Take a leaf out of the Bible

Title: Take A Leaf Out Of The Bible
Artwork by: Bonny (@lovetheark)
Description: Have you ever noticed how often plants are mentioned in the Bible? This project takes a deeper look into the significance of some of the plants recorded in the Bible. The next time you come across one of these plants, may it serve as a reminder of the truths we can learn from different scenes in the Bible.


Fig Leaf

Adam and Eve gave in to temptation and disobeyed God’s instructions in the Garden of Eden. Their eyes were opened to sin and in their shame, they used fig leaves to cover their nakedness. The perfect love relationship between God and man was broken.

‘But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”’ (Genesis 3:9). Despite their disobedience and the alienation they experienced with God after that, He sought them out and clothed them with garments of skin (Genesis 3:21).

In the same fashion, God has provided us with a covering through Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Him, we stand justified and will never be put to shame (Romans 10:11).


Palm Branch

During the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, a massive crowd had spread palm branches on the road as they praised God and welcomed “King Jesus”. They thought that He would be the one to overthrow the Roman rule and deliver them from their oppression.

But today, we know that Jesus came to fulfill the Scripture—to deliver us from our sin through His death and give us eternal life by His resurrection. And He will come again to restore everything and declare His Kingship over all the earth.

As believers today with full knowledge of the true identity of Christ, do we anticipate His second coming with the same longing and joy?


Mustard Seed

Many of us worry that our faith seems too small, doubting that God acknowledges it. So we try means and ways to grow our faith, hoping that God would recognize it somehow.

However, our faith does not thrive when we focus on how much faith we have; it thrives when we focus on the object of our faith—Our Almighty God.

Even with faith as small as a mustard seed, He can accomplish His great purposes through us. Our faith is crucial not because it is great, but because He is. No matter how insufficient we think our faith is, let’s keep on praying, knowing that He hears our prayers.



“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:23-24).

Using an allegory that foreshadowed His death, resurrection and salvation plan, Jesus likened His body to a kernel of wheat that dies and produces a great harvest. In His grace and mercy displayed through His death, His sacrifice gives eternal life to all who believes in Him.

We can embrace the new and abundant life we now have in Christ. But this includes denying ourselves as we choose to follow Him. Self-denial is no easy task. No matter how hard it may be, may we always choose to live a life that bears fruit and honors Him.



Olive Branch

On the night before Jesus’ crucifixion, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The word “Gethsemane” means “place of the olive press”—and that perfectly encapsulates the suffering that Christ had to endure for our sake.

May we always remember that our salvation came at the cost of Christ’s suffering, and respond with worship that is rooted in gratitude.




“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)

God provides for the wildflowers and grass of the field much more than Solomon, Israel’s wealthiest king, could provide for himself. Likewise, He provides for His people—and much more!

Because of His complete knowledge of us and His faithful provision, we do not have to worry about our needs or what lies ahead of us. In seeking God’s Kingdom first, let us give of our time, possessions and talents generously and joyfully because in Him, we lack nothing (Psalm 23:1).


#firstworldproblems: Legit or Trivial?

Written By Eudora Chuah, Singapore

As a Singaporean, I’m well-acquainted with the fact that I live in a “first-world country.” This in turn means that I’ve had my share of “first-world problems.” For example, taking the subway during peak hour.

When I step on the downward escalator, I can already see the crowd pooling at the bottom. The line waiting for the train snakes beyond its marked boundaries, and I wonder if I have to miss more than one train before finally being able to board.

The wait seems like a big deal at the time—though sometimes it also strikes me that I could have done something about this. When getting on the subway is a challenge, I chide myself for not leaving the house earlier. The thought of taking a cab sometimes crosses my mind, but I dismiss it in the name of financial prudence. Regardless, when this happens, you can be sure I’m figuratively flailing my arms, going, “What now?” The disappointment in myself is real.

But perhaps “first-world problems” in and of themselves aren’t the actual problem. Perhaps the real question is how we respond to them.

In the overcrowded subway, it’s tempting to nitpick at small annoyances—and I’m definitely guilty. That person needs to move further into the train; we’re all getting squashed here. That person needs to lower his volume; we can all hear the conversation and it’s really annoying. That child needs to stop yelling; we’re all equally uncomfortable in this crowded train! Although I’ve never voiced them out loud, I’ve definitely thought mean things about the crowds and scolded them in my thoughts.

Different people respond impatiently for different reasons. When things don’t go my way, it’s tempting to focus on myself and my discomfort. Hence, the tendency to complain about things I might otherwise not bat an eyelid at. I wish I could say this was a habit of the past—but I still respond this way even now.

Yet, the Bible tells us that first-world problems aren’t problems with eternal consequences. On the contrary, the world’s first problem—and the only one with eternal consequences—is the problem of sin. A sinful response to the crowded subway is much more serious than the minor delay it causes me.

