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

The Power of the Tongue

a-proverb-is-to-speech-what-salt-is-to-food-quote-1.jpg

 

Input / Output: who the person is and what he speaks

Pro 5:3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil, (smoothness/flattery)

Pro 10:13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.

Pro 10:14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.

Pro 10:18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
and whoever utters slander is a fool.

Pro 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense.

Pro 10:31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off.

Pro 10:32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
but the mouth of the wicked what is perverse.

Pro 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Pro 11:9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

Pro 12:6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them.

Pro 12:13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
but the righteous escapes from trouble.

Pro 13:5 The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.

Pro 15:2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

Pro 15:26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,but gracious words are pure.

Pro 16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the  Lord.

Pro 16:10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.

Pro16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

Pro 16:23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.

Pro 16:27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.

Pro 17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.

Pro 17:7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince. (a fool or a prince)

Pro 17:20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.

Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips walk into a fight,and his mouth invites a beating.

Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin,and his lips are a snare to his soul.

Pro 18:8 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Pro 19:28 A worthless witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

The Person & his Pulse: where words come from

Out of the heart comes words. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The kind of person defines the kind of speech. A wise person says wise words, a foolish one speaks folly. A righteous person speaks truth, what is good and right while a wicked person tells lies and evil. Love and hatred motivate the speech (Pro 17:9, 26:24, 26:28). The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Pro 15:28). Ultimately, the right word comes from the Lord (Pro 16:1). So the ‘godless’ person (the one who does not know God, one who disobeys God) speaks evil, falsehood, slander, gossip, flattery and words that harm and lead to strife, discord and death.

Process – how word is spoken

Pro 7:21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him. (smooth, seduction, persuasion)

Pro 10:19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (self-control, prudence)

Pro 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (prudence, life/ruin)

Pro 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Pro 15:28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

Pro 17:27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding

Pro 17:28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (self-control)

Pro 18:13 If one gives an answer before he hears,it is his folly and shame.

Pro 21:23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (self-control)

Pro 25:15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
and a soft tongue will break a bone. (patience, gentleness)

Pro 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

free

How, where and when words are spoken…

Prudence, discretion, self-control, gentleness, kindness and timeliness are important virtues associated with words of wisdom and goodness. How words are uttered is just as important as what words are spoken. Prudence means giving ‘careful’ thought to what should be said or not, when to speak and how to speak. It is to ponder, to guard, to restrain. Discretion is being careful about keeping secret what should not be revealed to avoid offense and discord. Words spoken in gentleness and kindness bring comfort and healing. Soft answer turns away wrath while harsh words stir up anger (15:1). Timely words are important as well – befitting the setting and occasion as needed by the listeners (12:25, 15:23). There are many proverbs dealing with the folly of speaking rashly, babbling without thought – they often result in strife, anger, and bad consequences leading to pain and death. Listen first before speaking.

Product: the fruits of words

Pro 6:16-17,19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a false witness who breathes out lies,and one who sows discord among brothers.

Pro 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Pro 11:11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.

Pro 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Pro 12:19 Truthful lips endure forever,
but a lying tongue is but for a moment. (truth, eternal/temporal)

Pro 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Pro 13:2 From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.

Pro 15:4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (gentleness, life, brokenness)

Pro 15:23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!

Pro 16:13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right. (delight, love)

Pro 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Pro 17:20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity. (dishonesty, calamity)

Pro 18:6 A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating. (talk that leads to quarrel)

Pro 18:7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul. (ruin, snare/trap)

Pro 18:20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. (words – nourish and edifies)

Pro 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits. (death vs life/fruitful)

Pro 21:6 The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. (death, temporal)

Pro 22:11 He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend. (king’s friend)

Pro 22:12 The eyes of the  Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor. (protection/rejection of God)

Pro 23:16 My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.

Pro 25:23 The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks. (gossip)

What is the result of good or bad speech?

