Destined To Be Blessed

by Saturday, October 31, 2015
Scripture Reference:
Ephesians 1:1-6 (NASB)
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

Background:
Paul writes a letter to the church in Ephesus in about AD 60 while being in prison. He worked the ground for 3 years, working tirelessly to bring the Gospel and raise up faithful followers of Christ. (Acts 19-20) Having been established as a fairly new church, Paul desires that every Ephesian Christian be growing mature in the faith. He makes known to every Christian the insights of what God has done for humanity, what it means to be in Christ, and how knowing what God has done should transform one's faith and lifestyle to become mature.

Observation:
God has chosen to bless us in Christ.
According to the kind intention of His will and great grace, He has chosen to bless us. (1:3) These are spiritual blessings in the heavenly places - blessings that are beyond our physical nature world, conprising of our intended calling as holy and blameless (1:4), adoption as sons through Jesus (1:5), and perfect acceptance in the Beloved [the finished work of Jesus]. (1:6) It is in God's nature to bless us because He wants us to live our lives to the fullest.

Before the foundation of the world, we were chosen to be holy and blameless before Him.
Before the world was ever created, God has chosen us in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him. (1:4) Even after the Fall of man - when we have all gone astray, walking our own destructive, sinful paths - His decision has never changed. Just like how Jesus has lived in this world being holy and blameless, God sees that we will be like Him as well. He will pursue us relentlessly so that we will realize who we have been called to be.

We are predestined to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ.
Having lived in a time when we did not recognize God's plans for our lives, we have subjected our souls to our carnal nature and the god of this age. (2 Corinthians 4:4) We belonged to the family of this world, and the end goal for all it's members is slavery to sin and destruction. God has predestined that we will be adopted as sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (1:5), crossing over from destruction to life.

Truth:
1) God will never withold His desire to bless us. However, we can only be truly blessed when we are in Christ.
I have seen people accumulating riches, nice houses, obtained good positions and pays in their jobs, and yet feeling empty. Just 2 weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was way senior in age. She just got her dream home, money for retirement, a man who loves her, etc. But, I saw emptiness in her eyes. I saw her finding comfort in the things she had, and yet clearly not feeling happy. She told me, "You know, Joy, I have settled down and gained everything I need. I know it's hard, but I try to be happy..."

My heart was saddened because she has lived for so long, and yet she is still searching to be happy. To me, she wasn't living life; she was just trying to fulfill her wishes and needs for the sake of survival. That was when I realized this: God loves to bless His children. However, we will only become truly blessed when we are in Christ.

Most would settle for a stable life, trying to fulfill the physical things they think they need. They searched for temporal things to make them feel blessed in their definition, but that is not the true blessed life. The true test of feeling blessed is when we are down and out, suffering and in pain, and yet we feel genuinely blessed because we are living abundantly with God's Presence as our hope, strength, and source of favor.

The blessings of God will flourish in an even greater measure, affecting not just us, but the people around us, when we are in Christ.

2) Holinessness and blamelessness should be our identity.
God has called us to be holy and blameless before Him, adopting His likeness and attributes. Holiness and blamelessness should be our identity, and we can truly live that out when we are in Christ and have our lives yielded to the Holy Spirit.

Living as holy and blameless may seem quite far fetched to any individual who is struggling hard to overcome sin. Know that God, who has chosen us to live out this identity, is faithful to see and aid us through with His grace to be more like His Son, Jesus Christ.

3) God yearns for everyone to be His sons and daughters.
God may have predestined us to be adopted as sons and daughters in his family, but He also gives everyone a choice to choose if they would like to be in His family. He has given freewill as a gift to mankind, and He will not bypass that freewill. In His will, He yearns for everyone to be adopted His family and live the blessed life, because this adoption is not exclusive to any individual; it is meant for all.

Application:
1) Do you feel that life is meaningless even though you have everything? Or, do you feel life is meaningless because you have nothing in this world to live for? I will encourage you to forsake your old pursuits, dedicate your life to God, discover the good path He has for you, and start walking in it.

