Saturday, March 31, 2007


Romans 11:25-36

How sometimes we wish we could tame God. We want him to be like a domesticated animal, responsive to our beck and call and doing what we assign him to do, even allowing us to sit on him and steer him as we would a horse, donkey or buffalo.

How sometimes we wish we could study God. We want to put him in a box and/or under a microscope, studying his reactions in other that we might anticipate his decisions and actions, just like we’ve demystified, debunked and deconstructed so much of this world we’re in.

How sometimes we wish we could advise God. We want to counsel him and tell him what he should do in the running of this world, confident that things would be better if only he would listen to us instead of deciding things all by himself.

How sometimes we wish we could put God in our debt. We want him to shower down blessings in response to our sacrifices and acts of piety; after all, it’s only fair that one good turn deserves another.

How we wish.

The fact of the matter is, however, that God is God, and we are not. Paul recognised this reality when he burst into spontaneous praise of God’s greatness. We must too.

I hope this season of Lent has been a meaningful one for you. Even as we ponder upon the shocking truth that this magnificent and great God died for us in such a horrifying way, let us not forget: He is who He is.

May God’s grace be always with you.


Friday, March 30, 2007


Romans 11:11-24

In conventional horticulture, the usual practice is to insert a shoot from a cultivated tree into a wild one in order to produce a fruitful tree. Strangely in the passage Paul seems to have gotten his horticulture all wrong! He talks about grafting wild shoots into a cultivated olive tree! How foolish! How sacrilegious! How devoid of knowledge!

But wait! Verse 24 shows us that Paul was conscious of his “mistake” after all! He states that such a procedure is “contrary to nature”. In fact, the unnaturalness of it all is precisely the point. God is able to produce fruit out of things that would normally bear none.

This is the mystery of salvation: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Wild, uncultivated branches such as us have been grafted into a tree with strong roots, the Tree of Christ.

But the best has yet to come. The rejection of Christ by most of Israel has led to us being brought into God’s most beautiful work of art. Imagine the magnificence of the Painting when Israel comes back into the picture!

But we must not be complacent. Just like in the analogy of the vine Jesus used, (John 15) those who think that they can get away with living a selfish life without surrender to God will lose out in the end when the gardener cuts off the branches that bear no fruit. I don’t want to speculate on what that means, as I believe it’s nobody’s business (except God’s) who gets rewarded or punished and what exactly it entails. Nevertheless it’s a warning to all of us – we cannot just continue to live exactly like the rest of the world.

Have we really thought about how blessed we are to be able to share in God’s kingdom? Are we really making an effort to live out our lives in a radical Christ-centered way, or are we just going with the flow, getting caught up with the attractions of this world? How can this divide between what we do and what we should do be narrowed and closed?

Pen down any thoughts that have been provoked by the questions above. Read through them once you’ve finished, and write a “letter” to God (the length is up to you) about what you’ve jotted down.

Suggested Further Reading:
Ronald J. Sider’s “The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience”. The book explores the important question, “Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world?”

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Romans 11:1-10

The Israelites of the 1st century were definitely religious people. They offered sacrifices at the temple, prayed often, and did all they could to keep to the law set out in the Torah, among other rules. Members of one particular sect were notorious for their strict observance of everything “holy” – the Pharisees.

The beginning of Romans 11 shows Paul continuing to write about the subject of Israel. Paul tackles the issue of whether God has rejected Israel outright. The answer he gives is “No”, declaring that there is a “remnant” that are faithful to God and accept the Good News of Jesus Christ.

How sad it seems indeed that there is only a small group of Israelites walking in God’s path. It doesn’t make sense. How can it be that such a religious and devout people have gone off track? Romans 9:32 in The Message paraphrase states that “instead of trusting God, [the Israelites] took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their “God projects” that they didn’t notice God right in front of them.”

God projects. How many of us today have lost our focus and placed our emphasis on doing what we consider Great Things for God? How can we tell whether we have fallen into the trap of self-centred spirituality? Well, one form of a selfish faith is one that is based on a reward scheme. We do good deeds in order that our “account” in heaven keeps accumulating points which we presume will lead to good health, material comforts, and other perks. For others, like the Pharisees, an outward show of religiousness is important in order that others will commend our piety and holiness. Still others practise a therapeutic form of Christianity. God must take away all my cares and worries. Worship is about feeling good and getting spiritual goose bumps – in order words, a “Prozac Jesus” religion. All these can either be done on purpose, or at a subconscious level where we do not realise our true motives.

We must not read Paul’s comments as just a criticism of his own people, but bear in mind that we too can be equally lured by the attractiveness of a phoney, or at least compartmentalized, unholistic spirituality. Are we in a state of stupor, with eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear (vs 8)?

The practice of the presence of our selves, instead of God, will lead us to burn out eventually. We must attempt to grasp for God’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:29, The Msg). No simple task, of course. I have found that it is so much easier to occupy oneself with church-related activities and neglect our relationship with our Creator. For many years I was so busy that unconsciously God got pushed out of the spotlight and into the shadows. Nowadays I have fewer opportunities to fill my time with such busyness; hence, I’m struggling with personal devotions and other simple spiritual disciplines.

Nevertheless, honesty is the only policy for knowing and serving God. He understands our battles and struggles with Him, ourselves, and others. No matter what the circumstances, let’s keep that in mind.