Wise words bring life, healing, restoration and gladness of heart. A person prudent in speech is a delight to the Lord and makes his father glad. He is considered the friend of the king. The king administers justice through his words. Many metaphors are given for good words: choice silver, gold, abundance of costly stones, jewels, apples of gold in setting of silver, honeycomb, bubbling brooks, tree of life, fountain of life, and deep water. The benefits of wise words are eternal while those of foolishness are temporal. Lies and falsehood are abomination to the Lord, things which He hates. Flatteries are associated with the adulteress or the prostitutes to cause harm to those who listen. Bad speech is like sword thrusts, glaze covering an earthen vessel, a snare and a deep pit – bringing pain, ruin, the rod/beatings and downfall to the speaker. Gossip, slander and lies cause quarrel, strife and violence. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Pro 18:21). Good diplomacy saves a city. A person’s speech affects the whole community.

761350-words-are-powerful-they-can-create-or-they-can-destroy-so-choose-your-words-wisely-quote-1

Purpose – why speak and why not speak

Pro 28:23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
than he who flatters with his tongue.

Pro 20:19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Pro 24:26 Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.

Pro 24:28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Pro 27:2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.

Pro 30:32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.

Pro 31:8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.

Pro 31:9 Open your mouth judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Pro 31:26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Why speak and why not speak

We are not to speak our own praise. Let other people say good things about you (Pro 27:2). The wise does not open his mouth with the fools (Pro 24:7). It is useless to argue with the foolish person. Personally, Agur prayed for two things (in the negative aspect): 1) falsehood and lying be removed from his lips 2) neither poverty nor riches be given him. It is interesting to note that he associated the two pairs. Indeed how often do poverty and wealth affect a man’s integrity (20:17). He explained it clearly in 30:9 – denial of God in riches and deceit against man in poverty. Both are speeches we should refrain from. We are not to slander or bear false witness against our neighbor. Proverbs 30:32 tells us to put our hand on our mouth for 3 things: being foolish, exalting self, and scheming evil. In the society, King Lemuel is taught to open his mouth for the mute, the destitute, the poor and needy. In his words, he is to judge righteously (31:8-9). On the flip side, it implies that he is to rebuke and correct those who are oppressing these marginalized people. In the home, the virtuous wife opens her mouth in wisdom and teaching of kindness. She not only models good deeds but also speaks good teachings. The goal of our speech is to edify people and glorify God.

Metaphors

Pro 10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

Pro 10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
the heart of the wicked is of little worth.

Pro 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Pro 18:4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

Pro 20:15 There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. (precious jewel)

Pro 20:17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.

Pro 22:14 The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the  Lord is angry will fall into it.

Pro 25:11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.

Pro 26:7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

Pro 26:9 Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

Pro 26:22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Pro 26:23 Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart. (passionate evil: easily chipped off)

Application: To speak or not to speak

What words are we to speak? Wisdom, knowledge, truth, teaching of kindness, good words, gracious words, and words that bring healing, comfort, gladness and life. How are we to speak them? We should ponder, guard and restrain. We need to exercise discretion, prudence and self-control. Rash words cannot be taken back. They are often spoken without thought but their hurts last a lifetime. It is said that the fool’s lips walk into a fight and his mouth invites beating (18:6). How true that it often feels good to pour out words like delicious morsels that go into the inner parts of the body – but the aftermath and side effects are far from delightful! Silence is golden indeed.

This applies to communication between husband and wife. I have learned many painful lessons for not biting my tongue. I have also experienced God’s vindication in my restraint. The art of speech is more than speaking. It is more of listening. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (18:13) It is a snare to be listening with the intention of preparing for an answer – the right answer to defend myself… or even the appropriate response to point out how wrong the other person is. In listening, I need to ponder – not be so defensive, then I can guard and restrain myself from saying rash words. After attentive silence, comes careful consideration what to say and how to say it. Perhaps, still say nothing. Perhaps, take it up when both heads are cooler. The right answer is from the Lord so I ask Him for it. The right time is also from the Lord. Lord, grant me wisdom to discern, to be prudent.