2) Do you find it hard to believe God for provision and finance? Do you fall into a perpetual cycle of worry and insecurity about your future? It is time to stop worrying and start believing that God will bless you abundantly. Bring your needs before God in prayer. 

3) Do you struggle with condemnation, always having thoughts that you are a downright sinner, and that you will never be able to become holy? You do not need to keep striving in your own strength, beating yourself so that you might attain holiness. Depend on the Holy Spirit's power, and live from the identity He has called you to be - a son and a daughter, holy and blameless. Dedicate time to pray and read His Word.

Prayer:
Dear God, I thank You for the blessings You have bestowed upon my life. It has always been in Your gracious and loving nature to bless me with everything You have. I know that You are my Good Father who holds me in the palm of Your Hands, and I am secured in You. I dedicate my life to You once again, and I pray my heart will always remain open and teachable to Your Spirit in every season. Make me like You to be holy and blameless. Use my life as a blessing for others to see Your good intentions for them so that they may turn to You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Miracle My Soul Longs

by Thursday, October 29, 2015
Hey bloggers and readers! I thought I should just take some time out from the devotion write-ups I have been doing and share some thoughts that have been burning deep within my heart for the past few weeks. It's been really long since I shared any personal, spontaneous thoughts as well. This may not be very organized, but well. here goes!

What would you define as a miracle from God? Some would attribute it as an extraordinary, bizarre God-happening that cannot be explained by science and logic. Some would say it comes through healing the sick, gold dusts/gemstones appearances, someone coming back from the dead, creative miracles, water turned into wine, etc. I love the miraculous so much that I will sit for days extensively just to read books and watch videos of men and women being used by God to operate in the areas stated above, because that is what my God can do, and it's honestly fascinating.

In my regard though, the greatest miracle isn't healing cases, gold dusts, etc. (though these may form as a bridge to recognize God's Hand) I regard the greatest miracle of all time as the miracle of salvation. When God changes a person's heart to recognize Him, genuinely love Him, become surrendered and conformed to His will, willingly. Moreover, this miracle impacts eternity! For in that day of perfection, there isn't a need for healing, prophecies, tongues, knowledge, etc. anymore. (1 Corinthians 13:8) What will remain is love, faith, hope, and the souls of man.

We have gone astray, walking in our own paths and subjecting our souls to the god of this age. God is jealous for us all because He has created us for something more, but many have chosen to settle for less. We are supposed to find our purpose in our Creator who created us, knows us, and can fulfill our life potentials in the best way possible. But, many have sought for meaning in the created that will forever leave them empty.

We should all be interested to let God use us to bring the miracle of salvation to others. Oh yes, it may involved evangelism, repair work, discipleship, counselling, etc. - time consuming efforts so to speak. But, time will never seem wasted on our hearts if we move out of God's compassion, seeing what the Father does, and does likewise.

I long for revival in my nation. I long to see people come to accept and know Jesus not as a historic, random figure, but a Person who loves them. I long to see the people of God united - not to doctrines; to Truth, Jesus Christ. We will not just be interested to make non-Christians our brothers and sisters; we will all love our brothers and sisters who are on the same team as us (Team Jesus).

Revival first start in us. We got to give God the secret places of our hearts, daring Him to move and set us apart. We got to exemplify Jesus wherever we go. We got to get connected with people who will run God's vision collectively.

One of my heart's desire is to let people somehow have a foretaste of Jesus so that they get mind-blown when they realize Jesus is far greater, loving and perfect than I am. I pray that you will live to be a blessing and shine the light of Jesus wherever you go.

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:23-25

God's Way Is The Best Way

by Monday, October 26, 2015
Scripture Reference:
Ezekiel 4

Content:
God had confirmed Ezekiel's call and commissioned him to be the watchmen for his nation. Almost immediately, and from then on, warning messages of God's coming judgment were given to Ezekiel.

At God's instruction, he had to proclaim through ominous symbolic actions, compromising his comfort and dietary laws to show Israel the condition they would live in should they not repent of their rebellious ways.

