Sunday, 27 July 2014

Persecution (John 15:18-25)

Hello All,
How far would you go to remain faithful to your loved ones?
Would you only love them when things are smooth sailing and forsake them in the storm?
How far would you go to remain faithful to God?
Would you only love Him in favourable times and deny Him in the face of persecution?

Persecution (John 15:18-25)
(Anonymous, Year 2012)

If the world hates you, remember it first hated me,
If you did, it would love you as its own easily,
You're not the world's property, for you I have chosen,
That is why towards you it displays its resentment.

The words I have spoken to you please, remember,
Never is a servant greater than his master,
 If they mistreat me, they will mistreat you,
If they obeyed me, they'll obey you too.

They'll treat you in this manner because of my name,
For it's clear they know not the One from whom I came.

My coming and speaking to them has made them guilty,
For now, they have no excuse for their iniquity,
If I had not worked wonders never before seen,
Then they would never have been found guilty of sin.

But now although these miracles they have beheld,
They have hated both me and my Father as well,
But this is to fulfill what's written in their Law,
"They hated me without any reason at all"
When he comes, the promised helper:
He whom I'll send from the Father;
When the Spirit of truth's received:
He who from the Father proceeds;

He then to me shall bear witness,
Bearing witness, he'll me confess.
And you witness likewise will bear,
For from the start, you have been there.

Points for Reflection:
 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus Christ] before it hated you.
(John 15:18)
·         As Christians, we should not be shocked at persecutions for our faith.
·         Christians from different walks of life will face persecutions at varying levels and intensity.
·         There may be some of us who face ridicule from our fellow friends or colleagues each time we do not subscribe to their priorities and lifestyle. Our refusal to compromise our moral integrity in our workplace and personal lives may raise the eyebrows of those who are too polite to voice their disapproval.
·         As followers of Christ, are we tempted to blend in with the crowd to avoid being ridiculed or regarded as ‘out of place’? In what ways have you been compromising in your faith? Do people look and you and say, ‘Well, he is not much different from us after all, although he claims to be a Christian. He is just like one of us.’? How could you learn to submit to Christ even when doing so would entail mockery?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(1 John 2:15)
·         Persecution is raised a step higher for those of us who suffer rejection from our family for believing in Jesus. The intensity of persecution would vary from cold shoulder treatments and verbal abuse to being disowned by our loved ones. But Jesus promises that those of us who have lost the favour of our family for Him will find comfort in Him and in our new family in Christ.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
(Mark 10:29-30)
·         Are you being persecuted by your own flesh and blood for trusting in Christ? Find comfort in the love of Christ for He understands how you feel. He himself was once rejected by his own people. If you are tempted to turn away from Christ, I plead with you not to do so but keep your eyes focused on the eternal hope that you have in Christ. Do not trade heaven for the temporary and fleeting things of this world.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.  
(Matthew 19:29)
·         Do you know of fellow Christians who have been rejected by their family for their faith? Are you supporting and loving them as your family in Christ? Or are you indifferent to their needs? Are you too absorbed in your own world to care about your brother in Christ who is direly in need of your time and prayer? Remember that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ because God first loved us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35)
·         There are some of us who are even being persecuted at a national level. Legislations are passed in disfavour of those who seek to follow Christ. Violence and threats are hurled against the Church, the body of Christ. There are two extreme ways to react – one is to respond in anger towards those persecutors and the other is to be indifferent and mind our own business. Neither of those ways is right. We should be calm, respond in love, awake from our slumber and pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are under direct fire. Keeping a low profile as a Christian is the surest way to spiritual suicide.
·         How are you reacting to persecution against Christians at a national level? In anger or in love? In apathy or in genuine concern? In selfishness or in selflessness? If it boils down to it, would you stand firm for Christ in the face of persecution, even it claims your very life?
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my [Jesus’] sake will find it.

(Matthew 10:39)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice

Hello All,
As you read the news each day, do you boil with anger at the blatant injustice displayed by corrupt authorities and wicked men?
Do you long for justice and equality in the country we live in?
Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (17th January 2014)

‘That's not fair!' we often hear the indignant cry
Of the oppressed who see vile, wicked men get by
With their corrupted ways, malicious schemes and crimes
The court of law turns a blind eye time after time

I saw a man of high standing trialed for murder
He killed heartlessly at a higher man's order
With evidences against him, he was set free
One rose to power, the other escaped penalty

'Where is justice?!' Our cry for fairness goes unheard
Our hope for a fair government is just absurd
For power and wealth blind those in authority
The plight of the downtrodden, they refuse to see

