In Remembrance of Me

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It was an event referred to as `The Last Supper’, `The Lord’s Supper’, or the new covenant. It was during the last meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was betrayed, arrested, tried, beaten, scourged and crucified.

Some of the different facets of this precious moment were captured in:

  • Matthew 26: 26-28 – Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Almost similar account in Mark 14:22-24)
  • Luke 22:19-20 – And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 – For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

It is disturbing to learn that some had used the Holy Communion as a means for physical healing, health or wealth. I wonder where in this straightforward command was there any inclination or link towards physical healing, health or wealth? If we have to use the term `healing’, it would refer to our deliverance and restoration from spiritual death or decay. 

Matthew Henry had aptly explained: “Sin is not only a crime for which we were condemned to die, and which Christ purchased for us the pardon of, but it is a disease which tends directly to the death of our souls, and which Christ provided for the cure of. By his stripes, that is, the sufferings he underwent, he purchased for us the Spirit and grace of God, to mortify our corruptions, which are the distempers of our souls; and to put our souls in a good state of health, that they may be fit to serve God, and prepare to enjoy him.”

`In Remembrance of Me’ means to remember what Christ has done for us each time we partake of the Holy Communion. Period. Our personal reflection or response to this should be on our spiritual condition, such as how we have been following, obeying and doing his will in our lives.

I pray O Lord that our lives will bring glory to Your Name and thank You for giving us this freedom from sin and death so that we are able by Your mercy and grace to live in joyful obedience to Your will. Amen.

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Forgiveness

It has been a very reflective 2016 for me thus far, at times poignant. If there is a key or prominent word that keeps occurring, it would be Forgiveness. There has been many quotes from the bible about how we have received forgiveness, especially with Good Friday and Easter recently. After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, he said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47 ESV). I am ever grateful for his love and forgiveness for me but I realised it is not that simple. The other key word is repentance, without which forgiveness would not be in effect.

A big shopping mall is giving away a free gift to the first 100 customers who walk in when it opens tomorrow. Even though the gift is free, the person has to go there to get it. Of course, there will be other considerations like whether it was worth the effort and time, etc. However, it is clear that you need to go to the mall and meet the conditions to get it. In a way, repentance is the condition, the state of heart, mind and spirit that will enable one to receive forgiveness.

When I was younger, I have always thought that I was not good enough and weak willed. I find myself guilt ridden because I thought that I was not able to overcome temptations. Every time I fell, I would ask God to forgive me and somehow it would be like a hopeless vicious cycle that I would once again be asking God to forgive me for the same sins. It was even worse when I realised that my list of wrong doings kept growing. Eventually, I gave up. I gave up not only from asking for forgiveness but also from believing that I would ever be able to overcome. To add to this sorry state, I would not forgive myself for all that has happened and considered myself a hopeless case.

Many years later, I realised that as hopeless as I thought I was, it was really my pride that was the real problem. I have placed the judgement (sentence) on myself and made the decision to go it alone blaming it on my `hopeless’ state. It was I who chose not to believe in the saving power of God for my weaknesses and failures and went ahead on my own schemes and ways. It was I who decided to be the judge and controller of my past, present and future in my so called hopelessness, ironic isn’t it? I thought I could ride through my life with all my imperfect and sinful nature and carve out a decent life with some christian values thrown in. I cringed when I think that I could have gone on the rest of my life in that state.

All the years of growing up in a christian family and environment means nothing if I never really experience repentance and forgiveness in its true sense. It is like what Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36 ESV). A repentant person would be like this, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) and he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV). I came to this point like Martha, “Do I believe?” Will I be like Martha who said she believed even though her brother Lazarus has been dead for four days? Clearly my situation was not as drastic as hers but to believe that God will deliver me from my perceived hopelessness was drastic for me. I found it really, really hard to believe as it has been so long, so very long that I am weary just thinking about it.