Interpretation:
• We must humbly pursue obedience; not comfort or reputation.
The mockery and opposition towards Ezekiel's messages would be rather high since it appeared to be senseless. His reputation as a priest would be ruined. However, that was the way God wanted to show Israel what they would have to go through if they remained unrepentant.

Obedience to God isn't always easy. It may seem illogical, outrageous and degrading at times. People may mock or persecute us because we made a stand to obey God.

In such times, our stand must remain unwavering. We must humbly pursue obedience; not comfort or reputation.

• God will go through great lengths to grab our attention.
God proved His love, patience and passion for His people through Ezekiel to protect them from the coming consequences they would face. He went through lengths to "break" the religious dietary laws Ezekiel upheld so strongly as a priest just to extend grace and aid His people back on track.

All throughout scripture, God is willing to use the miraculous to get us back on track – even going so far as to send His only Son as a sacrifice. He will go through great lengths to grab our attention, bringing us through the best path He has created for us.

To me, free will is the gift God has given because He exceeding loves us, but it is also the gift that has hurt Him the most. He will never bypass our free will.

If we will understand God has best intentions for our lives, our response would be teachability, humility, and immediate repentance.

• God's judgment sanctifies us to become holy.
God had purposefully spoken to different kings and prophets just to make His plans happen for His beloved people. They were meant to be the light to all nations, so that salvation may reach to the ends of the earth through Israel's testimony. (Isaiah 49:6)

But, God would rather see His land devasted, Jerusalem ruined, His people killed and exiled, than to have them give such a false witness to the Gentile nations. Judgment would begin in Israel first so that they would understand their folly, turn from sin, and once again become the light to all nations.

In 1 Peter 4:17, it states that “judgment will begin in the house of God”. He will not condone people who persecute or insult the people of God, but He uses the trials to make us more like Jesus, becoming sanctified to be the salt and light to the world. 

Application:
1) When the obedience God requires of you demands your comfort or reputation, will you obey anyway? He may be asking you to stay in a job you don't like, settle for lesser pay/lower job position, endure with uncooperative teammates, etc. It may seem stupid in the world's point of view to stay on, but God's way is always the best way.

2) If God were to dismantle the plans you have, telling you that there is a better way, even if you cannot perceive, will you surrender and follow Him? His best intention is to prosper and bless you, not to harm you.

3) You may be facing injustices or persecutions from your family, friends, colleagues, etc. because you professed faith in Jesus. Choose to see your trials as opportunities to respond and be like Christ. Never give up!

“So, if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” - 1 Peter 4:19

Boldness To Be A Speaker Of Truth

by Sunday, October 25, 2015
Scripture Reference:
Ezekiel 2-3

Content:
Ezekiel had just seen a glorious vision of the glory of God, bringing forth the realization of the God He served. There, God imparted to Ezekiel His messages for His people. He told Ezekiel that the people he was going to minister to "are a stubborn and hard-hearted people." (2:4) They would not accept his message because they were completely rebellious. Nevertheless, God still wanted Ezekiel to speak so the people know they had a prophet among them. The vision then ended, leaving Ezekiel overwhemled by what he received.

7 days later, God gave him a message, appointing him as a watchman for Israel. He cautioned him to warn his people immediately when a message is given to him, or the people would die in their sins and Ezekiel would be held responsible for their deaths. (3:16-22)

Interpretation:
• The opinion of God should always come first before the opinion of others.
God pre-warned Ezekiel that the people he was going to speak to were completely rebellious. He may surrounded with threats because he chose to obey God. God wanted him to know that the opinion and treatment he was going to receive from others should not stop his obedience towards God. (2:4-3:7)

Put yourself in Ezekiel's shoes. He doesn't need to second guess his hearers' opinions to God's message - He know these people will surely reject his message. He is in a tougher position than any one of us because he know his message will fall on deaf ears. For us, we may not know.

Sometimes, when God give us a message to deliver to someone, we are afraid that the other person may not accept our message. We perceived in our minds that the message is offensive, therefore we conclude that we should not say it for fear of offending them.