Our quest for justice ends at the throne of our LORD
Who will bring judgment on the wicked with his sword
In His Eternal Kingdom, true justice is found
It is a Kingdom where love, peace and joy abound

Points for Reflection:
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1)
·         Injustice is sadly an evident part of the world we live in. Those who have the authority to administer justice, more often than not, misuse their power for selfish gains.
·         There is no doubt a minority of leaders who are fair and just in their reign but they are as rare as hen’s teeth. But even the noblest of all leaders is not infallible for he has shortcomings like you and me. There would have been instances when he did not administer justice perfectly.
·         How do you feel when you see the oppressions of the oppressed by powerful oppressors? Do you feel indignant and angry at leaders who prosper at the expense of their citizens? Are you cynical and unforgiving towards them?

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:17)
·         The wicked will not go unpunished for God will judge them, if not in this life (which the book of Ecclesiastes refers to as, ‘life under the sun’), then in the life to come. Even though they may have evaded the enforcement of earthly laws for their crimes, they will never escape God’s hand of judgment.
·         How could you learn to trust God even in the face of unfair treatment by corrupt leaders? Pray that God will enable you to cultivate patience and a forgiving spirit even for such undeserving leaders.
·         However, all men, both the good and the wicked will have to give an account to God on judgment day for every single sinful thought, speech or action. The only way anyone can be acquitted from God’s judgment is through faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a substitute for sinners like us.
·         Would you receive this gift of salvation offered to you by Jesus Christ, the perfect and just King? It is only in His Kingdom that you will find true justice.

·         Perfect justice does not reside in life under the sun but it lies secured under the Kingship of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle

Hello All,
‘Let us break out from the routine of life and live life to the fullest!’ You may have heard aspiring idealists utter this phrase before.
No matter how hard one would endeavour to break out from mundane routines, no one can ever escape the meaningless cycle of life. You were born into this world, you try your best to survive, you grow old and then you die.
Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (14th Jan 2014)

I awoke one morning and remained on my bed
It was yet another dawn of the day ahead
The metal cog in the wheel must not cease turning
Just as the sun shall not miss a day of rising

I arose to attend to my chores and duties
The eye is never satisfied with what it sees
The hands find little fulfillment in their labour
The heart discovers little that it can savour

'You should be more thankful,' my mind whispers to me
'You're not starving like those entrenched in poverty
Life has been kind to you, why are you unhappy?
Why do you wallow in sadness and misery?'

But my heart beats in rhythm with the vain cycle
Of a meaningless world with its empty people
Where happiness is short-lived and sorrows abound
Can the true meaning of this life ever be found?

The thirst of dreams and desires remains unquenched
Disappointments and wounds leave their unpleasant stench
'Why give me desires without their fulfillment?
Why give me mere dreams without their accomplishment?'

Well, a wise man once said, 'If there remains in me
A desire that cannot be quenched by worldly
Things; This means that I was made for another world'
Within God's Word, the meaning of life is unfurled

We are but weary pilgrims sojourning the earth
Who can look forward to life of eternal worth
After death, we shall see Jesus Christ face to face
And find such boundless joy which nothing can erase

Points for Reflection:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
·         Our world boasts of new inventions and advancement in technology. It promotes new products which serve to enhance beauty, intellect and the comforts of life.
·         But if we were to take a step back and observe those so called ‘new discoveries’, we will find that they are not new at all but are just innovations of old things in history.
·         We place such great confidence in such ‘ground-breaking’ progresses which has not made the world a better place but it has instead generated a competitive culture of selfishness, individualism, strife, animosity and even violence.
·         Have you been placing your confidence in technological advancement and ‘ground-breaking’ progresses over God? Remember that it is God who created men with the ability to invent things from materials created by God.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
(Psalm 20:7)

