The Smart Lawyer

If I were not an accountant, I think I would like to be lawyer. I love watching arguments in court. I like how lawyers prove their point with reason, with evidence either to convict the guilty or to acquit the innocent.

This morning, I read in Acts 23:1-11 Paul on trial as he faced the council of people who were against him for spreading the gospel. Paul was a Roman citizen and a Pharisee – a member of an ancient Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law. He used these status to his advantage. (Read Acts 22:25-29 on how he used his Roman citizenship to get himself out of being whipped and released.)

Beyond his status, here is his argument in self-defence:

“Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” Whoa.. what a claim of innocence!

38026837655f47d05d5db06139856d1e--taekwondo-kids-ata-taekwondo

The high priest, Ananias was perhaps indignantly surprised at Paul’s impudence – implying that he was wrongly accused. Ananias ordered those beside Paul to slap him on the mouth. Paul said:

“God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?”

The bystanders said to Paul: How dare you insult the high priest!

Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” (Paul once again defend himself with the truth. He did not know the high priest. Yet he also pointed out what is the law – that one should not disrespect a ruler or people in leadership.)

Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to position himself and take timely advantage of pertinent data and situation. He knew that in the courtroom, there were two groups of people: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Sadducees were a religio-political group that held a great deal of power among the Jews in Israel. These 2 groups had opposing view on resurrection – life after death.

Paul began crying out in the Council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead!”

Because of his statement, a great uproar and argument started and some scribes (secretary) of the Pharisees sided with Paul and said:

“We find nothing wrong with this man; suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”

What happened next? v.10

And as a great dissension was developing, the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them and ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force, and bring him into the barracks.

images

Paul got himself out of the trial – he was neither convicted nor acquitted. But the people who tried him ended up quarrelling among themselves.

What can we learn from Paul in this case? Paul was a smart lawyer. He knew how to use his knowledge to his advantage. He was familiar with the legal system, he knew the weaknesses of his enemies. He was also bold to speak out. He was passionate about the gospel to the extent that he was often persecuted – jailed, beaten, mobbed, plotted to be killed (Read of the plot to kill him vv.12-15).

What is his comfort and motivation? v.11

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.”

I often wish that I would hear God speak so clearly to me as Paul did. And I discovered on many occasions that God did – through the circumstances and people that came into my life at just the right place and time. I am always amazed at his timeliness. He sends his comfort and encouragement just when I needed it most. He assures me of what He wants me to do through His Word – affirmed by timely assignments that He sent me.

Let me illustrate my point: Recently I was studying the book of Esther. On the day that I shared a lesson on Mordecai and Haman, I was invited to write an article for publication in a booklet. The person in charge asked if I could write about Esther. Truly, God affirms his calling in his beautiful time.

It is not easy for Paul to be a missionary to the Gentiles. That was what God called him to do (Acts 22:21). Yet when God calls, it does not mean the road would be easy. But it means His presence, peace and power go with the calling.

Wherever you are right now, dear friend, whatever you are doing, no matter who you are, you are loved and called for a purpose – to serve your family? to love your enemy? to teach your employees? to work for your boss? Is it hard? Yes, it is not easy. But God said: Take courage. I am with you always.

Be like Paul – make your defence against the enemy and let God defend you and make an offence to stand for what is right and true… to be on God’s side. Let God be on your side.

937b6023230f9fb0c813c5ffef982a04--hopful-quotes-quotes-faith

 

Advertisements

Restful Sheep

Do you like lamb? Lamb chop? Rack of lamb? pan fry? baked? I don’t coz of the pungent smell and strong taste. But if cooked the right way with the right meat, it can be good. I might not like to eat lamb but I like the character, story and scenery associated with the lamb.

Lamb came to mind this morning as I read Psalm 23. Sheep in its first year is called lamb. As I review this all-time fave, a picture of rest and tranquility came over me. It made me recall the scenes when I visited NZ. Hubby used to tell me that I’d be bored there coz no shopping, no mall – only sheep! Their sheep outnumbered their people. He’s wrong. I was not bored at all. The quiet and serene scenery stuck in my mind. Each time I saw sheep grazing, they seem to be always resting quietly. It’s like a painting of complete calm and rest.