In relation to our study of the prophets, there is a need today to speak not only words of comfort, grace and mercy, but also of rebuke, justice and righteousness. It applies to parent-child, pastor-member, teacher-disciple, friend-friend relationships. We are often superficial in our speech. We say ‘good’ ‘pleasing’ words (sometimes flattery) to gain favor and promote easier working relationship. We are hesitant to offend. We do not want to be the ‘bad guy.’ It is better to stay silent and maintain the status quo. Why rock the boat when the sailing is smooth? Proverbs 28:23: Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. There is a need to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves: the mute, the destitute, the poor and the needy. The reality of the church today is that the rich and powerful has the more say. Their voices are louder. They fund the projects and their presence represents a ‘good’ image that all is well. Pastors who know how to relate to the influential elders and deacons, leaders of the church last longer. In the school, similar politics apply. Leaders who cannot accept and/or unable to change the status quo, leave for lack of support and for personal conviction and stand.

Such is the paradox of the wisdom of speech: to be silent in the noise and to speak in the quiet. In the final analysis, it is about the heart – a humble heart that defers to the other person; a servant heart that seeks the welfare of others rather than his own, a heart that seeks answer from the Lord.

 

 

Tips on Reading the Bible

Why read the Bible? When to read? How to read?

I once heard a speaker at a theological forum teaching a Psalm of lament. A lament is a passionate expression of sorrow or grief. The psalmist set an example on how he coped with his sadness – complaining and crying out to God.

The speaker shared one striking truth: the biblical principles of living life in stride and coping with adversity are better read and remembered during good times. Why? Because taking vitamins is most useful when one is healthy. Eating healthy and keeping healthy are means recovering better when one gets sick.

Do we read labels of cough medicine when we are not coughing? That is how we sometimes treat the Bible – is it not? We open it when we are seeking for answers; we scan the pages for comfort and encouragement when we are in despair, worried and at the end of our ropes.

While it is good to read God’s word for comfort, encouragement and assurance in difficult times, it is so much better to discover Biblical truths on a moment to moment, day by day, bit by bit, step by step basis. Many of us remember Bible verses we learned as a child – and these verses became our weapons against the enemy’s lies. The daily intake of vitamins helps to immunise the body against illnesses – fighting off bacteria and viruses – a reality all around us. Healthy diet, exercise and enough sleep do not of themselves prevent us from getting sick. But we will have a better chance to recover and heal when we keep healthy habits.

So with reading the Bible… knowing, memorising and applying God’s word do not guarantee a problem-free life. The evils of this physical world are a reality we cannot avoid. But when we put our time to reading, remembering and living out God’s truths in the trivial details of daily life, we have a better chance of standing firm when the storms come. Practice makes perfect.

An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. God’s Word is more than just defensive weapon against trials of life – it is an offensive artillery to triumph in life.

Tips on reading the Bible:

1) Regularise – fixed time and place everyday. Just as we eat our meals regularly to stay healthy, we need to read regularly to stay fit spiritually.

2) Right size (downsize then upsize) – Start small.  Read short passages regularly. It is much better than long passages once in awhile. Same applies in our eating habits – it’s much better to have many small meals in a day than few big meals in one go.

well fed.jpg

3) Personalise – put your name into passages of prayers and verses of assurance. Borrow words of the psalmists to pray as your own prayer. Put yourself in the shoes of Biblical characters – think how they think, feel how they feel. Learn from their mistakes. Discover how they win their battles.

Francis-Bacon-Christian-Quote-Reflecting

4) Memorise – store precious nuggets of your readings – take away into the rest of the day what you read by memorising verses. You will be amazed at how these verses come to mind at just the right place and time to encourage, to comfort and to calm your fears.

5) Internalise – apply God’s word into the small details of your daily living until it becomes a part of you.

transformation

Last but not the least, JUST DO IT!  Start reading.

The Dilemma of Pilate

I’ve read of the trial of Jesus many times. This morning, a sentence caught my attention: Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid… John 19:8
Pilate was afraid? Why? Wasn’t he the one with position and authority? What happened to make him even more afraid?
 