Lord, I’m sorry that I’ve been so busy with my various God projects that I’ve lost sight of your plan for me. If I can’t trust you and bare myself entirely to you, then who can I turn to? Please show me your path and guide me on the Way. Have mercy on me, a sinner-saint. Amen.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Romans 10:14-21

In recent history, the term ‘liberation’ has been used by revolutionaries around the world. These “freedom fighters”, from all ideologies (though mainly some form of socialism/communism), rose up to battle the evils they saw in their respective societies: poverty, injustice, racial strife, and so on. Calling themselves “liberation fronts”, from the Zapatistas in Mexico to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, these rebels have used violence as their primary means of achieving the ideals they seek.

As followers of the Galilean carpenter and most radical teacher throughout history, Jesus Davidson, whether we like it or not, we have been recruited into what writer and performer Rob Lacey (author of the incredible retelling of the Bible The Word on the Street) has termed the Jesus Liberation Movement (JLM for short). However, instead of armed struggle and guerrilla tactics, our means of liberation involve a different kind of underground warfare, namely the spreading of the Greatest Story Ever Told. We’re part of a “quiet revolution of hope”, so to speak.

Who are we attempting to set free? It is the entire world, which God wishes to reconcile to Him. This is not just about getting butts out of hell though; this about furthering the “clandestine” Kingdom of God. It is a kingdom where love conquers all, and worldly concepts such as power, fame and wealth are pushed into the sidelines where they belong. This is a radical movement that just makes all other radical ideas seem tame and uninspiring.

Everyone is invited to join. Even those who seem hostile or indifferent to spirituality are welcome, and in fact God will reveal Himself through them! (vs 20) But how can people join this spiritual uprising if they know nothing about it? “How can they hear if nobody tells them?” (vs 14) Yes, we are the agents of God’s divine work in the world. When we pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, let us not just repeat in like a thoughtless mantra or magical incantation but hear the call to radical living in this fallen world.

All of us are called to this Liberation Life, no matter where we are. As our leader declared, “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). This kingdom is like a mustard seed (Matt. 13:31) which seems insignificant and unspectacular compared to all the hi-tech gizmos and gadgetry that we “ooh” and “ahh” about today. But ultimately this seed will grow into a strong tree that will stand the test of time.

Let’s fight the good fight of the faith!

When you are faced with a situation this week that most people would tackle in a certain way, make a decision to act in a radical, Christ-following manner, asking yourself, “What would Jesus do?” and “What is Jesus doing?”

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Romans 9:30 - 10:13

"Mereka tidak mengetahui cara Allah memperdamaikan manusia dengan dirinya. Mereka cuba mengadakan jalan perdamaiannya sendiri; sebab itu mereka tidak berserah kepada jalan itu yang Allah telah mengadakan supaya memperdamaikan manusia dengan dirinya."
Rum 10:3 (Alkitab)

“They didn’t know God’s way of making peace with humankind. They tried to make their own way of peace; because of that they did not surrender to the way that God made to make peace between humankind and Himself.”
Romans 10:3 (translation of Alkitab)

The translation of the Alkitab highlights the fact that God’s great plan of redemption involves a path that we must travel. In Brian McLaren’s book “A New Kind of Christian”, one of the characters, Neo, makes a comment that when most Christians talk about Jesus being the way, it seems more like Jesus is in the way.

After some reflection, I would agree with that statement. I don’t know about you, but when I say that Jesus is the way, one of the pictures that come to mind is that of Jesus standing in the middle of a narrow road, allowing only those who have joined “the club” to go past him and enter the pearly gates of heaven.

This is a tremendously mistaken view of salvation and living out the Kingdom of God. The moment we think of Jesus as some sort of celestial bouncer, love ceases and fear sets in. The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson renders the last bit of verse 33 of Chapter 9 as, “If you’re looking for me, you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.”

“You’ll find me on the way.” Indeed our Walk with God is a lengthy Sojourn, a great Journey. We encounter God when we confess, “Jesus is Lord”, but that’s not the end of it. It’s not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is, the end of the beginning. Our years of confuzzled searching and striving are behind us, and the future beckons us to follow In His Steps.

Paul mentions a trap that many Jews fell into: legalism. However, just a cursory glance around the church is enough for us to realise that a lot of people are still running about, trying to gain spiritual points for heaven. Why do they do so? Many are afraid that at the end Jesus will stand in their way, blocking their path and refusing them entry to “come and share in [their] Master’s happiness” (Matt 25:21).

Such doubts and fears are understandable. In the performance-based society that we live in today, it seems totally illogical that God would give us the opportunity to share in his glorious work when we have not done anything to warrant such a gracious gift.

We must, however, always remember this truth: He is the Way, not in the way.

Think about your journey thus far with Jesus. There would definitely have been times when you have found yourself woefully inadequate to receive God’s grace. Thank Him for his gift of becoming the Way for us, and ask Him to help you learn to rest in Him, ceasing from the labour and the toil. Jot down your thoughts (which form essentially a prayer) somewhere.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Romans 9:19-29

Today, many of us resent the thought of living ordinary, unspectacular lives. There is a contemporary worship song with the title “The Potter’s Hand”. One line repeats itself a couple of times during the chorus: “I give my life into the Potter’s hand.” Singing this song as a teenager, while I knew the song was about surrender, what I really sang in my heart was something more like, “I give my life to you, O Potter, but you must make me into a beautiful pot!”

