Prayer and Thanksgiving

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Colossians 3:18-4:18; Psalm 78:56-72

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

REFLECT
Many disciples of Christ know it is important to pray; but how often do we pray or more importantly, what is our attitude towards prayer? The Apostle Paul’s letters to the churches are often “soaked” in his teaching and call for prayers. In Colossians 4:2, Paul’s exhortation to the church in Colossae is to continue steadfastly in prayers and they are to be “watchful in it with thanksgiving”. I like the NAS translation of this verse which says: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving;” To Paul, being steadfast in prayer and having an attitude of thanksgiving is closely related. Without an attitude of thanksgiving, it seems unlikely that our Christian life can demonstrate steadfastness in prayer. In other words, the lack of a prayerful life often reflects an ungrateful attitude towards our Abba Father.

RELATE
Indeed, ungrateful children don’t interact often with their parents. They feel entitled. They don’t usually say thank you even when they know that their parents work hard to give them a reasonably “good life”. They would ask for money or things when they are in need. However, on usual days, they would very much prefer to spend time with their friends or on their phones than having a conversation with their parents.

How much of an ungrateful child am I to my Father in heaven? Why is it that there are times when I choose not to wait upon my Abba Father even though deep down, I believe He loves me? I can only conclude that I have been ungrateful. I have taken Him for granted. May the Lord restore my heart in Him to help me to be more steadfast in prayers and being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

REST
Abba Father, give me the grace to grow in gratefulness of who You are in my life. This is so I can grow in being steadfast in my daily conversations with You. Amen.

True wisdom?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Jeremiah 8:8-9:26; Proverbs 24:27

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Jeremiah 8:8-9 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?”

REFLECT
In Jeremiah 8:8-9, the Lord questioned the scribes for their claims that they are wise. The Lord challenged that this is not the kind of “wisdom” He is looking for; since they had together with the whole of Israel, “rejected the word of the LORD”. The scribes were treated as “wise men” and hence religious leaders of the day. They were often look upon to interpret and answer any questions the people might have of the Torah. If these wise men among them had even rejected the word of the LORD; just how deep was Israel in sin? We often thought of wisdom as something we gained in our minds; even if it is so with the Word of God. However, it seemed to God that wisdom is not merely a form of head knowledge or the superb ability to interpret the Word; but it is both the conviction and active response of God’s Word in our lives. That is the kind of wisdom cherished by God.

RELATE
As I serve deeper in ministry, I discovered that the Lord has in His grace, given me the ability to gain meaningful insights from the Bible. Such a “grace gift” from God has helped me in many situations, especially when it comes to the ministry of preaching and bible studies. However there are times when i discovered that such a gift can also turn me away from gaining true wisdom; all because of my human tendency to sin. Because of such a gift, I can be tempted to think that I know a lot and yet the truth is that I know very little. I can also be tempted to be lazy and hence neglect putting in hard work to study the Word.

This passage is a good reminder for me to be constantly grateful, diligent and put into practice what I have been able to gain through the Word. This would be the kind of wisdom that God is looking for. This is the kind of life that I ought to lead in Him.

REST
May the Lord help me to lead a life that is pleasing to God. This would be the kind of wisdom that God is looking for. Amen.

Authentic Living

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Jeremiah 4:19-6:15; Proverbs 24:23-25

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Jeremiah 5:3 “O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.”

REFLECT
In the days of Jeremiah, the people of Israel refused to repent before a holy God. Even as the crying prophet declared to them of the Lord’s warnings against their sin and rebellion; they had refused to budge. What made them so harden with their own sin? In the later verses of Jeremiah 5, it seems to suggest that the people loved their sin so much that they were delusional. It seems that they did not believe the words of the prophets: “The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done with them!” (Jeremiah 5:13)

RELATE
There could be times when we behave just like the people of Israel. We love our sin so much that we became delusional. The Word of God came to us and warned us about our sins; yet we harden our hearts and try to deceive ourselves that no, the Word cannot be speaking to us. In times like this, the Lord might put people in our midst to rebuke us. We can only pray for ourselves that we be humble, receive the rebuke and commit to change.

