaxerxes his powerful employer. Nehemiah had started his planning.

3. Recognize a godly opportunity, confirm it with prayer and act accordingly.

Chapter 2 starts about four months later. Nehemiah had been praying and planning during this time. One day, the king noticed that he looked sad and asked him why. Nehemiah was afraid, because his job was to serve the king cheerfully and he could be killed if he displeased the king. However, he had courage to tell the king about his sadness regarding the ruined state of his homeland. Then miraculously, the king asked him what he wanted! This must surely have been an answer to his prayer in Nehemiah 1:11! Nehemiah immediately prayed again and asked God what to say. Nehemiah had such a close relationship with God due to his prayer life, that he recognized and understood God’s intervention. After praying, he asked the king to send him to Jerusalem so that he could rebuild it. The king agreed and his main concern was how long it would be before Nehemiah returned. The king must have highly valued Nehemiah and his work. Nehemiah appears to have set a time for the king and then he asked him for the things he would need, such as letters to provide him a safe passage through various lands, and timber for building. Nehemiah did not hesitate at all. He knew exactly what he needed to ask for and how much time he needed. He had been planning this carefully while praying for God’s intervention and interceding for his people. Nehemiah was extremely well prepared. Then the king granted his requests and Nehemiah gave God the glory for this. He recognized that he had got what he wanted because of God’s gracious hand (v8).

4. Expect resistance and opposition

After this, Nehemiah met with resistance and opposition from two characters named Sanballat and Tobiah. This is a useful reminder that even when we are acting on God’s will and have God’s gracious hand upon us, we are likely to come across opposition. This is because the devil does not want God’s will to be done. Do not allow this to stop you, but remember to stay close to God in prayer.

5. Keep your own counsel until you have done your research properly

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and stayed there for three nights before he did set out to look at the city. It is most likely that he was praying during this time. He then set out at night with a few people only. He had not told anyone of his plans yet. This was because he decided to do his research quietly, without any drama or fanfare. When God puts it in our hearts to do something, the best reaction is to check, pray and prepare. When He gives us work to do, there is no need to make a big fuss and draw attention to yourself. Instead, get on with the work quietly and diligently. It is likely that Nehemiah did not say anything to the Jewish leaders or priests at this time in order to avoid having to deal with their unbelief, opposition or negativity. He needed time to examine the ruins, to think about what best to do and to pray.

6. Encourage people to work alongside you

After a period of research and preparation, Nehemiah finally spoke to the Jews. He showed them the extent of the problem and the trouble that they all were in, including himself. He appealed to their identity; they were God’s people and should not be a people in disgrace. He finally told them about God’s gracious hand upon him. The people understood that this was God’s anointing on Nehemiah and on their situation, so they agreed to start the work of rebuilding the city.

7. Expect more discouragement and opposition.

This made Sanballat and Tobiah angry, and they mocked and ridiculed Nehemiah and the Jewish people. If you are doing God’s work you will meet discouragement and opposition. People may well mock you. It comes with the territory. Do not worry about it but bring your attention to point 8 below.

8. Focus on your purpose and identity in God.

Nehemiah did not bother arguing with them. He simply confirmed his identity and purpose. He replied, “We His servants will start rebuilding” (v20). Do not waste time arguing with mockers. Proverbs 9: 8 tells us, “do not correct a mocker (who foolishly ridicules and takes no responsibility for his error) or he will hate you; correct a wise man (who learns from his error) and he will love you. Get on with the job that God has given you and work with people who are willing to learn and obey God. The opposition has no share in the reward that God has prepared for us. If you are wise, your wisdom with reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer Proverbs 9:12). In short, do not worry about what mockers say. Know who you are in God whose work you are doing, for He has already won the victory for us.

Personal Reflection

Are there things that God has placed in your heart to do? Spend time praying in order to prepare yourself for God’s work. Pray over the situation and pray that God will help you remove the things that hinder you. Ask God to show you His plan. Ask God for His guidance about what you need to do to prepare yourself. The task might seem too big, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sermon Series: Equip The Saints - Prophecies and Speaking in Tongues

Good afternoon, church! Today we are blessed with the message on the studies of 1 Corinthians 12 - 14. Have a blessed CNY and stay safe.

God bless!



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Saturday Devotion: Ezra 9 - 10

This passage relates to the exiled Israelites who had returned after Babylonian Captivity. It was reported that many of them including many priests and Levites had taken foreign wives, something God has expressly forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:3. God had commanded them not to marry pagans. Ezra did not stand idle. He tore his clothes, pulled some hair from his head and went into a public posture of mourning (9:5). Ezra communicates to all people the seriousness of this act and his complete disapproval of it. Ezra then prayed a prayer of confession.