The illustration of the potter in this passage may be unsettling at first glance. It seems to imply that there are some that God makes into beautiful vessels while the rest of us are doomed to be ordinary, run-of-the-mill, generic, uncreative, plain brown pots. Medieval priests preached the idea that there was a divine order in God’s creation. Some of us were born to be peasants in servitude, while others were predestined to be rulers and aristocrats. Could this passage be a chilling piece of support for such theology?

Reading on, however, shows us God’s true intentions:

“I’ll call nobodies and make them somebodies;
I’ll call the unloved and make them beloved.
In the place where they yelled out, “You’re nobody!”
they’re calling you “God’s living children.”
- Romans 9:25-26 (The Message) -

God’s living children. That is who we are. The question, “Why did you make me like this?” (v. 20) is thus a complaint from a pot that does not realise its own purpose and potential. Would a lone pot be able to grumble and whine without reference to other pottery? Certainly not. It is our habit of comparing ourselves with those around us that yields dissatisfaction and disillusionment. “Oh, if only I could sing like V!” “What wouldn’t I give to have the looks of C!” “Sigh, I’m just not as athletic as A!”

God has shaped each and every one of us in a unique, inimitable way. In fact, in the “upside-down” Kingdom of God (Matt. 20:16), it is the most humble that have the greatest potential to be His most useful vessels (Luke 18:14).

Perhaps what we need to do is to ask the same question, albeit in a different way. Instead of a complaining “Why?”, let’s ask God a curious “Why?”

Ask God today, “Hmm… why did you make me like this, Lord? I’m sure you had a reason in mind!” Write down whatever comes to you. Remember, though, that this is just the beginning of the Search.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Romans 9:1-18

The age-old ideal that everyone is equal and should be treated as such may be true, yet everyone is unique and different from each other. Having said the obvious, let me introduce the absolute role of God into the picture. God has chosen you. Yes, you.

You may find people who have plenty to teach you, and people who are need of teaching. You may find those who stay, and others who leave. You may find easy friends, as well as difficult ones. The way different people simply are, it is God's intended going for each and every one of them, including yourself.

God made you just the way you are, including the fact that you can make decisions. Romans 9:18 says "Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden." It is up to Him how He handles people of different sorts, along with a divine plan for everyone of us.

You may not feel that you are destined for great heights, but you are God's child all the same.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Romans 8:28-39

Terminal diseases, fatal injuries, bankruptcy, accidents, tragedies, loss of loved one, breakups in relationships, sacked by the boss, failure in exams, rejection by friends, and many more…

At some part of your life, you might have come across someone who would experience one of the above situations, or perhaps, you might even experience one of these before.

Now, picture yourself: during the darkest moments of your life, times where it seems that you don’t have anyone to turn to. The questions “why” and “what” that would begin in your mind. What is happening? Why do I have to go through this? What is happening? Why me?

The apostle Paul knew exactly what the Romans needed. Having heard of the exemplary faith and service of the Romans, he wrote this letter aiming to encourage and inform them the central doctrines of the Christian faith. In other words, it’s a letter which tells believers how to work out the Gospel in their lives.

Paul knew, to know about the Gospel is one thing, to practice it in moments of difficulty is totally another. Would Christians then trust in the sovereignty of the Father Almighty when the world comes crashing down?

In these verses, Paul encourages believers, despite of the things that may happen, especially the bad things, all of them happen for a reason, and that reason is for our good. God loves us so much that He wants us to grow to be more like Jesus in each passing day. Through the change of character of our lives, God gets glorified. After all, this is the destiny which He has for us (v29- 30).

When mountains seem to be too heavy to move; too high to climb, we should always realize that God is always in control over all circumstances. And that’s faith!

After all, when God is for us, absolutely nothing can be against us. Out of His amazing love He even sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die for us, what else He won’t give? So my friends, in the hope of the love God has given us through His Son, we can always look forward for a better tomorrow.

Ultimately, through all the seasons of suffering and pain, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.

Look for anyone who needs help, and lend that person a hand, a listening ear, etc. Showing them and reminding yourself that God also uses people like you and me to spread His love.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Romans 8:12-27

As we have prayed the prayer of salvation prior to accepting His love into His family, we are formed for God’s family. We are called to be in His family. God’s very nature is relational, He treasures relationships. With this fatherly relationship we have with Him, we are given not the spirit of bondage again, to fear, but we received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out "Abba, Father" (Romans 8.15). What a privilege!

God’s love is able to overcome sufferings and hurts that will come along and will greatly tempt us and pull us down in its capability. These hurts, failures, disappointments and sufferings are temporal and through that entire God is made strong for we can call unto Him for help and strength. He will deliver us. He cannot contradict His very own nature. God is love. To be free is in-dependant to God, not independent to ourselves so that we can practice the rights of being children of God.

Many times when we fail we do not hope for His help and guidance but we run to the closest help we could get our ears on; pastors, family, friends, etc. That’s our human nature; we seek for what can be seen, heard or speak. We seek for what is an easy escape or someone that can response to what we want to hear. We live by faith and not according to the flesh. God is ever faithful to hear the groaning of our hearts.

"For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?" (Romans 8.24)

God’s judgment as a Father is always right. Trust in Him for He knows much more than we do. Take a step backward and let go, let God. Even when we do not know or cannot comprehend the desire of our hearts, but God knows. Take heart today that God is the Father who understands the needs (and not the wants) of His children and He will provide and keep us safe in His embrace; and even when we do not know what or how to pray, He will pray for us. How privilege!