The book of Romans tells us that sin is the inability to stand righteous before God. Not only that, but every single one of us is sinful (Romans 3:9-12).

At its core, sin isn’t a matter of what we do (or don’t do), but the desire to take charge of our own lives instead of trusting that God knows best. Not only do we live in sin during this present life on earth, but because of sin, we are not able to live with God for the rest of eternity, and instead would be eternally separated from God—this is what we refer to when we commonly talk about heaven or hell. See what I mean about long-lasting consequences?

So, we need rescuing from sin, but we are unable to save ourselves. After all, who among us can just stop sinning, and start living a perfect life? I know I can’t!

Thankfully, in God’s good and perfect plan, He has provided a solution to the problem of sin—through the person of Jesus. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53:4-6 that God has promised a Savior who makes salvation possible for sinners and for all who trust in Him.

This promise has been fulfilled in Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection—Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). And as He intercedes for us, we are enabled to live lives increasingly pleasing to God (1 Peter 2:24).

So how do we live in light of this knowledge?

While the Bible doesn’t give direct or specific answers on how to respond to first-world problems, it does teach us general principles of how to live in light of the gospel. As Paul told Timothy, all Scripture is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We are Christians who have glimpsed and understood God’s redemptive nature in saving us, and as such, we respond to those around us with justice, kindness and faithfulness (Micah 6:8), whatever the problems we may be facing.

To say I’m unfazed by first-world problems would be a lie: I am human and imperfect. Nonetheless, this is a journey of growth and I am a work-in-progress. It’s not that these problems no longer faze me, but that I acknowledge their consequences as temporal, not eternal. Knowing that being a couple minutes late ultimately doesn’t matter much, I now attempt be more kind and faithful in my interactions with other passengers—instead of grumbling and silently berating those around me.

When it is difficult to adjust my attitude, I remind myself that Jesus is the only answer to my sin. He is able to overcome what I cannot. This is such great news! I am spurred to share it with others, whether through personal conversations, or larger ways such as inviting non-believing family and friends to evangelistic events. For me, this takes a lifetime of leaning on God’s strength, but I will persevere in His strength as He empowers me.


Does God Tempt Us?

Day 5 | Today’s passage: James 1:13-15 | Historical context of James

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sin is fun. There, I’ve said it. Sin is attractive and gratifying. Whether we like to admit it or not, this is why we turn to it. As American speaker and writer Rosaria Butterfield quipped, “If your sin doesn’t feel good, you’re doing it wrong.” To be sure, she isn’t encouraging Christians to sin; she’s simply stating the obvious—sin feels really pleasurable.

James puts it this way: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (v. 14) That’s certainly true of my experience. Whenever I sinned, it’s because I was carried away by my pride or anger, or seduced by my desire for drink or pornography.

So I can appreciate why James uses the sexually-charged word “entice”: in the moment of temptation, the desire to sin feels powerfully seductive. It’s an alluring call that’s hard to resist. Surely it won’t hurt, I think. Just this once. How bad can it be?

That’s when I’d discover that sin never, ever delivers on its promise of pleasure. Sin is a big, fat cheque that will never cash. Ultimately, it only defrauds us and costs us dearly.

You might ask, then: If sin is so bad, why does God allow us to fall into temptation? Why does He put us into tempting situations, and set us up to fail? Such thoughts, however, could show that we haven’t truly understood the heart and character of God.

James tells us, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (v. 13). God is good through and through.
Unlike us, He cannot be swayed by evil, nor does He want us to be, for He knows the harm we will suffer when we give in to temptation. As James says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (v. 15)

Giving in to our evil desires, according to James, is like being “dragged away” into the bed of an evil person who has seduced us. From that illicit sexual union, desire gives birth to sin which, over time, produces spiritual death in our lives. This vivid imagery should help us to grasp the gravity of sin and the severity of its effects. Though it may look and feel pleasurable, it’s actually destructive and deadly to us.

God’s heart for us is not to suffer sin’s death-dealing blows, but to enjoy His life-giving goodness for us—which is found in obedience to Him and His Word.
Let’s not misunderstand God’s heart, and remember that He cares for us and wants the best for us.

—Raphael Zhang, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. What specific sins might you be flirting with in your life?

2. How does understanding God’s heart for you make a difference in your relationship with Him?

3. How can you spot the seduction and deception of the sins in your life?
How can that help you identify their destructive effects?

Hand-lettering by Sonya Lao

Raphael enjoys reading and writing, and experiences them as means of connecting with the Word too beautiful for words. He believes there’s no such thing as having too many books. Having been led by Jehovah-Rapha to journey out of brokenness toward wholeness, he is passionate about bringing God’s healing to others, so that the brokenhearted can become wholehearted in loving God and people with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. He’s also crazy about cheeses, but his greatest love is still Jesus.

