Just For Show

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:1-12

The verse above is a striking reminder for me regarding humility in serving the Lord. There were moments in my life where I’d want people at church to pay me some respect. Maybe because I’ve been serving in the church ministries for a long time and I felt that I had bragging rights.

There were also times that as a leader, I’d demand those under me to never be absent in our small group meetings and that they should always do their devotions, in a way that pressured them a lot, but then I myself did my devotions just for the sake of having something to show them, my leader, and my brothers.

Matthew 23:1-12 is much more striking to me because as much as I denied to myself that I’m not like the Pharisees mentioned, I actually somehow felt good when people commend me for doing good in the ministry, in my case, the music worship team. And it became one of my driving forces — praises from others. Which then I realized was nonsense.

Going up on stage in front is not just for show. It’s not a concert or any form of event programmed only for the people’s entertainment. It’s in reality, leading those people in  worship. It’s the best compliment a worship leader can get. Let’s not just enhance our covers, but let us walk as living contents of the Gospel.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

Costly Gift

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus — Romans 3:21-26

It’s one of the greatest things that happened to my life — to be saved by the grace of God. It’s by His grace that as a sinner, I’m still able to walk this earth forgiven without paying any price. God paid the price for our sins on that cross where Jesus Christ was crucified. Many mocked him. Many hurt him physically and emotionally, but he was prepared since the time he came to this world. He knew he’d die for us.

In a dire situation where all hope is lost and humanity is doomed for eternal damnation, there comes a gift of salvation where the giver asks nothing in return but for us to believe in Him. He’s not being selfish here, but God happens to be the best for us that’s why He wants us to draw closer to Him so that we may live and not die.

It’s indeed a paradox where something of great value is actually free, but it’s the truth. God’s gift of salvation is the best thing you would ever want in your lifetime and yet it is a free gift. If you reject it, God doesn’t give it to somebody else because it’s for everyone. While you still walk this earth, God is going to save it for you. He’s gonna wait for you.

If one day in your life you come to the point where you pity yourself so much and lose all hope in life, just remember that someone died for you. He always thinks about you and is waiting for you to come home to him.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

 

Serious Stress

To the choirmaster: stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.
Give ear to my prayer, O, God, and hide not your self from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness;Psalms 55:1-7

We’ve been into some serious stress a couple of times already and it feels like we just want to drop all our responsibilities and go some place else away from all the worries. We people know many kinds of stress relievers. These are drinking, cheating for fun, bullying, blaming others and God, and all sorts of stuff. But you see, these are just temporary relievers.

The best way to alleviate the stress is to surrender all of it to God. Come to Him and pour it all out. Why God? Because if you pour it out on people, you can inflict damage. But if you pour it all out to God, He won’t be damaged. If you are angry, if you are  down and lonely and troubled, God can handle all of it.

It’s like how King David would always pray, he’d be brutally honest and would pour it all out to God even if his heart is in anguish. Let us do the same and not sort out to things that would give us temporary relief. God helps us look at our troubles differently. He gives us strength. His comfort lasts.

To the choirmaster: stringed instruments. A Maskil of David.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.Psalms 55:22

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

 

A Place Of Quiet Rest

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.Mark 6:30-46

People’s lives today are fast-pased. Most of the things around us can immediately change in a day or two without us noticing. We’re busy with work, school, business, and many other things. Those things are important for our growth, but are we still making time for God? Well yes, we do go to church once a week, but do we give the Lord few minutes of our time everyday?

I just proved this recently during my exam period. I was so busy reviewing and working that I always forgot to go into quiet time with the Lord. The exams were really long and I kept my hopes up after it. But when the results were up, I found out that I failed the exams. I knew I had good answers that would help me pass the subjects, but I failed. I was so frustrated and had so many speculations why I failed. I did not have peace.

God allowed it to happen to bring me back to Him. And now, I try my best to spend time with the Lord everyday and I find my self in peace. I remember a song that really fits this devotion and the message is a reminder that even if we have storms in life, we continue to soar with God with gladness.

I now realize that it’s better to fail when we are secured with the Lord rather than having an empty success without Him.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

The Pain Alert

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all the malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave youEphesians 4:31-32

Pain. Most of us hate this. It leaves us with a wounded heart. It makes us cry. When we experience pain, we just want to be alone. We may ask, “Why is there pain? What is it for?” It just seems like all pain do to us are negative things. But as much as we hate it, pain has a big role to play in our lives.

With pain, we become aware that something’s wrong. With pain, we become more cautious. It alerts us of harm and potential damage. With pain, we learn. But if we expose ourselves to repetitive pain, we become numb. We won’t know something bad is about to happen.

Like physical pain, we are also alerted of spiritual harm. If we keep on sinning, we become numb of the guilty feeling. And we already know where it will lead us to if we don’t feel guilty of our sins anymore. That’s why we need to respond to the guilty feeling by confessing our sins to the Lord.