Are you living in-dependant to Him today? Is God in full control of your life? Are you making decisions based on God’s judgments or your convenience? Have you taken some time to pray and seek for God’s answers?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Romans 8:1-11

"I'm slacking. I’ve sinned yet again. I’ve not spent enough time with You. Oh no, Lord. What am I doing? It feels as though I’m drawing away further from You each day. It is to the extent that I haven’t even been speaking to You. What a screwed up relationship I must have had with You! I’m sorry, Lord. I feel so condemned."

How often have we felt this way? It is something many of us are familiar to. Over and over again, we feel as though our lives have been of no good. Everyday passes by with us sinning against God. That’s when condemnation hovers upon us. We live life filled with disappointment. Hurt. Frustration. Regrets.

But God does not want that for us! In Romans 8:1-11, as long as we are in Christ Jesus, we will not be considered secondary, nor will we be written off. This is because through the relationship we have with Jesus, the Spirit of God sets us free from the law of sin and death. Whatever mess we got ourselves into that could not be settled, God straightens them all! How is this possible? He sent Jesus to earth, in the form of man, to be a sin offering. That is how much God loves us. Thus, we should not feel condemned or unworthy of God’s love, for He is willing to send His only begotten Son to die for our sins.

As John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Therefore, if the Holy Spirit that brought Jesus back alive is living inside us, then we will surely be brought back to life too! As long as we believe in Him, and we are His children, and the Spirit of God lives in us - we belong to none other but Him! Let us not be disheartened, but rejoice in the Lord our God for He loves us dearly and will never give up on us!

Find a song that has “No condemnation” in it and Sing!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Romans 7:13-25

Skeletons in our closets, bad habits we can’t seem to renounce, our secret stash of hidden sins. We all have them. Hidden from the view of public, swept under the rug, veiled by excuses, but we know, deep down, it’s still sin none the less. In contrast with God’s holiness and His commandment for us to be holy, in Paul’s words, our sin became utterly sinful (v13).

Yet we know the verses to quote against these habits, we know what is good and what is right before God, yet we always fall back into the secret heap of forbidden desires and spur of the moment regrets. We lose our temper, we curse under our breath, we exchange gossip, our thoughts wonder into dangerous places, and our hearts forgot to heed God’s word. We stumble and guilt piles up in the closet of our hearts.

”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (v15) Paul’s words describe precisely the painful confusion behind every man’s struggle. Read on and you would see the heart cry of every honest Christian who struggles with sin.

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (v18)

“For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (v19). Paul calls us prisoner to our own sinful nature, we are trapped and chained. We can’t free ourselves with knowledge or sheer will-power. We can’t break the chains with our own strength or wisdom. “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” cried Paul. (v24)

The solution? Grace. Undeserved favor we gained when Christ chose to die to pay the price of breaking the chains to set us free. “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul answered. Christ has done it for us.

Trust in God that the grace that He lavished on us to call us into the knowledge of His kingdom is sufficient to change us from our sinful nature into His very image.

”T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.”

Action: Surrender and trust God in one area in your life that you know is not pleasing to Him.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Romans 7:1-13

There was once a man in a village that was in debts. He couldn’t get any income from his crops because there was no rain for a very long time. The debtors soon came to his house and demanded for the money that he loaned from them. Not being able to pay them, they dragged him away and sold him to the slave parlor. Many people came to the slave parlor for the auction on that day. Some were just normal villagers, while others seemed to have come from other places.

Soon, it was the man’s turn and he stepped forward, with his head bowed in shame and his eyes wouldn’t dare look up. The auction started and many people were shouting and giving their best figures. Suddenly, a loud shout came from the crowd, “7,000 silver coins!” Everyone started looking around to find out who was this man that was offering such a high price for this slave. The man stepped out from the crowd and claimed ownership of the slave. The slave was then set free and was allowed to follow his new master home.

After following his new master for a distance, the master turned to him and said, “Go, you are free.” He left the slave there alone and continued on his journey. But, the slave chased the master and told him, “I might be free, but I want to serve you. My life has been bought by you; now you have full authority over me.”

Romans 7:4 says, “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another – to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”

How often have we forgotten about the price that God has to pay in order for us to be set free? Many say that the start of the Christian walk is when we put our trust in Jesus Christ; but the real journey starts if we decide to follow our new master, just like the slave. God has given us two choices in life, to be free and be the master of our own lives; or tell our new master, “My life is yours.”

Think about your life as a Christian and ponder upon the path that you are taking now. Is Christ in your journey?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mark 8:11-21

By Prof. M.M.Ninan

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Romans 6:12-23

I consider myself a loyalist when it comes to school spirit. At sporting events I’m happy to stand on the bleachers cheering (more like squealing) on my school mates to do their best for the school. Sadly, there came a time when I found myself changing schools. I found it hard to support and cheer on a different school because I was so used to cheering on my previous school – I eventually had to give up my loyalty to my previous school because I had changed over.

This is exactly what Paul discusses in this passage. When you are baptised in Christ, you are baptised into his death – or, united with Christ in death (verse 5). This also means that we die to our old selves, giving up our ‘loyalties’ to our sin, living new lives in God (verse 6-10). So as Christians we are considered people who have changed sides. We cannot serve two masters – Matthew 6:24 points out that ‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.’

