Latest Entries »

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?

Advertisements

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.

Preaching law & grace

It was truly an honour and privilege to sit at the feet of Bryan Chapell these past 2 days at the PT Expository Preaching conference. I was expecting more discussion or focus on differences and challenges regarding handling passages dealing with law and/or grace, and how to balance our preaching not to be legalistic nor hypergraced.

Yet in the end, Bryan shared mostly from the perspective of the importance, value and place of Application in preaching, and also connecting, integrating his Christ-centered approach with the gospel of grace. It was indeed refreshing, aptly timely in my own life and ministry, and at the same time insightful, reflective and challenging.

I managed to catch a short chat with him towards the end of the conference. At the risk of coming across like a fanboy, I managed to get advice, suggestions from him regarding D.Min and Ph.D programs which support distance learning or intensive classes for international students, particularly from a Reformed perspective, and geared more towards pastoral or practical theology. Though he used to teach at Covenant, he actually recommended Knox, which currently he is on faculty amongst others. I also got the privilege of getting him to sign my Christ-centered Preaching book which we used during SBC homiletics days.

Let us be one voice

On this day in history, on 9 July 1963, the leaders of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak signed the Malaysia Agreement to establish the Federation of Malaysia, which was formed shortly after on 16 September. However, less than 2 years later, on 9 August 1965, Singapore became a sovereign, independent nation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Today is Synod Sunday, and its purpose is to foster unity and encourage communication among the Presbyterian churches in Singapore. This year’s theme is on the unity of the church, looking at Jesus’ prayer for the church in Jn. 17:20-23, in line with our church and camp theme, “One in Christ,” from Eph. 4:1-16.

Indeed, unity on different fronts continues to be of utmost importance, be it on a national level, or a spiritual level, amongst churches as the body of Christ. Why is this so?

Firstly, it displays cohesiveness and solidarity. The people that form a group that are united reflect that sense of togetherness, agreement of feeling and action, common interests, and mutual support. Where a church is united, we would see leaders and members supporting and encouraging one another, there would be synergy in decision-making, as well as a deep sense of community and relationships.

Secondly, it shows focus, direction and purpose. A group that is united would be seen to move as one towards a common goal, to fulfill its vision and mission, and to have wisdom and foresight towards the future for themselves and others. As a church, this would mean being clear of our God-given role and to pursue passionately all of God’s plans. Leaders would seek and serve God’s will for the church and beyond.

Lastly, it reflects the values and nature of the group, namely what it stands for, and what sustains it. In the church, our common identity stems from the person and work of Jesus Christ, where we seek to be united in, through and for Him. It also is a reminder that disunity can cause disrepute and disrespect, particularly if a church is divided, it often stumbles and hurts not only its own members, but affects how the world looks at us as Christians.

May we as a church always pray for and strive towards unity in Christ, as Paul prays in Rom. 15.5-6,

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A friend in need

No doubt you have heard the expression “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” The origins of this idiom is unclear, and seems to date back centuries, such as ancient writers Ennius, “A sure friend is known in unsure times,” and Euripides, “It is in trouble’s hour that the good must clearly show their friendship; though prosperity by itself in every case finds friends.” But why is a friend in need truly a friend? One suggestion is to emphasize or phrase it this way, “A friend, in need, is a friend indeed (or even ‘in deed’),” meaning that when we are in need, those who help us or continue to be a friend to us, are truly our friends.

The Bible puts it this way, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17) Jesus Himself showed us the greatest example by His obedient death on the cross, in His own words, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)

When is the last time you had a friend in need? How did you react or respond? How far are we willing to help or love our friends, at our convenience, or at a sacrificial, personal cost? Would we be willing to “lay down our lives” for our friends?

Amongst our circles of friendship, think about those who seem to be more troublesome or needy. Are we often irritated or try our best to avoid or shun such people? Here, we are not talking about the stranger on the street, or even the neighbours around us. Among your friends, are there those that you tend to distance yourself from, particularly because they always seem to need help or attention? In this day and age, perhaps it seems easier because all we have to do is unfriend or unfollow someone on social media, or block or mute them on our messaging apps or devices.

How can we be better friends to those in need around us? Let me suggest some practical ways. Firstly, pray for your friends. Commit some time each day or week to intercede to God for them. Even when they hurt you or take advantage or you, God’s word reminds us to even love our enemies and pray for them, perhaps in this case, our “frienemies”. Secondly, be concerned about their lives. Don’t just turn to your friends when you yourself are in need, but take an interest in what’s happening in their lives, the goods and the bads. As we understand more of what they are going through, perhaps God will open a way in which you can be a better friend to them. Lastly, be there for them. Presence is more important and valuable in life than presents. When they need a shoulder to cry on, when they need an extra dose of encouragement and support, when they celebrate their victories, through the highs and lows of life, where will you be? By their side, being a friend, or busy with our own life, or other pursuits or things? Don’t wait until your friends are gone, to regret not being a better friend. With God as your source of love and strength, ask God to make you a better friend today.

%d bloggers like this: