The introductory lesson on aikido, a traditional Japanese form of martial arts, was an eye-opener. The sensei, or teacher, told us that when faced with an attacker, our first response should be to “run away.” “Only if you can’t run away, then you fight,” he said seriously.
Run away? I was taken aback. Why was this highly-skilled self-defense instructor telling us to run away from a fight? It seemed counterintuitive—until he explained that the best form of self-defense is to avoid fighting in the first place. Of course!
When several men came to arrest Jesus, Peter responded as some of us might have by drawing his sword to attack one of them (John 18:10). But Jesus told him to put it away, saying, “How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:54).
While a sense of justice is important, so is understanding God’s purpose and kingdom—an “upside-down” kingdom that calls us to love our enemies and return evil with kindness (Matthew 5:44). It’s a stark contrast to how the world might react, yet it’s a response that God seeks to nurture in us.
Luke 22:51 even describes Jesus healing the ear of the man Peter had struck. May we learn to respond to difficult situations as He did, always seeking peace and restoration as God provides what we need.
The scene in the parking lot might have been funny if it wasn’t so tragic. Two drivers were arguing loudly over one of their cars that was blocking the passage of the other, and harsh words were being exchanged.
What made it especially painful to watch was that this quarrel was taking place in the parking lot of a church. The two men had possibly just heard a sermon about love, patience, or forgiveness, but it was all forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Passing by, I shook my head—then quickly realized I was no better. How many times had I read the Bible, only to fall into sin moments later with an uncharitable thought? How many times had I behaved like the person who “looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like”? (James 1:23–24).
James was calling on his readers not only to read and reflect on God’s Word, but also to do what it says (v. 22). A complete faith, he noted, means both knowing Scripture and putting it into action.
Life’s circumstances can make it hard to apply what Scripture reveals. But if we ask the Father, He will surely help us obey His words and please Him with our actions.
The Chinese New Year, celebrated by Chinese families everywhere, is tied to the lunar calendar. Usually falling somewhere in late January to mid–February, this time for family reunions comes with many traditions—some of great significance. Buying and donning new clothes, giving our homes a good cleaning, and paying off outstanding debts remind us that we are putting the past behind and starting the year with a clean slate.
These traditions also remind me of our new life in Christ. No matter who we used to be or what we’ve done, we can put it all behind us. We can stop beating ourselves up over our past and let go of the guilt, knowing we are completely forgiven because of Jesus’ death on the cross. And we can start afresh, knowing we can rely on the Holy Spirit to daily transform us so we will be more like Jesus.
That’s why Paul reminds believers that “the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We too can say this because of the simple but powerful truth: God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and no longer counts our sins against us (v. 19).
Others around us may not be willing to forget our past wrongdoing, but we can take heart that in God’s eyes, we are no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). As Paul points out: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31). Let’s enjoy the fresh start God has given us through Jesus.
Stuck in a stressful job with long hours and an unreasonable boss, James wished he could quit. But he had a mortgage, a wife, and a young child to take care of. He was tempted to resign anyway, but his wife reminded him: “Let’s hang on and see what God will give us.”
Many months later, their prayers were answered. James found a new job that he enjoyed and gave him more time with the family. “Those months were long,” he told me, “but I’m glad I waited for God’s plan to unfold in His time.”
Waiting for God’s help in the midst of trouble is hard; it can be tempting to try to find our own solution first. The Israelites did just that: under threat from their enemies, they sought help from Egypt instead of turning to God (Isaiah 30:2). But God told them: if only they would repent and put their trust in Him, they would find strength and salvation (v. 15). In fact, He added, He “longs” to be gracious to them (v. 18).
Waiting for God takes faith and patience. But when we see His answer at the end of it all, we’ll realize that it was worth it: “Blessed are all who wait for him!” (v. 18). And what’s even more amazing, God is waiting for us to come to Him!
As a child, Tenny felt insecure. He sought approval from his father, but he never received it. It seemed that whatever he did, whether in school or at home, it was never good enough. Even when he entered adulthood, the insecurity remained. He continually wondered, Am I good enough?
Only when Tenny received Jesus as his Savior did he find the security and approval he’d long yearned for. He learned that God—having created him—loved and cherished him as His son. Tenny finally could live with the confidence that he was truly valued and appreciated.
In Isaiah 43:1–4, God told His chosen people that, having formed them, He would use His power and love to redeem them. “You are precious and honored in my sight,” He proclaimed. He would act on their behalf because He loved them (v. 4).
The value God places on those He loves doesn’t come from anything we do, but from the simple and powerful truth that He has chosen us to be His own.
These words in Isaiah 43 not only gave Tenny great security, but also empowered him with the confidence to do his best for God in whatever task he was called to do. Today he is a pastor who does all he can to encourage others with this life-giving truth: we are accepted and approved in Jesus. May we confidently live out this truth today.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans stayed home to avoid being infected. But I blissfully continued swimming, believing it was safe.
My wife, however, feared that I might pick up an infection at the public pool and pass it on to her aged mother—who, like other seniors, were more vulnerable to the virus. “Can you just avoid swimming for some time, for my sake?” she asked.
At first, I wanted to argue that there was little risk. Then I realized that this mattered less than her feelings. Why would I insist on swimming—hardly an essential thing—when it made her worry unnecessarily?
In Romans 14, Paul addressed issues like whether believers in Christ should eat certain foods or celebrate certain festivals. He was concerned that some people were imposing their views on others.
Paul reminded the church in Rome, and us, that believers in Jesus may view situations differently. We also have diverse backgrounds that color our attitudes and practices. He wrote, “Let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (v. 13).
God’s grace gives us great freedom even as it helps us express His love to fellow believers. We can use that freedom to put the spiritual needs of others above our own convictions about rules and practices that don’t contradict the essential truths found in the gospel (v. 20).
While my classmates and I used to skip the occasional lecture in university, everyone always made sure to attend Professor Chris’ lecture the week before the year-end exams. That was when he would unfailingly drop big hints about the exam questions he’d set.
I always wondered why he did that, until I realized that Prof Chris genuinely wanted us to do well. He had high standards, but he would help us meet them. All we had to do was turn up and listen so we could prepare properly.
It struck me that God is like that too. God can’t compromise His standards, but because He deeply desires us to be like He is, He’s given us the Holy Spirit to help us meet those standards.
In Jeremiah 3:11–14, God urged unfaithful Israel to acknowledge their guilt and return to Him. But knowing how stubborn and weak they were, He would help them. He promised to cure their backsliding ways (v. 22), and He sent shepherds to teach and guide them (v. 15).
How comforting it is to know that no matter how big the sin we’re trapped in or how far we’ve turned from God, He’s ready to heal us of our faithlessness! All we need to do is to acknowledge our wrong ways and allow His Holy Spirit to begin changing our hearts.
When Tee Unn came down with a rare autoimmune disease that weakened all his muscles and nearly killed him, he realized that being able to breathe was a gift. For more than a week, a machine had to pump air into his lungs every few seconds, which was a painful part of his treatment.
Tee Unn made a miraculous recovery, and today he reminds himself not to complain about life’s challenges. “I’ll just take a deep breath,” he says, “and thank God I can.”
How easy it is to focus on things we need or want, and forget that sometimes the smallest things in life can be the greatest miracles of life. In Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1–14), God showed the prophet that only He could give life to dry bones. Even after tendons, flesh, and skin had appeared, “there was no breath in them” (v. 8). It was only when God gave them breath that they could live again (v. 10).
This vision illustrated God’s promise to restore Israel from devastation. It also reminds me that anything else I have, big or small, is useless unless God gives me breath.
How about thanking God for the simplest blessings in life today? Amid the daily struggle, let’s stop occasionally to take a deep breath, and “let everything that has breath praise the
A group of workers were cutting ice out of a frozen lake and storing it in an icehouse when one of them realized he’d lost his watch in the windowless building. He and his friends searched for it in vain.
After they gave up, a young boy who’d seen them exit went into the building. Soon, he emerged with the watch. Asked how he’d found it, he replied: “I just sat down and kept quiet, and soon I could hear it ticking.”
The Bible talks much about the value of being still. And no wonder, for God sometimes speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12). In the busyness of life, it can be hard to hear Him. But if we stop rushing about and spend some quiet time with Him and the Scripture, we may hear His gentle voice in our thoughts.
Psalm 37:1–7 assures us that we can trust God to rescue us from the “wicked schemes” of evil people, give us refuge, and help us stay faithful. But how can we do this when turmoil is all around us?
Verse 7 suggests: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” We could start by learning to keep silent for a few minutes after a prayer. Or by quietly reading the Bible and letting the words soak into our hearts. And then, perhaps, we will hear His wisdom speaking to us, quiet and steady as a ticking clock.