What are some of the things that you have had to give up in the process of this changing of sides? Do you consider yourself to have fully given up these ‘old habits’? Read Romans 6: 1-23 again and think of how Paul encourages us as people who have changed sides. Also, take time to pray about where your loyalties truly lie – and take heed that while we may never escape the temptation to sin, we have a hope in the promise that Christ will come again and a practical confidence that no temptation has seized us except what is common to man; but God is faithful. He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, but when we are tempted He will also provide us a way out so that we can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Friday, March 16, 2007


Romans 6:1-11

When I first got to Australia to start my first year in university, I remember meeting a local boy with a penchant for ‘the nightlife’ or, in another turn of phrase, ‘clubbing’. I knew he was Christian because he often spoke about church and bringing me to church – but each Thursday night he would stumble through the doors of our college residence very drunk and usually very much ‘involved’ with a person of the opposite sex. One day I asked him how he felt about ‘hitting up the town’ every Thursday night – to which he replied, “I know its wrong, but I go to church every Sunday to ask God for forgiveness. So then it’s okay to do it again.”

*Raises eyebrows*

No, it’s not okay.

This is not to say that we can’t possibly sin anymore because even as Christians, we are bound to sin at some point in the future. However, to take the view that it does not matter if I sin is, by this passage, an incorrect conception about justification and the nature of God’s forgiveness. Christ didn’t die on the cross so we could sin some more – He died so that we could be reconciled to God in light of our sin and face no condemnation from our sin (Romans 8:1-2).

Today, consider the words of Charles Wesley in the hymn ‘And Can it Be that I should Gain’ – think about how grateful Charles would have been when he penned the following words. Ask God to teach you to be mindful of the times when you take God’s grace for granted.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Romans 5:12-21

When I was in my teens, I remember one of the hardest questions put to me in a classroom setting. The question put to us as a class was: “if you died tonight, how many of you are confident you’d go to heaven?” Maybe I was not ready for the question to be put to me so bluntly, but I reckon if an outsider observed the number of hands raised in response to the question, he or she would not have been very impressed at the level of confidence in the class. To be honest, I was personally bogged down with the technicalities of the question. I was actually troubled by the extent of time it would take me to enter heaven and if there was one, what the process would be to get me there! In hindsight, this passage makes me realise how trivial my fears were.

In this passage, Paul highlights the differences between Adam and Jesus. Through one single action, Adam brought death to mankind (verses 12-14); yet though one single action Jesus brings life to mankind (verse 17). This way Paul illustrates that everyone is born ‘in Adam’, or, born with sin. Yet once you accept God’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ, you receive a clean slate and now stand justified before God.

By now you will probably realise that Paul goes to great lengths to explain the concept of being justified through salvation in Christ. To put things in perspective lets revisit the question I was posed when I was a teenager: if you die tonight, how do you know you will go to heaven? The question is not about where you will located after you die; nor does it ask the question of whether your spirit leaves your body and follows a bright light into a beautiful place of marbled fountains and of endless supplies of grapes (seedless, please).

It simply asks the question: how do you know you will stand before God on a clean slate when you know full well that you are born into sin, tempted by sin and commit sin? This answer is in Jesus Christ. If you recognise and accept that Jesus Christ came to free you from the consequences of sin (death), then you are reconciled to God and will not have to face the consequences of sin (death).

• Think about the number of times you or your friends have questioned your salvation. In light of what the passage tells us about our salvation, how can you address this question that often plagues us as Christians? Does it change how we should look at life?
• Pray and ask God for the courage to tell our friends of His great love for us because of this knowledge of a new certainty in Christ Jesus!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Romans 5:1-11

Have you ever been in a situation where difficult circumstances have led you to doubt God’s love for you? “If God were so great,” you say, “He surely wouldn’t have let that happened to me”. Perhaps you have even tried to counsel a friend who has felt that way. For me, it has always been easier to look heavenward and have nothing but praise spilling out of my ears whenever something good happens. Yet I cannot say the same happens to me when I face difficult times. More often than not I’m on my knees begging for God to take away the pain than I am rejoicing. My tiny brain cannot fathom how I ought to smile when I’m in pain – in fact, even the thought is absurd!

Well, if that’s being absurd then I guess that by our standards, God was “absurd” first! Verses 6 to 8 tell us that even while we were powerless to save ourselves, sinners and enemies of God; God let Christ die on the cross for us. This act of dying on the cross justifies us in the sight of God (verse 9) and enables us to be reconciled to God and have peace with God (verse 1; 10). Paul also lists two primary reasons why we should rejoice in this peace – firstly, because we enjoy a new relationship with God through Christ (verse 1-2a) and secondly, because at the end of the day we also share the hope of the glory of God when Christ comes again (verse 2b).

Returning to the concept of ‘rejoicing in suffering’ (or as I like to put it, ‘smiling in pain’), reflect on the reasons why we should rejoice – we do not rejoice merely because God made your bus come on time today; or because God helped you pass that exam that you did no study for. We cannot base being ‘joyful in Lord’ on the condition that God does a host of things for us. If we take rejoicing to be a feeling we get when things go our way, then we misunderstand the extent God went through to prove His love for us.