What would have happened if Ezra did not react the way he did? Perhaps, the sinful behavior would have continued. But Ezra did not take it lightly, as a leader, he showed his disapproval. As a result of Ezra’s actions, people gathered around him, see their own sins and wept bitterly over them (10.1). Shecaniah (10:2), confesses the sin and proposes to Ezra that the people make a covenant to correct the sin. What I draw from this passage is that though it can be difficult for some of us to confront with someone who is living in sinful ways but we are commanded to by the Bible to expose it (Ephesians 5:11). Just like Ezra, we must bring it before God. We should not take it lightly and stand firm with God’s word and address it with grace, love and truth. Galatians 6:1 says “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself”. The intention is to restore and not destroy.

How did the Israelites react after their sin was exposed to them?  Not only was confession but there was genuine repentance. Why is this important? Sometimes, we can outwardly say we confess but we do not then proceed to change inwardly. Repentance is not only realizing that we are going in the wrong direction and feeling sorry about it. It is a decision that we make ourselves to stop going in the wrong direction and start going in the right direction. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). We must replace our wrong ways with God’s truth. The Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. This means that it instructs us on how to live our lives and how to transform our thinking not as the world does but transform it to align with God’s will.  

Suggested prayer:

Father, we seek for an internal transformation of lives to walk as children of light. Where there is sin, bring it to the surface so that it can be washed clean by Your blood. Empower us by the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome this war with our sinful nature.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Thursday Devotion: L O V E (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

This is a very familiar passage that almost every believer knows. This same passage is often used for wedding sermons, printed onto cards, posters, fridge magnets, t-shirts and many more.  It is a chapter about what love is. From this passage, we can gather that LOVE is vital, and it is absolutely necessary to have love in our life as everything that we do needs love.

Here, Paul was telling the Corinthians of their need to have love for one another because love matters far more than their spiritual gifts. He was showing them the right way to exercise their spiritual gifts mentioned in chapter 12 as they were competing with each other as to whose spiritual gifts are greater.

What is this ‘LOVE’ that Paul is talking about? He stated that love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, and never fails. Wow! How can we possibly love like that? The Corinthians obviously did not live like that. But there is one person who did, Jesus! As believers, we should pursue this love and aim to become more like this love. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we grow spiritually, we will realize that what matters is love because love conquers all. God is love and He has already won the battle against the kingdom of darkness for us. If we have the love of God in our hearts, then we can be loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, etc (Galatians 5:22-23).

Paul is talking about agape love here which is a commitment to treat another person with concern and care, that you will cherish and uphold that person. And ‘agape’ is a word used to describe the love of God which is unconditional. God, our creator, has never shown anything but perfect love to His creation, to us. He has loved us by sending His one and only Son to pay the price for our sins. He has redeemed and forgiven us. We are His children.

Jesus gave us the first & greatest commandment which is to “love the Lord with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind,” followed by the 2nd commandment which is to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:37-39). It is not possible to love our neighbor first without having loved God. We cannot love other people until we have first love God.

Loving God is not difficult because all you need to do is to be aware of how much He has loved you first. And when you love God, the love within us is awakened by the Holy Spirit to enable us to love people of all nationalities & races, and even those who are not that lovable or appealing to us.

Suggested Prayer:

Lord Jesus, I pray that the gift of love may be manifest in my life. Make me to be a more loving person, and that my life may be your channel of love spilling over to touch others today and every day that I am on this earth. Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Tuesday Devotion: Diverse ministries and identities but one Body in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

The Christian church is perhaps the most international, varied body of people in the whole world.  We are in every nation, and we are called to speak the good news of Jesus Christ to every person alive.

Verse 18 indicates, our diversity is God’s plan for the church. God has given us many types of gifts, ministries and points of view. However as human nature is in a fallen selfish, immature state, we have to guard against the danger of excluding different groups. Examples of these are differing preferred theological positions, nation groups, age groups or interests. Sometimes, there is a danger people become so focused on their own point of view, ministry, personality traits or theological position that they begin to despise others. Paul describes this situation in his analogy in verses 15 onwards. People with for example, pastoring (or other gifts) prioritise this ministry and may not be so focused on other important ministries. We need to be aware of this tendency in ourselves. We need to be respectful of different people with different giftings from God and different emphases’ and points of view. This is a challenge for church leadership as they guide the church and equip the saints in the performance of the ministries of God that build His Kingdom. Paul discusses this using a body analogy. In verse 15 feet need to be respectful of hands, ears should value their contribution as much as eyes. Ears are made by God, just as much as eyes. Prophets are as valued as teachers and pastors and administrators. The theologian is valued equally as those with gifts of hospitality and kindness. The hospitality team and teachers and pastors are equally esteemed in the eyes of God. The youth and the evergreen are of equal value. Verse 13 states those of one culture or nation are as loved by God as those of any other. We are not to be racist. The very next chapter is about loving people.