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
(Ecclesiastes 1:8)
·         Many of us (on a good day) would have the impression that the writer of Ecclesiastes composed his book on a very bad day. We might feel like patting him on the back and saying to him, ‘Hey, cheer up! Life is not that bad… Look at the bright side of life. You are far too pessimistic!’
·         We strive to suppress the void in our hearts by rewarding ourselves with pleasures, relationships and achievements to gain our self worth. ‘This is what life is all about,’ we tell ourselves as we place the object of our hopes in finite things. But as much as we would try to deny it, those things have never satisfied us the way we have expected them to.
·         There are times when the emptiness of life would hit us very hard. It could be just an ordinary mundane day which turns like a cog in a wheel - a meaningless cycle. You wake up, work, do your chores, socialize, relax and retire to bed. Even if you were rich enough and did not need to work, your life of leisure would be just another meaningless routine – luxurious vacations and enjoyments of life tend to lose their potency if you have too much of them.
·         Is the weight of life’s emptiness resting heavily upon your heart? Do you ever wonder, ‘What is the point of life? What am I actually living for? Why am I not satisfied? Why do disappointments and emotional hurts leave scars in my heart? Why is happiness short-lived and why do sorrows abound?
·         In his book entitled, ‘Mere Christianity’, C. S. Lewis said, ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’
·         Mankind has chosen to reject God, the source of life’s meaning, and that is why our fallen, sinful world is full of suffering and emptiness. We were made to be in a loving relationship with our Creator, whom we have often neglected and even ignored. We were made for another world – God’s kingdom, heaven itself. While we are living on this earth, we will face many trials but we can draw strength and comfort from our God who helps us to keep our eyes fixed on the precious hope of eternal life offered to those who trust in Christ.
·         What is keeping you from finding true hope and satisfaction in Jesus Christ? Do not turn to anything else in the world but look to Jesus for life’s true meaning.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
(Romans 15:13)

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Wisdom and Folly

Hello All,
King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, was the wisest man that ever lived.
In the course of writing this book, he noted down his observations and thoughts on wisdom and folly.
God had given him unparalleled wisdom to rule the kingdom of Israel and yet he acknowledged the limitations of his wisdom.

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Wisdom and Folly
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (28th Dec 2013)
The wise man walks steadily with light on his path
He is cautious in his dealings and avoids wrath
The sound counsel of others, he does not despise
He in turn offers to others his good advice

However, the foolish man lunges recklessly
Without looking at what lies ahead, he thoughtlessly
Allows his whims and fancies to steer his actions
To the changing winds, he abandons all caution

Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!
What is the meaning of wisdom? What is folly?
Death befalls both the wise as well as the foolish
Both will come to the end of their lives and perish

So the wisdom and folly of mere mortal men
Will cease to be after death and come to an end
But true wisdom has found its immortality
In Jesus, the Word and Light for humanity

Would you receive the true wisdom that Christ offers?
Or would you mock and sneer at it like the scoffers
Who dismissed and condemned him to death on the cross?
Scorn not but trust the Saviour who died for the lost

Points for Reflection:
Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.
(Ecclesiastes 7:19)
·         It is better to live wisely than foolishly on this earth. Wisdom is good for it keeps us safe.
·         A wise person is careful in handling his inheritance, unlike a foolish man who squanders his possessions. Earthly wisdom is able to preserve the life of a person while he is alive although it is unable to attain eternal life. It provides a sense of security, like money does, for life on this earth.
Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.
(Ecclesiastes 7:11-12)
·         A fool loses his temper often, making no effort to control it; but a wise person practices self-control.
Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.
(Ecclesiastes 7:9)
·         A wise person deals cautiously with people of authority, such as a king, by obeying them and not storming off in anger from their presence no matter how unreasonable they might be. However, that does not mean that we are to follow a king blindly in his evil cause although we should show them respect.
I say: Keep the king's command, because of God's oath to him. Be not hasty to go from his presence.             
(Ecclesiastes 8:2-3a)
Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he [the king] does whatever he pleases.
(Ecclesiastes 8:3b)
Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.
(Ecclesiastes 8:5)
·         True wisdom, being as wise as God is, is unattainable. No matter how wise you are, you can never fathom the depths of God’s wisdom.
All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?
(Ecclesiastes 7:23-24)
·         Have you been living wisely? Have you been prudent in the way you spend your money, relate to others and make decisions? In what areas are you lacking wisdom? How could you learn to be wiser?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
(Proverbs 9:10)
·         Earthly wisdom is temporal and it cannot save you for eternity. Yes, it is able to secure your well-being while you are living in this physical world; but it cannot save your soul.
·         True wisdom is found in God, the creator of the universe. Who are we, mere mortals, to boast of our finite wisdom and have no regard for the infinite wisdom of our Creator?
·         Have you received the true wisdom that Christ offers? Have you put your trust in his death on the cross for your sin? What is preventing you from accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour?
·         Those of us who trust in him can place our confidence in his wisdom for our salvation. Our loving God who keeps the earth spinning within its orbit without colliding with other planets will surely keep us trusting in him until we enter our heavenly abode with him. Isn’t that comforting to know? If you are feeling discouraged today, find comfort in the love and wisdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 1:18)

·         How are you tempted at times to rely on your own wisdom in making decisions instead of seeking guidance from God’s Word? Are you submitting to Christ in the way you live or do you run life your own way?