Read the passage again and recall this ‘absurd’ demonstration of love God has shown us; then, prayerfully rethink how we ought to ‘rejoice in our sufferings’ in light of what we have read today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Romans 4:13-25

Of the various stories of Christian life that I have heard, nothing inspires me more than the stories of Christians who in the course of their ministry, fell into great sin and learnt the true meaning of redemption. Call me romantic, but I consider the life journeys of mere mortals far more appealing than the great evangelists who turn nations to the Cross overnight. While nation changers stir up my spirit to persevere in the Lord, the stories of real men are real and tangible; but often sidelined and hushed.

One such person to me is Geoff Bullock. A lot of us know him as the songwriter and composer of the song ‘Power of Your Love’ and ‘This Kingdom’. Once the worship director of a prominent church in Australia, Geoff left the church he was serving in 1995 and was party to a divorce soon after leaving the church, marrying another woman over time. Geoff came to my school in 1999 to give a worship concert and I distinctly recall my friends whispering under their breath that ‘the woman he was with was not his first wife’. Today, Geoff is a man saved by grace. Not that we are not also saved by grace, but what Geoff has been through is testament to the grace that he received even though he fell into grievous sin.

In this passage, Paul takes one step closer to analyse this saving grace he raised in the previous half of the chapter. He points out that if we consider ourselves saved because we follow the law, we will never find salvation because there will always be transgression in the law. However, if there is no law, there is no transgression – and this is evidenced by Jesus coming to die on the cross for us. This act of dying for our sins takes away the consequences of the law and justifies us – as long as we have faith to accept it.

Again, if we accept the fact that humans have the innate capacity to commit sin, then this begs the question as to how much sin we can throw God’s way before God gives up on us. In theory, the answer is an infinite quantity. Lest we think that grace is the free ticket to sin as much as we’d like, the challenge is this: if you have truly grasped what it means to be justified, you will understand that God has forgiven you of all your sins in the past, the present, and the future. Being thankful for this forgiveness, you will not use God’s grace as an excuse to sin and will instead strive to lead a life that is pleasing to the Lord.

Today, consider a sin that you have committed repeatedly. It may be a sin that you have repented from many times, but still end up committing. Rather than feel guilty about this sin you have – grasp the concept that when you accepted Christ in faith, you were already forgiven of this sin. Sharing the same faith that Abraham had in God, hold on to the promise of life eternal and deal with that sin in the light of this knowledge you have.

Talk to your leader or your pastor about overcoming this sin; ask your friends to pray with you as you struggle; learning to live by the Spirit in view of what was done for you on the cross.

For more information about Geoff Bullock, consider the following articles:

Monday, March 12, 2007


Romans 4:1-12

I recall the days when my parents had in place a system where I would receive a monetary award for every good grade I got on a major exam. Naturally, getting an ‘A’ back in my primary school days seemed so much easier than getting an ‘A’ now in university. Nevertheless, my prize money soon turned into a goal I ended up setting for myself come every exam – instead of doing well in exams for a million other better reasons (God; Mom and Dad; for the betterment of society), it was only for the ‘moola’ that would finds its way into my bank account. Over time, I found myself sitting on my laurels when I thought I had more than enough money to work with; and because I did not see the need to strive for any more money, I grew weary of studying and found it a chore to earn that next batch of Alpha digits.

This is exactly the case with faith.

“Consider Abraham”, says Paul. Christian Jews in Paul’s time had to realise the difference between only ‘obeying the law’ and only ‘having faith’. Paul explains that we cannot boast in our works because it is not our works that will save us – it is our faith in response to God’s promise that saves us. Ephesians 2:8-9 further explains this concept: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

One of the common questions that follow from this is why then do we need to serve in church; or, even feel obligated to do good deeds? This is summed up in Hebrews 10:19-25. If we say we have faith, then our faith will spur us to good deeds and to service. Perhaps the only reason why they tend to turn into tiresome obligations is because there are other incentives for us at hand. Take the example of my studying for the sake of money; if I studied because I stand to gain something that is of this world – I am bound to be tired of it. However, if I studied because I stand to gain something more than what this world has to offer – something eternal, then that will spur me to never tire from a lifetime of knowledge! This applies in our service to our friends and in church.

So to paraphrase Paul, consider Abraham. Reflect on the things that you have been involved in since you have turned to Christ and think about whether you have turned your level faith into an obligation that is dictated by the amount that you do in church or in your fellowship. If you find yourself boasting only in your repertoire of service: remember Abraham – you don’t have faith because you do the Lord’s work; you do the Lord’s work because you have faith. Ask God to teach you to act in response to the faith that led you to believe in Christ; the faith that led you to believe that because God could not stand sin, He gave His only Son that you might have life eternal.

1. What helps you to serve God? What hinders you to serve Him?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mark 5:1-20

Woodblock prints
by Solomon RAJ, India

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Romans 3:19-3:31

"God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood." (Romans 3:10-11)

What's with this whole 'sacrifice and atonement' gig? How does the blood of Jesus save?

It could represent a legal payment. One life for another, so justice prevails. Jesus’ innocent being was taken in place of guilty us.

It could represent violence. Fighting and bleeding throughout a great battle. Jesus suffered the full force of Satan’s destruction, to ‘blaze the path’ for us so we stewards cum soldiers of God can continue sharing/living/embodying the His kingdom on earth.

It could represent cleanliness. Clean non-contaminated red and white blood cells flowing into the body of a sick person, restoring vitality and health to him. Jesus started a blood-transfusion process we our sick souls might breathe and dance again.