No wonder David being a shepherd wrote Psalm 23. He put his Lord in his shoes and put himself in the ‘shoes’ of his sheep. David knew how he took care of his sheep. He loved his sheep. In the same way, he knew how the Lord loves him and takes care of him. 

the-lord-is-my-shepherd-1l.jpg

No matter where you are in life right now – whether in green pastures, quiet waters or in the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is with you. He is your shepherd and because He loves and cares for you, you shall not lack anything – neither food, care, shelter nor REST. In the Shepherd, let us find true shalom – ultimate lasting peace!

Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

i-am-the-good-shepherd-the-good-shepherd-lays-down-his-life-for-the-sheep-quote-1.jpg
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Daniel, a prophet of God

Of all the books of the prophets in the Old Testament, I think Daniel is undoubtedly the one most told in Sunday School. Jonah comes next and we know why. Ezekiel saw the wheel is sometimes taught as a song. Other than these 3, I can’t remember I ever taught any story from the books of the prophets especially to young children.

Reviewing the stories of Daniel, I am inspired and amazed at how God revealed Himself through Daniel and his 3 friends to a pagan nation who did not know Him. It’s amazing to read the miracles, visions and dreams that happened in the first 6 chapters of Daniel.

Chapter 1: Healthy vegetarians

Daniel and his 3 friends decided to distinguished themselves as exiles by abstaining from taking food – good food from the king’s provisions. God granted them favour with the F&B manager of the king’s palace. After 10 days of testing, the 4 young men were found to be more healthy-looking than the rest of the exiles.

When God’s children determine to be different from the world, He sustains them and helps them to be better – not through the ordinary path of man.

Chapter 2: Dream interpreter

Can you interpret dreams? How about interpreting the dream without being told what the dream actually was? Daniel was called upon to interpret a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar – a dream the king himself forgot. Imagine telling the king what his dream meant on top of telling him what he dreamed about. More amazing is that the king believed what Daniel told him and even praised his God for it.

Chapter 3: Walking Alive (not Walking dead) in a blazing fire

For disobeying the king’s order to bow down to a golden statue, Daniel’s 3 friends were thrown into an oven of blazing furnace which killed even the guards who threw them in. And out they came without even a hair singed! What impressed me is these 3 brave souls were determined to bow only to their God at all costs.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (vv.16-18)

God did not disappoint them. They were not put to shame. God sent an angel to be with them in the furnace.

Chapter 4: Dream # 2: mad king living with wild animals and eating grass

King Nebuchadnezzar sure was a dreamer. It’s good that he remembered his dream this time. Daniel told and warned the king that because of his arrogance, he would become mad and live with the animals and eat grass like the cow for seven years until he acknowledged that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.

Indeed, the interpretation came to pass.

Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time (7 years) will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

At the end of 7 years, the king raised his eyes towards heaven and acknowledged and honoured God. He praised God with a doxology.

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

God rejects the proud and exalts the humble.

 

 

No Fear

The strong and the brave… these words are often associated with super heroes; victories against villains; supernatural strength and unbelievable courage… Each
time we watch movies like Iron Man, Superman, Spiderman, we are filled with a sense of power and optimism – we know that there is nothing they can’t do and
there is nothing they need to be afraid and ultimately we know they are not going to die.

Yet, we know that all these superheroes are just fiction. In life, strength and courage are virtues – realistically attainable even though not as simplistic as the fictitious.

Strength and courage… are they synonymous? Which is first… is it easier to be brave when one is strong? Or is it also about being strong because there is no fear? Or is it having both at the same time?

Be strong and courageous is a favourite verse that Christians like to give to each other – to en-COURAGE one another to face problems, challenges, and trials in life. Be brave – we say to our friends who are facing financial troubles, to those who just
lost a loved one, to those who are faced with uncertain future. Be strong – we say to those who are terminally ill, to those who are left behind by their spouses or
betrayed by their loved ones.

What exactly is being strong and courageous about? These two words which are mentioned 4 times in the first chapter of Joshua..what exactly are they about?

I. The Basis of strength and courage: God’s Character

God spoke these words 3x to Joshua. First, who was Joshua? Joshua was Moses’ aide (helper) He was no super hero like his predecessor – Moses. He was not strong like Samson. He was one of the 12 spies sent to check out Canaan before they enter the Promised Land. He was one of only two who believed that God will give them victory over the giants in the land.

