Category: Discipleship

Famine of the Word

As we end our sermon series on the book of Amos, there is a sobering warning in 8:11-12, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger … searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” Many scholars believe this to be a dual prophecy, meaning that it applied both to the impending judgment of national Israel for their sins during the time of Amos and other prophets, but also foretelling a probable future judgment on the modern church.

Considering the proliferation of Bibles into hundreds of languages today – it remains the world’s most translated, best selling and most freely given book – this warning in Amos is surprising. What exactly would this “famine of the word” be like? Firstly, v.11 indicates that it would be a famine of hearing God’s word. This could indicate a future time where the preaching and teaching of God’s word is scarce, or as many NT writers warn, false prophets and teachings will abound, so much so that it would be challenging to discern the truth of God’s word.

Secondly, v.12 suggests that people will seek and search for God’s word but not find it, perhaps meaning a time where even access to God’s word will be limited or rare. In this modern age of high-speed and widespread Internet access and Bible apps, it seems almost impossible to imagine not being able to find God’s word in some form, whether physical or virtual. Throughout history, there have been fierce attempts to eradicate God’s word, such as during the persecution of the early church, the start of the Protestant Reformation, and more recently during the two World Wars. In several countries today where persecution of Christians is still rampant, owning and distributing Bibles are often met with strong opposition and punishments.

Do we often take for granted God’s Word in our lives? Perhaps you own more than one unread Bible yourself, or we do not stop to think when browsing our Bible apps where several versions are available at the touch of a finger. Scripture memory has become archaic and a lost art, especially amongst younger generations of believers. Isa. 55:6 exhorts us, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” Let us grow to cherish and treasure God’s word, and do all we can to learn and understand it so that we may come to know Christ and grow in our relationship with Christ.

Are we involved in the spreading and teaching of God’s word to others, be it in our churches or amongst mission fields (both local and abroad) where God places or sends us? Paul explains “… how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? … Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:14, 17). May the urgency of the gospel and the love of Christ compel us, as individuals and as a church, to share the good news of God’s grace and to disciple believers towards spiritual maturity and likeness of Christ, to the praise of His glory.


Heavenly Bread

Do you enjoy eating bread? Whether it’s the traditional kaya toast, the 6-inch sandwiches, French baguettes, or the more recent fusion salted-egg croissants, there seems to be all types of bread to suit all preferences of taste and texture. Imagine eating the same type of bread for 40 years. That’s what happened to the Israelites where their disobedience led to their wandering in the desert for 40 years. The gracious God provided manna and quail for them, exactly how much they needed, until they arrived in the Promised Land (Ex. 16). Why did He do so? Moses explains in Deut. 8:3, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

This was precisely the same words and passage that Jesus quoted, when the devil tempted Him in the desert, knowing that He was fasting, asking Him to turn stone into bread (Matt. 4:3-4). Jesus knew His mission, and He would not allow Satan and temptations to hinder or distract Him from fulfilling God’s purpose for Him. In John 4:34, He says, “My food … is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” Years later, with his dying breath, as He hung crucified on the cross for the sins of the world, He exclaimed, “It is finished.” He had accomplished and obeyed His Father’s will, to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place for us in heaven, that we might be reconciled to God by His sacrifice and death.

Mark 6.30-44 talks about the feeding of the 5,000 with heavenly bread. How there must have been a buzz in the air, wonder and excitement in the crowd, amazement between the disciples, when Jesus multiplied the simple 5 loaves and 2 fish into 12 baskets full of food for everyone. Yet for all that Jesus did, the healings, the miracles, teaching with authority, it was His life example pointing always toward the Father, that He reminded His disciples and followers to emulate. Do our physical needs and desires often come first, or even the pursuit of things on this earth? The Bible exhorts us that to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). For all that Jesus did for us on the cross, it was His obedience to His Father’s will that we should seek to follow. The challenge for us is how to honour and glorify God above all else – above our earthly achievements, accumulations, and accolades, even above our ministry and service to Him. Is your food to do God’s will and to finish His work?

King of kings

There has been much talk and news about our upcoming presidential election. Amidst the controversies and rumours, many hearts have been stirred up for or against different potential candidates. The role and functions of our elected president have also evolved, and might differ with other countries. In fact, there are almost 30 countries in the world today which are still considered kingdoms or monarchies. There have also been recent popular dramas of ancient eras of kings and queens battling for thrones and power. What is our obsession or fascination with royal leadership? How does this relate to our Christian lives?

Paul describes Jesus in this way,

For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him … And He is the Head of the body, the church … so that in everything He might have the supremacy. (Col. 1:16, 18)

What does it mean for Christ to be supreme? Other versions describe it as “to have first place in everything.” In our day-to-day lives, is Jesus the King of kings? The Lord of lords? God does not want some place in our lives, He demands first place in our lives. To some, this might seem too harsh or selfish of God, too extreme and absolute for others’ liking. Yet, God is God whether we like it or not; Jesus is sovereign and has been exalted to the highest place, and one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).

Yet in the supremacy of Christ, the wonder and beauty of it all is that God chose to send His one and only Son, the King of kings, to be incarnate and dwell among mankind, to lead a perfect, sinless life, and to pay the penalty for our sins, to restore unto us our relationship with God. He is not a dictator or an evil tyrant, He desires relationship with His people. He is the Head of the body, the church, not as an uncaring or demanding autocrat, but as a loving bridegroom, and we His bride. He intercedes for us even now in heaven, and welcomes us to His throne of grace, to receive His mercy and grace in times of need (Heb. 4:16).

How can we respond? Firstly, we need to surrender – our lives, our all, to the goodness and grace of our Lord and Saviour. Secondly, we can then be free to serve Him out of the gratitude and love that flows from knowing His deep love for us, the love that led Him to obey His Father’s will to die on the cross for the sins of the world, for you and I. We love, because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). As the lyrics of the song goes,

Your majesty, I can’t but bow 
I lay my all before You now 
In royal robes I don’t deserve 
I live to serve Your majesty.

Ask Pastor Time

As requested, suggested by my church youth leaders, we are starting a short segment called “Ask Pastor Time” every fortnight to address current issues. A question will be put forth and I will attempt to provide a succinct biblical response and how we as Christians should deal with it. Feel free to comment and post questions.

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