I realised that my inability to forgive myself stems from my thinking that I can be the judge of who is deserving of forgiveness. This seems utterly ridiculous as who am I trying to be, God? Not only was I unrepentant, I was high and mighty too. It’s like I am stuck inside a deep, dark and murky well and someone came to rescue me by lowering a rope for me to hold on to but I said, “No need I’m fine, just let me rot in here”. This is a prime example of foolish pride.

To truly believe in God, I need to repent – acknowledge and recognise my sinful nature and the need for deliverance (to be rescued) through Jesus Christ who has paid the price for me and through him I can receive the forgiveness of sins. I believed and stopped judging my hopelessness and lay myself down before God, warts and all. I received the forgiveness of my sins whom only Jesus can wash clean and I am set free! I am forever grateful for his love and grace for me and that he will continue the work in my life as I press on to live this life in his light and joy that I may be a blessing to others and let them know that indeed, Jesus saves and is coming again. I can now testify the verse quoted earlier, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”!

Now I can say with much joy and gratefulness, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV) and Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10.10b ESV).

Reflection

Well, I am forgiven but it does not stop here as being forgiven also requires that I forgive others, among other things. It makes sense doesn’t it that as we have been forgiven, we should also forgive others. However, it is not so simple yet again. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37 ESV). This should be covered next.

 

Cock-a-doodle-doo, 3 strikes and you’re out!

Peter

Peter was one of the 12 disciples and there were many accounts on his encounters with Jesus in the gospel. One of them was the rooster crowing as a reminder of Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial of him. It was at the time when Jesus was betrayed and was about to be arrested and the following account was written in the book of John 13:36-38 ESV:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

And indeed, soon after Jesus was arrested and was being taken away to be brought before the High Priest, and subsequently to Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor. The accounts about Peter’s reaction was recorded:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. (John 18:15-18 ESV)

Peter Denies Jesus Again

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. (John 18:25-27 ESV)

Peter seemed like an impulsive and impetuous chap, at times `cocky’ (maybe this was how that term came about). For example, when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet:

Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:8-9 ESV)

He was the one who drew a sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who came to arrest Jesus. He was also the first to walk on water to approach Jesus:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28-30 ESV)

Usually such a person in our company of friends will get shunned or made fun of for being arrogant or `cocky’. Often they will be caught in fights or arguments and get into all sorts of trouble. However, how did Jesus relate with Peter during his time with him?

There were several crucial times where Jesus had chosen 3 of his disciples, Peter, James and John to be with him when he went to the house where a child laid dead with her parents (Luke 8:51), and when he went up a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28) just before he was going to be arrested. Jesus also said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32 ESV). It was expected that Peter would respond by saying, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33 ESV) and thereafter, he denied Jesus 3 times.

Look again at what Jesus said to Peter “and WHEN you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” He knew the heart of Peter and loved him warts and all. Later we will find that Peter became one of the great apostles and wrote some of the letters in the bible. There was a transformation over his life, he repented and was changing from being that `cocky’ chap to a great teacher and apostle of that time. Although snippets of his character do come about, he was learning and changing, ever obedient to the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit. For example when Peter had a kind of a vision and saw on a sheet, all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” (Acts 10:12-15 ESV). Later Peter was told by the Spirit to meet a centurion (non-Jew) and to share the good news to him and the people around him. Peter realised what God was teaching him:

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34-35 ESV)

A life touched by Jesus should be one that leads to change and transformation towards being more like Jesus and abiding in his word more and more. Peter was clearly moving in that direction and indeed brought glory to God for all that he did till his death.

My prayer is that my life will continue to be transformed to be more like Jesus. That I will be able to turn and strengthen others. That through it all, I will be able to love and cherish God more and more for who he is and what he has done for me.

Pharisees and Chief Priests

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I tried to obtain wikis and dictionary meaning or definitions on Pharisees and Chief Priests but with the varying versions, I prefer to stick to what the bible says about them. The mention of these characters or `authorities’ appeared many times in the New Testament and they were more often than not, the bad guys, the enemies that sought to destroy Jesus for shaking their `turf’. They were not gangsters or thugs but learned in the traditions and regulations of the holy temple of the Jews called the synagogue.