However, we are not to be concerned over the person's rejection to God's message - that is not our business. We should be solely concerned to do the will of God. The opinion of God should always come first before the opinion of others.

• Choose God's ways and live; choose rebellion and try to live.
"Son of man, listen to what I say to you. Don't join them in their rebellion." (2:8) There seemed to be no point for Ezekiel to speak God's message since those people no longer regarded YHWH as Lord over their lives. Ezekiel would face the choice of choosing God over joining his fellow countrymen in rebellion. Choosing God would mean being the outcast, and dealing with feelings of hurt and rejection. The temptation of following Israel's ways seemed the easier way out. Therefore, God had to exhort Ezekiel to not join the people in their rebellion.

Every person who desires to live for God will face the temptation of going back to their old lifestyle. In the past, we were once lord over our own lives. We could use our Sundays for work, sleep, friends, indulgence in immediate and sensual pleasures instead of being in church. It seemed that the old lifestyle is better since we have the freedom to do what we wanted in our own timing.

Living like this may bring happy feelings in the short run, but there will be this lingering feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness. We are not living merely to wake up, eat, work, study, socialise, sleep, and repeat this cycle for the rest of our lives - there is a purpose why you and I exist. The emptiness in your heart will never be satisfied unless you sought after Jesus and fulfill the destiny God has for your life.

The choice presented before us is clear: Choose God's ways and live; choose rebellion and try to live.

• We have a responsibility to speak God's truth over our hearers' lives.
God called Ezekiel as the prophet for the hour so Israel might know that God was concerned and had their best interests at heart. The messages Ezekiel spoke on behalf of God were meant to fulfill it's intended purpose. It was in hope that Israel would repent of their rebellion and be confident in what God would do for them in the distant future. God held Ezekiel responsible of warning his countrymen of their peril should they still continue in their rebellious ways. (3:16-21)

When God calls you to speak correction over someone who has walked in a wrong path, He is giving a chance for that person to turn from their ways to Him. Not speaking His word would be akin to witholding God's call of repentance from their lives, and you will become responsible for their actions thereafter.

As we are graced with the privelege of knowing and hearing God, we have a responsiblity to speak God's truth over our hearers' lives, whether they would hear it or not.

Application:
1) When God wants you to deliver a word that you regard as offensive to another person, do you hestitate and imagine in your mind how the person might react? Thinking too much would result in fear of offending the other person, and hence not obeying God. Also, you might attempt to water down and rephrase God's message altogether so that it sounds nicer and more accepting to your hearer.

It is better to find favour with God, than find favour solely with men and lose favour with God. Aim to obey God and speak the truth always.

2) Do you sometimes feel envious when you see others living wild, 'Sundays-free-to-socialise' lives? This envious feeling that "others seem to live a better life than you" would arise because the enemy doesn't want you to live for God. Partly, it may come from your need of friendship, desire to be in control, perception of the bible as the book of many rules, etc.

A strong yearning to go back to your old lifetstyle may be a red flag, indicating that you may not have placed God as priority over your life. My encouragement to you is to align your allegiance to God, reject rebellion, understand how good God is, realise your God-given destiny, and bring your needs to God in prayer.

3) Pray that when you need to speak the truth in love, you will be bold enough to do so because you are motivated by God's love for them. Like Ezekiel, pray that you may have an "obstinate and hard-hearted heart", and "a foreheard as hard as the hardest rock" (3:8) to speak God's truth no matter what people may say.

Knowing The One You Serve

by Friday, October 23, 2015
Scripture Reference:
Ezekiel 1

Content:
It had been 5 years since Ezekiel and his fellow countrymen were exiled by the Babylonians. Ezekiel was trained as a priest (1:3), but the hope in fulfilling his priestly role seemed bleak since he was no longer in his own beloved nation. On July 31, 593BC, he was with the Judean exiles beside the Kebar River in Babylon when the heavens were opened and he saw visions of YHWH. God showed His magnificent glory to Ezekiel, changing his life and deepening his perception of God.