It could represent other things, but in all cases, Jesus did something for us that we couldn’t do ourselves. And whatever else the Cross could mean, it certainly means love.

Thank Jesus, we don’t need to understand fully in order to know He loves us and wishes us to love others - as He loves us.

1. One description of the Christian life is about "replicating Calvary". Do you think it's a good description? What is the relevance of Jesus' death to your life? How would you replicate or repeat or "clone" Calvary in your community?

Friday, March 9, 2007


Romans 2:25-3:18

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God." (Romans 3:10-11)

What follows could be appear a little morbid. But consider some (obvious) facts:
  • A child doesn't need to learn how to be selfish, he/she usually gets the 'habit' naturally
  • Every society has to deal with crime
  • "Free lunches" or extraordinary acts of kindness are either
    • looked on with suspicion or
    • seen as a con-job or
    • taken as part of charity (which ain't cool)
  • Charities and welfare organisations need to ask for money; but casinos, cigarette companies, porn shops and pubs rarely need to
  • We experience - within ourselves and from others - the seven deadly sins far far more often than we do the seven virtues (unless you live in a monastery)
  • If we let our hearts drift and "do nothing" we will feel discouraged, stressed, worried, hurt, angry i.e. we have to "work at" feeling good, encouraged, revived, liberated, selfless
  • Newspapers stories are 90% those in which we would NOT want our names to appear (!!)
  • Prayer is seriously difficult most of the time
I don't know how to end this (maybe I'm stunned into silent depression). What else/more would you write given the above? What would you to someone who's listening?

1. How would you define and explain the concept of original sin? Ask a few people, surf around. Try to collect at least four different views of the idea.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Romans 2:12-24

"You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you not rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you not dishonor God by breaking the law?" (Romans 2:22, 23)

In the movie ‘The Last Emperor’, the boy-king Pu Yi was given a lesson in careful speaking by his Scottish tutor, Reginald Johnston, who told him, “If you don’t say what you mean, then you will never mean what you say. And a gentleman must always mean what he says.”

Candidate for most often used accusation against Christians? Hypocrisy. Saying one thing but meaning the opposite. All talk no walk (NATO, No-Action-Talk-Only). Instantly judgmental but never self-judgmental. Acting in a way which confirms you didn’t mean what you said.

What have we been saying lately about God, His love, our family in Christ? What do we say (or nod to when others say them) most of the time in church? Do we mean it? Do our lives show it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Romans 1:26-2:11

"To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, God will give eternal life" (Romans 2:11)

How many times have you seen it? Jane does a kind deed to Jack, Jack ‘in return’ insults or makes fun of Jane. Jane then curses and condemns Jack and feels completely justified in believing that Jack is a good for nothing loser and deserves to have his hair set on fire (or something like that).

Being nice to people is one thing. Being extraordinarily kind, sacrificial and all-giving despite continued coldness and hostility from the other party – now that’s a miracle. In fact, that’s Jesus. Crying, praying for and deeply loving the very people who are driving thorns into His head and nails into his hands and feet.

It’s easy to recall how often we’ve behaved like “Jack” towards people, towards our intensely loving God. It’s hard to remember in the midst of our anger and unkindness that if God was like “Jane”, it would’ve been Game Over for all of us a long time ago. It’s impossible to not be overwhelmed by the fact that God came to earth and suffered and died so that we become less like Jack, more than Jane and very like Jesus.

1. Who are the Jacks, Jane and, most importantly, the Jesus' in your life?

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Romans 1:16-25

"(They) exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:23-25)

I used to worship Tom Cruise. I wish I was merely kidding. It’s true.

Nope, I didn’t attend a “Cruise Church”. No Cruise Bible sat on my shelf. I didn’t sing Praise & Worship songs which went like, “I worship you, Almighty Tom!” There were no altars with incense burning and Cruise’s photo just above the oranges and roast pork.

But I worshipped him nonetheless. I wanted his glamour, his glory. I wanted to be like him, to talk and walk like him, to use his catch-phrases, to have his smile, to “get the girls” the way he usually does. I wanted to dress like him, to stand the way he stood. I derived my security, my “social stature” from being more like him. Worse of all, I despised anyone who fell short of Tom Cruise – in a word, who didn’t adore my god and strive for the values he represented.

God is everywhere. So are the gods, the shrines, the goddesses, the idols. All who are larger than life.

Is there a Cruise in your life who may have dethroned the Christ of your heart?

1. In twenty or less of your own words (not some Bible study book, *smile*), explain what worship means.
2. Apart from celebrities, name a few other popular 'gods' in today's society.

Monday, March 5, 2007


Romans 1:1-15

"I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you,
because your faith is being reported all over the world ..." (Romans 1:8)

Thank God. For the cool clean taste in your mouth after brushing your teeth. For the fresh jumpy start to the new day. For running water.

Thank God. For education. For knowing how to read, to write, to learn.

Thank God. For colour, for sports, for music, for clothes, for shelter.

Thank God. For friends, for family.

Thank God. When you know He's visited broken hearts and brought healing. When you hear of former anti-God people whose souls've been sweetened with the Spirit, whose voices (formerly filled curses) now give praise with abandon.