With the backdrop of the Roman Empire ruling that part of the world, the Pharisees and Chief Priests were authorised by the Romans to let the people carry on with their temple and traditions as long as they keep the peace and pay their dues. It seemed like a good idea to let these `authorities’ take care of their own people so they relieve themselves the job of looking after them and focus on conquering the rest of the world.

So these `authorities’ had for a long time, held privileged and high positions over the people and the arrival of Jesus and his works somehow threatened their status. This was because his teachings and deeds were different from what they had been instructing the people to do. They were very upset as not only were his teachings and deeds different, they were against, upside down or right side up from theirs.

One incident that really made them flip was when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was dead and in the tomb for four days and this was what Jesus did:

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” – John 11:43-44 ESV

This was one of the most amazing miracles that Jesus did and many people witnessed this as they had all gathered for the mourning of Lazarus. I can imagine that if I was there to witness it, I would have fainted but would have glorified God for his mercy if I was able to remain conscious. Anyway, how did the `authorities’ react to this?

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. – John 11:47-48 ESV

Many who witnessed or heard about the miracle came to believe in Jesus but I was baffled at the indifference of these `authorities’. However, some of the officials who were subordinate to these `authorities’ believed in Jesus but their reaction was also baffling:

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. – John 12:42-43 ESV

They chose something less when something far greater was shown. The prospect of losing their power and wealth was too hard to bear if they were to stand for the truth. So f0r them, truth which is eternal was not worth the loss of power and wealth which eventually come to nothing. I think I will go in circles trying to make some sense of their decision and reaction.

Let’s examine the state of mind of people addicted to drugs or alcohol where they would do anything to feed their addiction even if the deed was despicable, detestable or criminal. We might say they were under the influence or control of the drug or alcohol. So do we say that these `authorities’ were under the control of their power and wealth? I think not. It was a decision over what they love versus what they know to be the truth. They know there was no such thing as having both as it was one or the other. Some of them went really out of the way to ensure that what they love will not be threatened further:

So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. – John 12:10-11 ESV

Reflection

I examine myself in the light of how we can easily allow the powers of status, wealth and pride to blind us from the truth. How I may choose the fleeting pleasures of this world over what is eternal or that has an everlasting impact and purpose.

With this, I pray that the eyes of my heart will be open only to see God and walk in the light of his love and purpose.

The Will of God

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How do I know that I am doing the will of God?

Do I want to do the will of God?

These are simple yet the most difficult questions for me to answer.

Attempting to answer the first question, I began to look at verses that cited people who choose to do the will of God, for example;

In John 4:34 Jesus said, My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

In Galatians 2:20 Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The following are more verses that touch on the will of God:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Peter 2:15 – For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Romans 8:27 – And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

1 John 2:17 – And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Ephesians 6:6 – not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart

Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Here are some other verses that were implicit on what the will of God is:

Proverbs 2:5 – then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 22:37-40 – And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

It has to do with the heart of man first, to seek His kingdom, then the deeds should follow suit. Sounds rather straightforward and not something that requires much reasoning or discussion to understand.

The second question is much harder for me to answer. Do I want to do the will of God?

It is so easy to stand and put up your right hand to take an oath of allegiance or pledge loyalty to a country or cause you believe in. To stand and say I will do the will of God is about the same. It’s easy to say it but will it be true? Will it stand the test of time? Will I succeed and remain true to the call and not waver or falter? Seriously, I do not know and cannot guarantee that I will or will not succeed when put to the test. I can say I am willing and want to be true to God no matter what but when put to the test, will I be like Peter who denied Jesus, or like Thomas who doubted even when Jesus was right in front of him?

Already, I find myself wavering when uncertainty strikes over what lies ahead, be it career, finance, family or relationships. Fears and anxieties are not far when such times arise and I get all shaken up, often depressed and pessimistic in conversations or outlook on life. One thing good out of this is that I get to see the real side of me, my true colours. How I turn myself around by the decisions I make at that time will also reveal my heart’s desire or condition. If I am a coward or a fraud, it will show. If courageous or faithful, it will show too. It is not through the outcome of events but made known perhaps by conscience or when one choose to reflect on the true intent.