853e5ed35ed3167afd655187769cc031.jpg

Joshua believed God and it helped him to overcome his fear to be brave.

God said ‘I am about to give..’ (v.2) ‘I will give..’ (v.3) ‘I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ (v.5) ‘The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (v.9) These words are the basis of strength and courage. It is all about God.

To be strong and brave is to stand on God’s presence, who He is and what He does. We can be strong and courageous because God is with us.

II. The Guide to strength and courage: God’s Word

More than just head knowledge of who God is, what He said He will do, Joshua was called to act on it. He was to obey God’s law – not to turn to the left or to the right – but to keep a straight path – it’s like the horse with both its eyes covered to
keep it focused in one direction – stick to the path ahead. (v.7)

How does one obey unless one knows what to obey? And how does one know what unless one study it, remember it, think about it? We are to keep God’s word –
say it, meditate on it – act on it – day in day out. (v.8) And there’s a promise that comes with it – prosperity and success. Now hold on, this is not a simplistic solution
of being good and have a great life. Being prosperous and successful in life is about being strong and brave amidst difficulties, sufferings and adversities of life.

To be strong and courageous is to stand on God’s Word, His promises, His commands. We can be strong and brave because God speaks to us. He promises to be with us wherever we go… not to leave us or give up on us.

Strength and courage are paradoxical virtues. Strength is manifested through weakness. Courage is attained through fear. To be strong is to be weak in total
dependence on the true source of strength. To be brave is to overcome fear in utmost reliance on the true source of courage.

Courage comes from the root word
‘couer’ which is French for heart. The heart pumps blood to all the parts of the body – when the heart is strong, the whole body gets its source of strength and energy.

Do you know the source of strength and courage? Know the Lord, read His word, meditate on it day and night, obey it and persevere at it. Be assured that the Lord our God is with us – he will never leave us nor forsake us.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.” What Blessed Assurance! This is what it means to live life with ‘No Fear’ – to go out and ‘Just Do It’
with courage and strength.

Joshua 1
1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people,
get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.
4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so
I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their
ancestors to give them.

7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful
wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you
will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be
with you wherever you go.

When God listens

Batman vs. Superman: These 2 super heroes have caught the interest of children and adults alike.

We know they are fictional characters yet we like to watch how they save the world with their
superpowers. In the Old Testament, there was once such a super hero that did more than what these fictional
superheroes do. He commanded the sun to stand still and the moon to stop moving.

Joshua 10
12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence
of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,
as it is written in the Book of Jashar.
The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has
never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely
the Lord was fighting for Israel!

The Israelites were winning battles left and right. They defeated many kings in their journey to
take possession of the promised land. There was such a great fear and dread of them that the
Gibeonites deceived the Israelites into an alliance with them to the extent of being their slaves so
they would not be killed (Joshua 9). After this, 5 other kings in the region then gathered to
invade Gibeon. The Gibeonites called on Joshua to save them for this invasion. It was in this
battle to save the Gibeonites that Joshua asked God to have the sun and moon stand still for one
whole day while they fought the battle.

God promised Joshua that He would be with him and encouraged Joshua to strong and
courageous. This promise was realized in that they won battles after battles – Jericho, Ai, such
that people in the land were very afraid of this small group of people.

Joshua was called to be the leader after Moses died. He did not have any soldier experience
before he took on the task. He was Moses’ assistant. He held Moses’ arm so they would win the
battle (Exodus 17).

The Gibeonites were clever to ally with the Israelites. They were saved from being annihilated
by the Israelites. They got themselves a strong defender when they were under attack.

iIn life, we want to be on winning side, don’t we? It is assuring to be on the winning side. The
Gibeonites had a good ally in the Israelites under Joshua. Joshua had a good ally in the warrior-
redeemer God – who promised to win battles for them.

Joshua 10:14 is such powerful and
assuring statement – There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord
listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

When the Lord listened to a human being… this phrase is more than just a miracle story in the Bible. That the Lord listened to a human being is a continuing
event in human history. The question is more of “Does man call on the Lord to listen to him. What
kind of call does a human being make to the Lord that moves Him to listen like never before? Is
it one that call on Him to do the seemingly impossible? that even the sun and the moon stop its
natural course? Miracles in life are more than the big bang and amazing wonders that thunder
and blind the eyes. Miracles in life are seen and experienced when man open his heart to have a relationship with his amazing and loving Creator who seeks to save and do wonders in his life.