In verse 25 Paul makes clear God has a plan for how we are combined with one another:

“so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

We need to know what the heart of God is for our church, for the combination of different giftings, points of view and ministries. The church is a multi-gifting church. We need to be prayerful, knowledgeable of the word of God, able to get alongside people, hospitable, outward-focused and loving towards all He has made. We need to be organised as well as pastoral, prophetic as well as practical.  We require to be concerned for good order in the church and outward-focused in how we present Jesus to those around us.

Verse 26 makes clear when our brothers and sisters suffer, we suffer too, when they are honoured we too are honoured. We are to be one with each other under Christ.

We are all connected to each other, just like the different parts of a body.

Suggested prayer: Father God, we pray for Your anointing to love our brothers and sisters. We pray You enlarge our vision so by Your Spirit we honour, love and support our brothers and sisters in Christ in the unity of our faith. May we be united in Christ Jesus so the Kingdom of God increases around us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

#SermonSeries: Equip The Saint - Q/A Panel (1 Corinthians 10)

Good morning, church! Today we are doing a panel of Q/A session on 1 Corinthians 10. Have a blessed Sunday and stay safe. God bless!




Saturday, February 6, 2021

Saturday Devotion: I Corinthians 11:27-34

Did you watch or listen to Timothy Chin, our youth who shared the devotion yesterday? Today’s devotion is a continuation of yesterday’s thought. Paul is correcting problems in the church in Corinth. Among many churches described in the New Testament, probably the most troublesome church was the Corinthians church due to the conflict among church members. We were reminded to examine ourselves and prepare our hearts before we walk our way to receive the Lord’s supper.

It is about an unworthy manner, not an unworthy man.

I Corinthians11: 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup

In Verse 28 Paul tells the Corinth’s, that they should examine themselves before eating the bread and drinking the cup, the Lord's Supper" (v. 28) Paul didn't say, "examine others", but "examine themselves". To set aside all pride and observe themselves in the light of God’s word.

The Corinthians neglected to examine themselves, but they were experts at examining everybody else. And, Paul did not say that they had to be worthy to partake of the Supper, but only that they should partake in a worthy manner.

As believers in Christ, we must be careful not to become “religious detectives” who watch others, but who fail to acknowledge our own sins. It should remind us that communion is not just about our relationship with Christ; it is also about my relationship with the body of Christ, the church. For, we are many but we form one body.

Delight in discipline

Next, Paul gives a warning of judgment, which is to serve as a motivation for practicing self-examination. Paul says in v.32, “when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” In other words, the purpose of this judgment is not condemnation but correction.

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one, He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son." Hebrews 12:5-6

(Vs 30-31)Sometimes God lets the natural consequences of our sin inflict the pain. Sometimes He allows painful circumstances into our lives to expose our sin. Sometimes the Spirit inflicts painful conviction to make us notice our sin. However, He goes about it, disciplining always hurts.

But hardship and suffering are not God's way of getting even. God's discipline is not the sentence for our sin. The punishment for our sin was laid on Jesus at the cross, once and forever.

When God disciplines us; It leads to the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Dear Father God

Just to be able to fellowship with You and your people is such a privilege. So, help us to cherish the relationship we share with our co-believers in Christ. And treat everyone with love. Forgive me for the times I have not realized that Your is chastening to develop in me the wonderful fruit of righteousness. Give me O Lord, an obedient heart to know your disciplining and correcting ways and to follow the instructions to live a life which is eligible for the everlasting companion with God. Amen


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Thursday Devotion: Who is Your Head? (1 Corinthians 11:1 - 17)

“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (verse 3)

Introduction:

Today’s reading (1 Corinthians 11:1-17) has caused many divisions in churches with regards to men’s and women’s roles in the Church. It has been used by many churches to insist that women are not permitted to be in key leadership positions. In certain denominations, this passage has led to the formation of the doctrine that women are required to cover their heads during church worship.

When studying this text, Paul is addressing the use of head coverings in worship that was commonly practiced in the Hellenistic culture in Corinth. This passage is to be understood in the context of marriage, church worship and Hellenism in the 1st century A.D.

(Please read the brief context in the comment)

Christ, the Church and Worship

While it may sound like Paul was being a sexist, it is clear after careful study, that he was defending the dignity of Christ and His Church from the culture of his day. Similarly, we must consider how women (and men), married and single, ought to conduct ourselves in public places, especially in our worship gatherings on Sundays, and in care groups.