This is acknowledging that we are hurt and in need of the Lord’s healing. God sometimes allows us to feel pain so that we may be reminded, and be able to produce godly character in us. So pain has a purpose and we shouldn’t ignore it. We should respond to it by coming to God first and foremost.

So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man — Acts 24:16

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

 

A King’s Failure

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly,but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” — 2 Samuel 12:1-14

There are certain people in our lives to whom we look up to. Those people that we admire and those that we care to know what they’re currently up to. We want to be updated about these people because they greatly affect us. We see them as people in another level that we strive somehow to be like them.

 But then all of a sudden, they commit one mistake that could ruin their entire reputation, one that can make you forget all the great things they’ve done and you begin to hate them OR something that can make you think that their failure is something that’s OKAY to do.

King David’s failure should not be an excuse for us to do the same mistake. This is a reminder from God that even great people have weaknesses. This should also tell us to recognize that we have weaknesses as well and we are in need of God’s grace as much as great people do. We are all in need of God’s grace everyday.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

He Knows My Name

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follows him, for they know his voice. — John 10:1-4

You know how it feels. Having your friends forget your name is one of the major offenses they could ever do to you. Or maybe if you admire someone who’s just introduced to you and then the next day forgets your name. We can’t blame them if they have so many people in their lives to memorize more names.

Having people forget your name could mean a lot. It could feel like you don’t mean anything to them. It could feel like there’s nothing unique or interesting about you that they could easily forget about you. But what is it in our names that means a lot to us?

When people call you by your name, you respond. There’s an interaction. It’s offending when people call us random names and we hate to respond to that. But you know what? There’s a God who knows us not just by our names but on who we really are.

God cares about how you live your life. He hears you when you cry. He knows your thoughts and your deepest secrets. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you. Even though He watches all the people around the world, you are still unique and special. God is interested in you that He always thinks about you. He knows you by your name.

When people forget your name, just tell this to yourself, “He Knows My Name.”

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

Lost Prayers

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you — you are my God. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you to answer me.Psalm 86:1-7

In desperate times, we pray. In times we want something to happen, we pray. In times we need guidance and wisdom in making decisions, we pray. But there’s more to it than that. We can also pray when we’re happy and successful.

I came to watch an inspiring movie called Letters To God a few years back. It’s about a courageous boy who has cancer, writes letters to God as if He was his friend, teacher, and his ultimate pen pal. The boy sends his letters through a postman who doesn’t know what to do with the letters. But then God moved this man in his search for meaning in life.

The boy’s letters also signifies his heart in prayer. Physically, those letters are never sent to God. The postman can throw it all away even without opening them. But prayers are never lost. They are all heard by our Father in heaven.

God hears us when we have funny stories to tell. He pays attention when we have questions to ask, and He answers.  And He’s always there to listen and embrace us when we need comforting, because he is good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon Him.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

 

Arriving Late

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”Matthew 20:1-16

In my family, there are two of us children of my parents. I am the eldest and I have a younger sister. There are times when our parents would give us treats in a form of food, toys, allowances, etc. And most of the time, my parents would give my sister the same amount as mine and I’ve always thought it was so unfair.

I thought that if I was the older one, more advanced in years, and have been more helpful to my parents than my younger sister, I deserve more. More food, much more expensive toys, and bigger allowance.

It went on for years as we were growing up, but then Matthew 20:1-6 made me realize  that just like the master, my parents was just being generous to my younger sister and it did not mean that they gave me less and loved me less. Because our parents love both of us the same.

Just like with our Father in heaven, even though a brother just recently accepted Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour and has been evil all throughout his life in the past, he gives him mercy, grace, and forgiveness the same. God’s love is for everyone and doesn’t need rankings on who would be loved better and who would be loved lesser.

Now if you’re the one who’s hesitating to experience God’s love because you think it will require you many years of experience, don’t worry. As long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition

 

The Waggle Dance

Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking to a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him. Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. — John 4:27-36

Jesus Christ has shown us his mercy and grace. He poured out his love upon us that we may be saved from eternal suffering. So being saved by the Lord already means that our lives is being restored to be healthy every day.

There are times when I feel empty when doing things other than the work of the Lord, but when it is for Him, though my body is exhausted, there is fulfillment. I know I’m made to glorify Him through service and I have tasted and have seen that the Lord is good. He is my complete nourishment.

Now that I have realized that the Lord is my nourishment, I also share it with other people. Like  what the bees do — they do the waggle dance to lead other bees to the food source. The food source that is made for their complete nourishment. We are made to be nourished in glorifying God so let’s lead others to the complete nourishment designed for them as well.

Reference: Our Daily Bread 15-Day Edition