Do I see God as fighting for me? Or am I fighting it alone? Do I call on him and let him do the impossible?

When God listens, even the sun and the moon stop in their courses!

 

 

The Good Old Days

When life is hard and you’re down in the pit, how do you cope? When all you have is taken from you, when you are not in the best of health, when ‘friends’ mock you, when you wish you were not born or hope for death sooner, what do you do?

I’ve been reading Job the past week. His first response when he lost everything was praise (Job 1:21) He went through a week of silence (2:13), then he had lots of conversations with his friends. Before that he had a short conversation with his wife: You’re foolish. Should we only accept the good from God and not the bad? (2:10)

He also had lots of one-sided conversations with God. God did not reply him until chapter 38. It must be difficult to hear nothing from God and all condemnation/justification from his friends on why he’s suffering.

Job coped with having lots of self-reflections as well. He spoke out his thoughts to his friends even though they were not good counsellors at all. He told them: you’re all sorry comforters. What a comfort you are to me. (16:1-2, 19:1-2)

Today I read chapter 29. Job thought of his better days. He recalled the good old days when God blessed him with good things, when friends and family were with him. He remembered the good things he did, how he helped people. He reminisced how he was treated by people all around him – how their favours were upon him.

I believe this is one good way to cope when one is in the valley of the shadow of death. When I was deeply in despair, when all seemed dark and grey, it helped me cope to remember the past when God saw me through. It helped me to focus on God’s faithfulness – that He always comes through for me. It is good to look back and remember.

Dear friend, when the way is dark and the tunnel seems long and unending, when you cannot see what is ahead, it is good to look back – to remember there is a Light behind you. Jesus said I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8:12). It does not mean that we will not experience hard times, but it is an assurance that we will find our way when we get lost. Jesus shows us the way to go through dark times.

 

The Runaway

What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jonah? swallowed by a big fish – you r right! Jonah was one of the more popular and well-known, well-read, well-taught stories of OT. Despite being familiar, some truths stand out in his story.  Read Jonah 1

1) Just like the other prophets of old, God called Jonah to prophesy and warn sinful people. But unlike the others, he ran in the opposite direction.

2) Why did he run away from God? No, it was not because he thought the Ninevites would not listen. Read Jonah 4:1-3

3) It’s interesting to note that Jonah thought he could run away from God.

4) It’s even more amazing that after he did, and God went after him, (amidst a great storm) Jonah was able to sleep soundly. 1:4-6 This really made me think: how ironic that one running away from God could sleep so well. or rather, how gracious and merciful God was to Jonah.

5) The interview: the people on the boat asked Jonah who he was. He answered in just 2 sentences:“I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 1:8-9 Jonah knew who he is and he knew who God is. He also knew what he’s to do with God: worship. Seems ironic that he’s running away from the God he worshipped.

People asked him what to do?

6) Jonah’s response: throw me into the sea! What a character! Sleep soundly while running away from God. Face consequence bravely when confronted by God.

7) The other people in the boat: I’m surprised at the responses of these people in the face of danger: a people who did not know Jonah’s God, yet these people believed that God caused the storm. They tried their best to save themselves avoiding to throw Jonah out. They even asked God not to count it against them that they were killing an ‘innocent’ man. v.10-11,13-16

Two kinds of fear:

v.10 terrifying fear: they were terrified about God’s wrath – the God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land. This fear of the power and wrath of the Creator God… This fear had them trying their best to save themselves.

v.16 great fear: they were in awe of God’s mercy – the same God who heard and answered their prayers.( v.14) The God who made the sea calmed the raging sea after they obeyed. (v.15) This fear had them offered sacrifice and made vows to God.

Application:

1) Whom God calls, He pursues patiently, mercifully.

2) I can not run away from God.

3) It’s one thing to know who I am, who God is and quite another to obey God’s call. Do I not often know what I need to do yet I do the opposite.

4) What kind of fear do I have for God? terrifying fear or sacrificing fear?

running