Pilate was the prefect/magistrate like a governor or leader in the administrative region of Judea when it was under Roman rule of Emperor Tiberius. He was responsible for the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. He washed his hands to show that he’s not taking responsibility when the Jewish leaders demanded that Jesus be crucified. He tried again and again to let Jesus go free because he could not find anything wrong with him worthy of death. Pilate told the Jewish leaders to go judge Jesus themselves (18:31). Pilate questioned Jesus many times about who he was, what he did.
 
I discovered a different kind of questioning. Here is the transcript of the interrogation:
 
Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?
 
Pilate asked all these questions yet seemed to have found no answer to all of them. Jesus’ replies seemed to lead him nowhere to the answers that he’s looking for. Instead of a yes or no, Jesus answered his question with another question: How did you know that I’m king of the Jews?
What did you do that your “nation” (your people) and chief priests wanted to kill you? Jesus answered Pilate about ‘his kingdom’ being not like the one in the world – from a different place? Jesus reasoned that his kingdom is different because he had no servant fighting to stop him from being killed. Implication of this? I am a different kind of king.
So you are a king then? Jesus then went on to state his position: king, and purpose: to testify to the truth. His people or his audience? What kind of people does his kingdom have? Those who know the truth, belong to the truth… those who hear His voice.
What is truth?  Another question with no answer…
After this Pilate went out to the people with a verdict. Not guilty! So what now? He asked: But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?” (18:39)
No, Crucify Him! Again, Pilate said:Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.” Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate *said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate *said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him. The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.”
Son of God… was this the statement that made Pilate even more afraid. Or was he afraid of the Jews?  Pilate’s next question for Jesus: Where are you from? No answer.
Don’t you know that I have authority to release you or to crucify you? (19:10)
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” 
Jesus is saying to Pilate: Your authority is not from you but from above. I am here because someone with a greater authority allowed this to happen.
As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”
What a dilemma indeed! Pilate was afraid of Jesus or of the crowd? He must be thinking what if Jesus is the Son of God… what if He is really the King of the Jews. In the end, Pilate handed Jesus over to the crowd. He wrote on the inscription: Jesus, the Nazarene, the King of the Jews. When the people told him to change it, his final stand: What I have written, I have written.
And so Jesus was crucified.
All these questions … and what answers did Pilate get? Did he get any? What answers was he looking for? Not guilty – that’s one thing for sure. Yet, that did not prevent him from handing over Jesus to be crucified. He did wash his hands of the act.  As if to absolve himself of the ‘mistake’ in case Jesus was really the Son of God?
What is in it for me today? What has Pilate’s dilemma got to do with me? What is truth? Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Am I of the truth? Do I hear the voice of Jesus? Or do I hear the voice of the crowd? Whose voice is louder? The cry of the many or the whisper of One?
Are you afraid? What makes you even more afraid? Many things in the world can be worrisome. Uncertainties, fear of the unknown, regrets – anxieties from the past… It is a reality of life. Fears and anxieties of the world… health issues, financial concerns, broken relationships, evil happening all around… what to do… how to overcome? What is truth, what is not?
Jesus came into the world to testify to the truth. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Know Jesus and know the way to the truth and the life – life abundant, life eternal that is here on earth as it is in heaven.
One simple truth I know – one truth that gives me hope and purpose as I live each day: God loves me. He sent Jesus to die for my sins so that when I believe and accept Jesus as my Saviour, I have eternal life. Eternal life – life that does not end in death… life that is free from fear, life with hope in the future… life with a purpose. What is my purpose?
God puts me on earth to show forth his glory, to testify to His grace and mercy. No dilemma for me – to be on God’s side… to know that Jesus is the Son of God.. to experience the Truth!  You can too, my friend.
john-3.16-kjv-clouds

How Jesus Prayed for His Disciples..

I’ve noticed that people often ask pastors or spiritual leaders to pray for them… especially for important concerns and issues in their lives. It seems that there is more power in the prayers of these ‘spiritual’ giants, isn’t it? Perhaps we feel that they know how to pray better. Maybe, their prayers are more effective?

What is the basis for effective prayers? Is it about the ‘pray-er’? Or is it about the content of the prayer? Or is it about the object of prayer – to whom the prayer is addressed? for whom the prayer is about?