I realised that seeking God’s favour and pleasure do not come naturally to me and that is telling on my current heart condition. The song lyrics come to mind, “My heart is a stone and it’s chipping away, every piece that goes is making me OK.” but what really cheers me on is what God can do for and to me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 NIV. Thank you Lord for your unfailing love and mercy upon me.

Reflection

I pray the following verses for my heart to be true:

Psalms 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalms 51:10-12 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

The Foolish Ones

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Two men were walking along the road to a village called Emmaus. A good 11 km walk from Jerusalem where they started. They were affected by the recent events that took place in Jerusalem and it was the crucifixion of Jesus and the subsequent disappearance of his body from the tomb. As they were discussing and walking, someone came by and asked them what they were talking about. One of them questioned the stranger that he must be the only one from Jerusalem who does not know what had happened, like in today’s context it would have been viral, all over the news and trending on social media.

When they related the incidents to him, they said Jesus was supposedly great and likely to be the one to redeem Israel but he was condemned to death and was crucified. They added that they were baffled by the latest report (breaking news) that just happened that day, which was the third day. They heard that the body was missing from the tomb and some women who went there witnessed that it was empty and saw visions of angels who told them that Jesus is alive.

Then the man said to the two, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

The above story was taken from Luke 24:13-26 and there are two key points that I am learning from the passage and it involved both the eyes and heart of man.

Reflection

It is so easy to read and see what has happened around us but yet our hearts may not be in tune or true to what we claim to believe. Some might say, `Seeing is believing’ but this story clearly disprove this. Many have seen and experienced first hand all that has happened but many also have chosen not to believe or to remain in a state of unbelief.

The statement made of the two men; “O foolish ones” revealed their thoughts but the cause was “slow of heart to believe”. I pray and hope for my heart to burn and be true to God, and my eyes to see only the glory of God.

The Guilty Ones

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Three men are on death row and today is the day of their execution. Two of them, Seau and Ican were hard-core criminals with a long history of violent crimes and the law finally caught up with them. They were not partners in crime but knew each other from past imprisonments and their notoriety. The third man on death row was not familiar to them, especially among the inmates as this man was never in prison before. They heard rumours about him as being quite prominent in that town and that he was powerful enough to help and influence many people. They also heard that he might be innocent and was blackmailed by some other powerful people who do not like him.

As they were about to be executed together, they were put in one place and chained side by side. Seau turned to face the third man and said, “Hey mister! What did you do to be here with us?” When he did not respond, Seau was annoyed and said, “I heard you had connections in very high places and helped many people, how come you can’t even help yourself? Such a shame to think that you could have helped us out of here.

Ican then raised his voice at Seau and said, “Why are you doing this to him? What has he done to you? If he is truly innocent, he does not deserve to be here like us! We actually deserve to die for what we had done. We are condemned to die and when we die, we are condemned! Can’t you even see that?”

Seau and Ican were two guilty criminals who were executed as punishment for their crimes. However, they were very different in character or attitude even at the point of death. Seau held himself up in a cocky way to chide and mock another person even though he was guilty as a rat for his crimes and was going to be executed. Ican was shocked at how Seau could still be `playing the fool’ at such a time. He saw how he was deserving of death for his deeds but pondered on what would become of him when he dies. He was both fearful and afraid.

This story was inspired by a passage from the bible as follows:

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:32-43 ESV.

Reflection

I realised that even when we are guilty of our wrong doings, we may still choose not to have the guilt.

Just like Seau who had the pride to speak his mind even to the point of death. It did not matter at all that he had committed those crimes or what would become of him when he dies. He was even capable of chiding others who may be innocent or able to help him.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 ESV

Ican saw his state and knows he was doomed. He was in distress and at the end of the road. The uncertainty was eating him up. The passage stated that the man who turned to Jesus to ask for help was given eternal hope. The other guy missed it when it was just there for him, and it was free.

I pray for humility and wisdom.