However, having people in our midst to rebuke or to speak the truth in love is not an “automatic thing”; even in the Christian community. It must be intentional. It must be constantly encouraged and built up. We need work on it to cultivate a true sense of living authentically with one another. This is so we can readily help one another if any of us fall into sin. This is so we do away with the unhealthy thinking that we should not confide in one another due to the risk of sabotage or shame. A true authentic community fears no risk nor shame; because in everything that is revealed, confessed and confided, it is done for the glory of God.

REST
May the Lord give us wisdom, courage and strength to be an authentic community in Jesus Christ. This is so we can help one another when we meet with a crisis of faith in our journey with Him. Amen.

 

Luke 3:8

by Rev Joel Yong

In Luke 3:8, John the Baptist warns the people to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance”,  emphasizing that it is more important for people to live lives testifying to one’s willingness to follow God, than to blindly follow a ritual, and think that through mere ritualism, we may achieve holiness.

Focus this day, on living life God’s way, rather than just speaking of God’s way of life.

Do all things!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Philippians 4:1-23; Psalm 75:1-10

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Philippians 4:12-13 “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

REFLECT
Quite often, Philippians 4:13 is taken out of context. Some will use it as a slogan to encourage fellow Christians to push themselves towards great things as defined by the world; such as completing a marathon, getting fantastic grades and even marrying a partner of choice. However, what verse 13 defines as “all things” is closely related to verse 12. “All things” mean the spectrum of things that God wants us to do as He wills; and not as we desire. This spectrum of things, be it to be brought low or abound; having plenty or hunger; abundance or need are to be endured or enjoyed so that His will be done. The idea is that because it is Christ who strengthens me, therefore I can be contented in Him; whatever the circumstance.

RELATE
So contrary to popular beliefs, Philippians 4:13 is quite a “tall” order to live by. Even for the Apostle Paul, he was telling the Philippians that he “learned” the secret of doing so through his life journey; and not merely as a popular faith-statement to claim. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Question is, am I prepared to do all things as the Lord commands? If so, we need not look very far but just need to examine our private world. In our private world, are we doing all things that need to be done in order to glorify Him? Are we prepared to deny ourselves, be brought low so that yes we can abound in His grace and mercy?

REST
May the Lord help us in His grace to be able to proclaim that we will indeed do all things in Christ who strengthens us!

 

Psalm 84:7

by Rev Joel Yong

Psalm 84:7 writes of the journey of pilgrims and says that: “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

Though the journey is long and the distance is far, they grow in strength instead of weariness. Those who focus upon the LORD, as the end goal of their journey – are renewed as they progress closer towards meeting Him face to face. January is over and February is here – has weariness set into your life? Do keep your eyes upon Jesus, and when you do – may His strength fill & renew you as you walk in His light.

Risking our lives for Christ

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Philippians 2:19-3:3; Psalm 73:1-28

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Philippians 2:29-30 “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.”

REFLECT
Epaphroditus almost died for the work of Christ. This fellow worker in the Lord risked his life for the Gospel. Hence, for someone like that, Paul urged the Philippians to “welcome him in the Lord with great joy and honour men like him”. Paul’s commendation of Epaphroditus brought to mind the predicament of a fellow Christian worker in the Philippines. This fellow worker in the Lord shared that her ministry with the youths in the slums of Manila is nothing short of life threatening. At any time of the day, she can hear gunshots even as she tries to minister to the youths at risk. Sadly, many of these youths came from families whose fathers are drug abusers; some are even drug lords.

RELATE
Like Epaphroditus, people like the Christian worker in Manila should be honoured. Her story inspired me to persevere and continue to serve with joy even if there are many challenges ahead. I also believe we should pray more often for our brothers and sisters in various parts of the world; who risk their lives on a daily basis for the Gospel. Unfortunately, there are many Christians in Singapore who would not spare a thought for these faithful servants of the Lord. Instead, they chose to honour “glamorous” preachers who spew forth untruths that itching ears like to hear (ref: 2 Timothy 4:3). How sad!

REST
Lord God, help us to honour more of those who risk their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Give us strength and love to keep them in constant prayer. Amen.