Jesus prayed for his disciples too. At the crucial period in his ministry with his disciples, just before he was to go the way of the cross, Jesus uttered out loud words of intercession for his disciples. It was Jesus’ way of assuring his disciples. He modelled for us why it is so important to pray and what to pray for.

How did He pray for them? Read John 17. The Ins and Outs of His prayer:

1) For whom did Jesus pray? His disciples – these are men given by the Father to Him:

57be50aa630741668f4d8b78b015f604.jpg

1.1. ‘out’ of the world (v.6) – Jesus chose and called them out of the world – from their different profession/position in life. They were fishermen, tax collector before they met Jesus. They were called to be fishers of men – to follow Jesus.

1.2. ‘in’ the world (v 11) – Even as they were called ‘out’ of the world, they still lived ‘in’ the world. It is a world of sin, of discord and disunity. Jesus saw the importance of asking for God to protect them as they lived ‘in’ the world.

1.3. ‘not of’ the world (v.14) – Jesus asked for God’s Word to protect his disciples because even as they were in the world, they were ‘not of’ the world. It’s like being in a place where they did not belong. They were to be different from the world – to stand out of the world.

2) Pray for what? How did Jesus pray for them?
2.1. In Your Name: 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me.

John_17_11_Jesus_Quote

God’s Name: We are children of our Father. His Name binds us together to be as one. His name signifies our status and our rights and privileges to all His resources. While in the world, we are children bearing God’s name – we pray in God’s name to be united in God’s name even as we are in the world.

2.2. In Your Truth: God’s Word is truth. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

17.14

God’s Word: How do we cope with living in the world and not of the world – by God’s truth – His Word sanctifies us and enables us to live a victorious life. His Word in us keeps us from the evil one. God’s Word keeps us and shows us how to be in the world and ‘not of’ the world. God’s Word is our weapon to fight the evil one. Reading the Bible keeps us from sinning if we obey what it says.

2.3. In Your Love: 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the LOVE with which YOU loved Me may be IN them, and I in them.”

17.23

God’s Love motivates us to love one another and be united in His name. Love connects the Father to the Son. Love connects the Son to His followers. Love connects us all together.

Brothers and sisters, let us be encouraged that in the world we have tribulation, but Jesus prays for us – We are kept safe in God’s Name, united and strengthened in God’s Name. We are sanctified in God’s Truth – God’s Word. And we are supported and held together in God’s Love!

Stand Firm, Stand Strong!

0845a0072aa4a5ccf2f73b6b3af8cfb0

Many years ago, a friend gave me this verse to encourage me to persevere in my ministry. What has resurrection to do with my ministry? Paul spent the whole of this chapter talking about resurrection: resurrection of Christ (1-11), resurrection of the dead (12-34), and the resurrection body (35-58).

In these 3 sections, why did Paul end with v. 58? He exhorted the believers to stand firm. Standing firm means not be swayed by the world. To be firm is to be immovable and not be led away from your current position. In this fast changing world of moral decay, how do I stand firm? How do I remain ‘faith’ful to my beliefs and not be influenced by the world? How do I hold on to what is right and stay away from what is wrong? White is white and black is black. In the world of ambiguity and relativity, how do I stand firmly with the right, on what’s right? 3 things to be aware of to help us stand:

1) Assurance: The basis or foundation of my faith is Jesus Christ. Paul expounds and recounts the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus appeared to many people after He rose again from the dead. Lastly, He appeared to Paul on the road of Damascus. Paul ended the section with an important truth: v.10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

2.png

Indeed my whole person – who I am, what I am, what I do, what I say are all by the grace of God. My ministry is by the grace of God. My ministry has an effect because his grace to me was not without effect. Whatever hard work I do, still by the grace of God that was with me. Even to believe in the work of Jesus alone is by the grace of God.

2) Warning: Paul then argued on the resurrection of the dead. Some people doubted the reality of the resurrection. Apparently, the Corinthians were being misled on the validity of the resurrection. So Paul exhorted the believers.