The image of “covering the head” for married women was to recognize that they do not have personal preferences or autonomy to conduct their lives independently of their husbands. Rather, they were to submit (willingly and humbly) to their husband’s authority, as the husband comes under the authority of Christ who is the head of the Church. The responsibility was also on the husband as the head of the household. This does not make the married woman lesser than her husband. Instead, it is the joy of the woman to submit to her husband and remain faithful to him, as her husband does the same. (Paul was alluring to the model of marriage from the creation account i.e., God created man and woman in his image; man was created first and woman second. And the two will become one flesh.)

As Christ's Church, in the aspect of worship, we do not have personal preference for how we are to conduct our worship and lives independently of Jesus Christ. Just as women were instructed to cover their heads as a symbol of their submission to their husbands, the Church submits to Jesus. We do not tell God how and when we want to worship Him. Rather, we choose to conduct our worship in a manner that glorifies and honours Him.

Reflection:

We are living in a very sensual and sexual global culture. The image of women (and men) has been damaged by the media that aims to sensualize and sexualize us. The pressure to conform to the pattern of the culture set by the media is immense affecting both married and single women (men), young and matured.

Hence, remembering that Jesus Christ is our final authority guards us from succumbing to today’s culture. In our worship to God, let us be weary of popular cultures that may end up damaging the image of Christ and the Church in our nation. This is more than coverings of heads and clothes. It is the matter of our attitude toward God and worship – is He your head? Does he have authority over your life? If he does, then do you "dress" and behaviour in ways that bring honour to Him and His Body, the Church?

 

Personal reflection exercise:

Take time to self reflect and assess how certain cultures have affected your Christian witness.

Consider some changes that you may need to do to ensure that your conduct will honour Jesus Christ and His Church. Make a list and ask the Holy Spirit to assist you through these changes.

 

Context:

As an overview, with regards to head coverings, in the 1st Century Greek customs married women often wore head coverings in public to indicate to other men (and women) of their marital status. Given that the Greek culture was highly sensual and promiscuous, this was an important tradition to keep. Hence, removing her head covering is to indicate that she is available to other men. This was one reason Paul insisted that women covered their heads. This was a practical pastoral advice to ensure that Christian marriages remained holy and untainted by the culture of the day.

Biblical scholar Bruce W. Winter in an article “You were what you wore in Roman Law” states that during the Roman Empire, a “new” culture was adopted by married women of the upper classes. They began to fashion their hairs and unveiled their heads, and wore sexually provocative clothing that was commonly practiced by women worshippers of the goddess Aphrodite. Thus, Paul was addressing this issue as well, when he insisted that women were to cover their heads. He was ensuring that the worship of Jesus in the Corinthian Church is not identified with the idolatry of the people in Corinth. The Christian women, especially the married women, were to be distinct from the other women of their culture.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Tuesday Devotion: Flee from Idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14 - 22)

Paul was warning the Corinthian church against falling into idolatry. Some members of the church were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples. Paul warned against this because participating in any of the rituals in the temple, including eating at the table with temple worshippers, meant that Christians were involving themselves in idolatrous practices. Here, Paul uses the sharing of communion and fellowship with other believers to demonstrate his point to them. When we share bread and wine with other believers, this is a symbolic participation in the body of Christ. It is not the kind of food or wine that is important, but the participation of it by the church members in fellowship together. Similarly, it was not the sacrificed meat that was the problem but the act of sharing this meat and participating in rituals with the idol worshippers in the temple. We cannot be faithful to one God but at the same time participate in the worship of other ‘gods’ or idols. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (v21).

What relevance does this have to our modern life? Few of us have probably had the experience of having to decide whether or not to eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols, or to participate in idol worship. However, some of us may have relatives or family members from other faiths and have been pressured to participate in worship rituals for “family’s sake” or “to show respect”. The Bible is clear on this. Paul encourages us to use our sense and judgment and we are strongly advised not to participate in anything that would cause us to be unfaithful to God. This teaching can guide us in any circumstance where we need to make wise decisions regarding whom we choose to spend time with and what activities we choose to do. The question we should ask ourselves in each situation is, “Does what I am doing give honour to God?” I do not wish to give specific examples, because it is not necessarily the activity per se that may be the problem, but the risks associated with it. However, some activities are more clear-cut than others. Should you spend time with people and sit at the table with them while they are gambling, watching pornography or gossiping about others? Being a Christian is not going to protect us from the dangerous slide into sin and unfaithfulness, if we choose to participate in activities that do not honour God. Taking the Holy Communion on a Sunday is not an “insurance policy” against sin. The risks of playing with the devil are real and serious. The Bible is clear; flee from idolatry (v14). 

Do not attempt to negotiate with it, but get out immediately. Act wisely and do not risk arousing the Lord’s jealousy (v22).

Suggested Prayer

Lord God, help me to guard my heart and to stay away from anything that would displease you. If there is anything in my life that I need to put away, please help me to identify it and give me the strength to walk away. Help me to be faithful to You in all that I do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.