Thank God. Period.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Saturday, March 3, 2007


Hebrews 5:1-10

There are many times (like this one, where I'm writing meditations for Lent) when I wonder what I've gotten myself into, by taking jobs where I feel out of my depth. I have just begun teaching, and I am overwhelmed by the immensity of the task: the students are like so many (often unruly) sheep without a shepherd, lacking attention and love while facing great pressure in school.

Jesus was once out of his depth too, to the point that he was "overwhelmed by sorrow to the point of death*." The deep anguish of facing death and separation from the Father was only overcome by his conviction that this was the Father's will for him. It was after he prayed "not my will but Yours be done," that he could get up and face the trial and ensuing crucifixion. He was called to his task by God, a calling that is evidenced in every part of the Old Testament, from the Pentateuch to the Prophets, from the parallel with Melchizedeck to the personal assurance Jesus received at Gethsemane.

As I face day after day of being overwhelmed by clamouring students, I find the strength to continue in the task only by being sure that this is what God has called me to do right now. We are where we are because we are called there. We may be lost, wandering in the desert looking for God, or we may be certain of impending self-sacrifice - there are seasons for everything. Because Christ first "learned obedience from what he suffered," the way is open to us to follow this path of reverent submission. We, too, may be secure in our insecurities, expressing any anguish at our life situations through "prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears."

It is important to know that we do not call ourselves. For if we did, then we would be solely responsible for the hardship that follows, or for the success of the task. But we are not God. Recognizing our lives as being under His calling, we are freed to pour out our fear of failure, of inadequacy, and of pain.

*Mark 14:32

Friday, March 2, 2007


Hebrews 4:11-16

It is worth all the struggle in the world to stick to our story as God has written it, so that we may "enter that rest." It is not our outward action that comes under scrutiny, though. The battle is on the inside, against our personal weaknesses, against "thoughts and attitudes of the heart" that are contrary to the Spirit of God.

We are not always truthful, humble or wise enough to know our foibles. The word of God, though, makes them clear to us with words that cut deep. The Bible is not provided as a mere guideline; it is a living and active presence that probes deeply into our lives as we read it, making us aware of how much we fall short compared to the standards given. It calls us to account for our lives. There are times when reading the Bible is a chore - not because I find it dull or uninforming, but because in reading I know I must come face to face with an infinite God and with my deep, dark self.

Fortunately, we have a high priest who stands in the presence of God for us. Jesus has been tempted in the same way, yet he remains sinless. He provides salvation and the model of a sinless life - so that it is possible for us to lead such a life. As we struggle with our flaws on the road to glory, we may confidently enter God's presence to seek the grace and mercy that we need to carry on to the end. There should be no dread in allowing the Word to cut deep into our lives and convict us of sin - but joy and relief that we may lay down our burdens at the foot of the cross; and "godly sorrow that leads to repentance," that so great a price was paid to free us from our sins.

The challenge of Today is to "hold firmly to the faith we profess." A limp grasp, a casual grip, is not enough. We have to cling tightly to the gospel the way a drowning man clings to a proffered float. We need to give the Word space to shine its light into the darkness within, so that we may be alerted to attitudes that do not honour God. To use the words that are flung around in bureaucratic levels today, we are to struggle through a zero tolerance policy towards sin - a struggle that is made possible only by the grace offered through Christ.

Confess your faith (with others) using The Korean Creed*.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true Church, apostolic, and universal, whose holy faith let us now declare:

Minister and People:
We believe in the one God, maker and ruler of all things, Father of all men, the source of all goodness and beauty, all truth and love.

We believe in Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, our teacher, example, and Redeemer, the Savior of the world.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance, for comfort, and for strength.

We believe in the forgiveness of sins, in the life of love and prayer, and in grace equal to every need.

We believe in the Word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments as the sufficient rule both of faith and of practice.

We believe in the Church as the fellowship for worship and for service of all who are united to the living Lord.

We believe in the kingdom of God as the divine rule in human society, and in the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.

We believe in the final triumph of righteousness, and in the life everlasting.


*The Methodists of Korea, discouraged by the slow progress toward union of Methodist bodies in America in 1928, appealed to the two respective General Conferences of The Mother Churches (1928 and 1930) for permission to organise an autonomous church. A constitution was drafted and a new creed was written in 1930.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Hebrews 4:10-10

I imagine the writer of Hebrews to be an old storyteller by the wayside who beckons to weary and disiluusioned pilgrims. He starts with, "The story
so far is like this…” So far, we have come to a point in history where we know God created the world in seven days. On the seventh day, He rested. And all creation was in God, and all were in His Sabbath rest. But it was marred by sin. A curse was placed on us:

"Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life." Genesis 3:17

The aged
narrator continues with the history of Israel, a nation with a whole generation who did not enter the Promised Land. They fell away from that promised rest through disbelief and disobedience, but the storyteller hopes that his listeners will not do the same. He reminds us that God has already “spoilt” the ending of His own great story: He’s given it away since the beginning of creation, for “on the seventh day God rested from all His work.” The ending is recorded in a less cryptic way here:

"On each
side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” Revelations 22: 2-3

our individual chapters end with God’s given ending, or will we give up and drop out of the story? The storyteller’s audience are all badly wounded. Each person is living out his own story, his own set of conflicts—each one a chapter in the grand tale of Creation. The storyteller urges us to listen to His voice Today and combine our listening with faith.


How can we hear and obey the Lord today? Will we give him authorship over our lives, or will we attempt to write an alternative ending for ourselves? It is clear which path leads to the Sabbath-rest.