3.jpg

To stand firm in the world is to not be misled by the world. Let us discern wisely the good and the bad. Let us not be fooled by the ‘wisdom’ of the world. Let us diligently study the word of God to help us know the truth, understand the truth and distinguish the truth from the false. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and guide, our counsellor to show us – which way to go, who to befriend and let the good friends influence us for good. Good company corrects bad character. Let us be careful who we allow to influence our thoughts, our speech and our deeds.

3) Hope: Paul described in the 3rd section the resurrection body. Paul shared a secret (a mystery) to encourage the believers:

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

4

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

5

We have hope that at the end of life on earth is resurrection of our body – the imperishable immortal body that overcomes death! Victory over death because Jesus conquered death with His resurrection.

On this hope we do not give up to devote ourselves to doing the work ‘OF’ the Lord – not ‘for’ the Lord as if it’s our work but the work that God wants us to do. Let us not be discouraged and give up because whatever we do for the Lord is not in vain. It is never for nothing even when it seems to be for nothing because we do not see the fruit of our labor.

Let us stand firm because Jesus is our foundation for ministry. With His resurrection He has conquered the ultimate enemy – Death! By the grace of God – I am what I am, His grace is not without effect on me.

Let us stand firm and not be misled because bad company corrupts good character. Beware of bad influence in the world. Let us stop sinning and come back to our sense. v.34

Let us stand firm because one day we will sing ‘Where, o death is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?” We celebrate our triumph over sin, over our perishable mortally sinful body because the Lord Jesus Christ lives!

il_340x270.1388534357_1io6

To Hide or to be in the Light?

I often had to think again what I post on FB. There is a tendency to share with friends even petty trivial stuff which on 2nd thought, better not. Why? Because it’s not relevant to them? because it’s too petty? because it reveals too much of myself? because it seems too self-absorbed? because it does not do the readers any good? because it causes ‘away’ (argument) or creates disputes?

What started me writing this piece is because I’m thinking of the issues I’ve written above: to share or not to share… to be known or to be anonymous. It started when I decided to share my water dispenser with the people keeping vigil and fasting in front of the Supreme Court. It ended when my prof shared my sharing with the group.

When I read about the people who volunteered to start the fasting vigil, when I see how many were called to join the cause, when I know the extent they are willing to get involved no matter the cause, I said sharing my water dispenser is the least I can do. And so I emailed my prof privately to let her know that I “can’t” be present physically but my spirit is with them. It is easy to say I am praying for them and will pray for them. It is also not complicated to say I will fast with them (though not easy for me .. 😜) It is not too comfortable for me though to share my sharing with the public. It reveals my stand with the present political issues of our country. It might seem I’m not giving 100% to what I stand for – I’m not fasting nor am I standing out with the group.

All these thoughts made me think about two seemingly contradictory passages in the Bible – whether to go into the inner room or to let others see.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:3)

Matthew 6.2-4

OR

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:16)

I remember I once heard an elder in our church shared his thoughts on this. He put his name on the tithing envelop and let his name be ‘revealed’ on the church bulletin to be accountable to his fellow members and to encourage them to also give. I admired him for his noble insight. And this principle has guided me in my giving as well.

In the passage in Matthew 6, Jesus started the sermon with “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” (v.1a) At the heart of giving is the heart in giving. What is my motivation when I give? It is not even about “If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (v.1b) and neither about “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (6:4)

What is it about then? 5:16b That others may see the good deeds and glorify God in heaven.

That others may be encouraged to do good, to share what they have, that others may be emboldened to step out of their comfort zone – to do what they can, that people will honour and give glory to God.. these are all causes for us to be in the Light and to shine our light.

At the worship service this past Sunday, the closing hymn moved me to tears. Make me a blessing, out of my life, may Jesus Shine. As I pray for a heart desire to write my 2nd book, this song touched me.

1 Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad;
are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing,
Out of my life
out of my life
May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
I pray Thee, my Savior,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

2 Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
His pow’r to forgive.
Others will trust Him if only you prove
true ev’ry moment you live.

3 Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.

To hide or to be in the light? Let me hide behind Jesus and shine for Jesus. Out of my life, may Jesus shine!

matthew-516-quote