Read 30-day James Devotional

My Struggle With Alcohol: The Spirit That Never Satisfies

I used to drink a lot. Once, I had one too many that I stumbled about the streets and passed out outside a shopping mall in the wee hours. Some kind strangers woke me up and asked if I needed to be sent to the hospital. Subsequently, they carried me to the side of the road and helped me flag down a cab to go home.

Another time, I did a silly act in my drunken stupor that got me hurt. Thankfully, I was with a friend who accompanied me to the hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department and stayed with me through the night.

I’ve texted things I shouldn’t have to people I shouldn’t have. I’ve patchy memories of nights of heavy drinking. I’ve had experiences waking up the following day, terribly hung over, dehydrated, and with a pounding headache. Regretfully, there were even times I ended up in the beds of strangers.

That was a few years ago. I no longer drink to excess now, but I still like to drink.

We Need to Identify What Hinders Us

I do not believe that drinking alcohol is wrong in and of itself. Jesus turned water into wine as His first miracle (John 2:1-11) and at the Last Supper, Jesus used wine to represent His shed blood of the new covenant (Matthew 26:26-29).

But what I do believe is that some things may be more of a hindrance and temptation to some people, than to others. For example, a former pornography addict might find that sensual images or films are easy doorways that could lead him or her back to the stronghold of lust.

Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us in this way: “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This tells us that some things are clearly sins, but there are also things which—though not explicitly wrong—will hinder us. For me, alcohol is one of the latter things. Another way of putting this is that while alcohol is permissible for all believers, it is not beneficial to me personally (1 Corinthians 6:12).

When God highlighted to me that alcohol is something that is not beneficial to me, He also prompted me to examine the deeper reasons why I turn to alcohol.


1. The false promise of alcohol

I won’t lie: I like drinking because tipsiness feels great. When I drink, the problems in my life appear smaller. The burdens of responsibilities and expectations (from myself and others) seem to be lifted, and I feel carefree without all these concerns weighing on me.

However, I have learned that these feelings are deceiving. Alcohol lowers my inhibitions, causing me to be more willing to take risks and to make moral compromises. Things I would not have done and which I could resist much better when I was sober, I’d give almost no second thought to when I’m drunk. Even when I drink alone at home, I’d end up feeling down the whole of the next day. There’s a reason why alcohol is called a depressant.

Just as sin is disguised as a pleasure that eventually causes pain—alcohol has often played out the same way for me. Like sin, something that hinders us is a promise that does not deliver, a cheque that does not cash. In fact, it will cost us far more than what it has falsely promised us.

2. The belief that it will get rid of my woes

I realized that the times I craved a drink were when I was trying to soothe a deeper discomfort or ache I had in my heart.

But drinking has never accomplished anything fruitful. When I was weighed down by something, drinking only made me feel less concerned about it, and only momentarily. During the times when I found loneliness hard to bear, alcohol simply distracted me from the ache of that emptiness, instead of giving me the connection I desired. When I was hurting inside, drinking was merely a way to numb the pain, so I didn’t have to deal with the root issues beneath the wound.

In fact, the more I avoided confronting the root issue, the more pain recurred and festered, and the more I turned to alcohol as a form of escapism. It’s a vicious circle. The Chinese have a saying which goes: Using alcohol to relieve worries would only bring more worries.

I’ve had to remember to ask myself in the moments I crave a drink: “What is the discomfort, ache or pain I’m trying to soothe?” Identifying what the pain is helps me to understand what I actually, really need. I’ve to learn to not turn to alcohol but to God for the solution.

When I’m stressed out by overwhelming demands, I have to go to God and ask Him to show me which are the reasonable expectations I can and should meet, and which are the ones that are beyond my capability. When the desolate feeling of loneliness hits, I need to be still before Him and remind myself of His promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5) and He holds me close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11). When I experience deep pain from longstanding wounds, I must take them to Him—trusting that He knows and understands—talk it through with Him, and be comforted by what He has to say to me.

Instead of using unholy and unhealthy ways to deal with my pain, turning to God is a holy, healthy way to meet this inner need. There is also a place to ask others whom I trust for prayer and support, letting their strength carry me in my weakness.


Be filled with the Spirit

The Bible tells us, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). That is, we are to let the Holy Spirit control us, instead of wine (or anything that can lead to indulgence in sinful or unhealthy pleasures). We do this by trusting and obeying Him as His Word directs. This is something I’m still learning to work out in my life.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us how we can effectively achieve that: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The more I’m captured by His beauty and encouraged by His endurance, the more I will be able to throw off anything that entangles or hinders me from finishing the race well.

It is a journey I’m still on, but I choose to take God at His word and trust that the more I keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and fill myself with His Spirit, the more I will stop thirsting for alcoholic spirits, which never satisfy (John 4:13-14).