God showed Ezekiel a vision consisting of:
1) 4 living beings. (1:5-14)
Each being had 4 faces (human face in the front; face of a lion on the right side; face of an ox on the left side; face of an eagle at the back) and 4 wings.

2) Wheels attached to the 4 living beings. (1:15-21)
The wheels were covered with eyes, moving in every direction and in unison.

3) Surface above the 4 living beings. (1:22-28)
The surface was like the sky, glittering like crystal. Above the surface sits a glorious throne, and on the throne is a figure of the man gleaming like fire, surrounded by a glowing halo, like a rainbow shining in the clouds on a rainy day.

And that was what the glory of God looked like to Ezekiel. (1:28)

Interpretation:
• God remained in control even when Israel was in exile.
Israel tasted glory as a nation when God established them from King David's reign. Now, they were being brought to exile because of their rebellion. They were no longer a nation, and therefore no longer able to pride themselves in being an Israeli. It seemed that God abandoned them, and the natural train of thought would be that control was no longer in God's Hands, but the Babylonians.

Through the vision, God showed Ezekiel that He remained in control even when Israel was in exile. The face of the 4 living beings represent the chief creatures of their domains (human having dominion over all creatures; lion over all wild creatures; ox over all domesticated creatures; eagle over the birds of the air). The throne sat above the surface and the 4 living beings, explained that God remained sovereign in control over all creation, and most certainly, in Israel's situation.

• God's glory and presence was not constrained to the holy place or the holy land.
Israel thought the presence and glory of God was constrained in their land or their temple. Given that they were in a pagan, foreign place, they thought that God would not see their plight. But, God was not constrained to a place.

The wheels covered with many eyes represent that God was still in the lookout for Israel, and that His glory is movable - not confined to a holy place. Yes, in God's righteousness judgment, Israel had to face exile, but God promised that He would go with them in their exile. He would still see them through their situation.

• Ezekiel was brought to a deeper revelation of the God He served before answering his call.
What would have been going through Ezekiel's mind as he sat with his fellow countrymen? He could have thought like the exiles, thinking that they are all gone case since he had been in residing in Babylon for 5 long years. Or, he could have been channelling his questions of Israel and his own future to God, hoping that God will somehow answer.

Though the scriptures are not clear about his thoughts, there is a reason why God showed Himself to Ezekiel in that manner: To show him who exactly he is going to serve. This God He served is:

1) Far more glorious than he could have ever known.
2) Holy, sovereign and righteous. The rightful One who can deliver due judgement.
3) The all-seeing One who remains concerned over His people and would never abandon them.
4) The promise-keeping God who will not forget the convenant He made with His people.

With that magnificent vision of God as a basis, Ezekiel knew exactly who He was serving before He answered the call of God upon his life.

Application:
1) If anyone is going through a situation as result of something you have done wrong, and you really want to turn over a new leaf, know that God still remains in control over your present situation. He will be with you, walking you through - He will not abandon you!

2) God's Presence and glory is not constrained to a church building. In situations I feel hopeless about, He sees and will reveal His glory in my situation.

3) Grasp a deeper revelation of who God is. Desire for God to reveal Himself to you. Then, you will truly know the God you serve.

Adopting Jesus's Attitude In Our Experiences

by Friday, October 09, 2015
Don't let your experiences of hurt, betrayal, disappointments, etc become the gospel truth you put on as spectacles, determining everything you perceive about circumstances, others, and God in a negative light.

Those experiences show you the truth about living in this fallen world - it is “now and not yet”, imperfect outcomes in this imperfect world, impact of the fall upon mankind, etc.

When you allow those experiences to colour your perceptions, you are actually worshipping your past. In every conclusion you come out with, you become one who "consults" your past. No longer will you be open to the truth or a better change in circumstances.

In whatever you have and will experience, be it good or negative in your eyes, you should make this conscientious effort to ask yourself, “What is Jesus seeing in my experience? How would He think if He is in my situation? What is the takeaway lesson that is the truth here?”

Then, you will feel His thoughts and emotions. You will think like He thinks, act like He acts, and hope like He hopes.
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