Righteousness over self

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Ruth 2:1-4:22; Proverb 14:26-27

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Ruth 3:12 “And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.”

Even before the threshing floor, Ruth had caught Boaz’s eyes (Ruth 2:8-11). Yet, when Ruth offered herself to Boaz in submission for marriage, Boaz did not take advantage of the situation. He chose to follow the law and gave honour to the one who had the first claim to redeem Ruth. In this manner, Boaz also honoured Ruth and Naomi.  In other words, Boaz has chosen righteousness and self-control over and above his own desires.

In this day and age, what Boaz did is an anomaly.  Many would not even think about asking others for permission if they feel that they are “truly in love” with one another. Rather than the values of honour and respect, independence and individualism is often celebrated in relationships. So it is now “normal” for couples to go on a holiday and stay in the same hotel room together prior to marriage. It is now “normal” to make our own decisions where marriage is concerned; totally ignoring the fact that in the process of preparing for marriage we are still called to honour our parents. I do not think that we are been “modern” in all of these thinking; rather we are just doing what is right in our own eyes.

Lord, may you help us to persevere on what is good and right in your eyes. Help us not to be embarrassed to do what is the anomaly; but be more concerned on how you want us to rightly treat one another.

The need for a King?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Judges 19:1-20:48; Proverbs 14:22-23

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Judges 19:1 “In those days, when there was no king in Israel, a certain Levite was sojourning in the remote parts of the hill country of Ephraim, who took to himself a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah.”

Today’s reading is disconcerting. A Levite who had a concubine, a tribe whose men abused a woman all night long and eleven other tribes who almost annihilate their fellow brothers – the Benjamites. God is reminding us once again of how wicked we can be; especially in a time when there is no authority over us. Judges 19:1 says that this was a time when there was “no king in Israel”. A repeated phrase that rang throughout the book of Judges.

This was the time after Joshua, when the people failed to take hold of all the land that God has promised. In addition, the people had systematically rejected God’s authority over their lives and took things into their own hands. The result was a downward spiral of human sinfulness. They sinned, God sent their enemies against them, they ask for forgiveness and a judge to lead them, they sinned again … and so forth. Because of the downward spiral of sinfulness, each Judge seemed to be worse than the other. Even when God gave them human kings, their wicked ways remain.

We praise God for the privilege to be living in the grace of Christ our King; the King who is like no other. Yet, there are times when we take this for granted; especially when we deceive ourselves that we are under no one’s authority. In particular, we like to sin against God when no one else is looking; when we are given the false sense of security that it is just us and the sin; so no one will notice. Yet, we know in our hearts that God knows and the Holy Spirit will always prompt us to get away from sin. Question is: how much love do we have for God that we readily respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting or discipline?

Help us O Lord, to crucify our flesh in the Spirit. This is so we can grow in purity to love you and serve you better. Amen.

How are we reading God’s Word?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: John 2:1-25; Psalm 103:1-22

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
John 2:22 “When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

In the Gospels, there are many things said by Jesus that intentionally point His disciples to God’s redemption plan. This is so that when Jesus ascended into heaven, they are inspired in the faith to carry out Jesus’ mission for them to make disciples of all nations. Yet, there are times when we intentionally (or unintentionally) take these words by the Lord out of its original context and interpret them to mean something else. Take for example, John 2:13-17’s description of how Jesus drove away the money-changers and traders from the temple. Some take this to mean that Jesus approves violence because He made a “whip of cords”! I am sure most of us will find such an interpretation ridiculous!

I have attended churches where preachers exegete Scriptures in a manner that screams of our human depravity. Verses are often lifted out of context to support their own ideas and these ideas often feed on men’s carnal desires. I am still amazed at the number of people, some of whom I knew to be very intelligent people; would gladly “consume” such untruths. Is it because we can be so dull in our senses? Or is it because we are always our own number one fan despite the fact that we often sing praises to “love God only”? O Lord, have mercy on us and forgive us our trespasses to you in taking your Word so loosely!

Lord God, you gave us your Word to help us see who you are in our lives; and not turn it into something to feed our own depravity. O Lord Almighty, help us to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit to read your Word in diligence, in context, in humility and use it for your glory. Amen.

iChrist Incarnation

by Rev Sng Chong Hui

Two days ago I read about the latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

It boasts of a water-resistant body. No more fear of dropping it in the toilet. It has a new camera, longer battery life and more storage.

Apple calls it the newest iPhone incarnation.

“Incarnation” has been for me a special term referring to the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ who took the form of humanity to save us.

But now it seems incarnation is associated with iPhone and we are going to hear more of it in future.

Words change its meaning over time when embraced by majority of people.

Take the word, “gay.” You cannot use that word without projecting the meaning people today understand it to be.

But back in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s “gay” used to mean, “happy.” I remember singing the old nursery rhyme:

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,

Merry, merry king of the bush is he

Laugh kookaburra, laugh, kookaburra

How gay your life must be!

But today, “gay” has lost his original meaning. Today you cannot even sing innocently the old favorite Christmas carol, “Deck the halls” without inviting giggles and laughter.

Don we now our gay apparel

Fa la la la la la, la la la!

Troll the ancient Yuletide carol

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

If you were old enough, you would remember the popular amusement park called “Gay World,” which provided affordable entertainment for Singaporeans before the days of television and shopping malls.

Over time words lose its original meaning. I hope it will never be so for “incarnation,” which holds a special meaning for the church and me. By the way, the church I serve is called, “Methodist Church of the Incarnation.”

It is because of the Incarnation we know what God is truly like. The invisible God became visible.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God became like us. The Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3).

Molokai is an island in the Hawaiian archipelago. In the late 1800’s there was an outbreak of the deadly and highly contagious disease called leprosy.

That disease affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities. Back then there was no cure for this disease.

In order to keep the disease at bay and prevent it from spreading, the government would send lepers to the island of Molokai.

In 1873, there was a young, brave Catholic priest named Father Damien who volunteered to spend his life serving the leper colony on this island.

When he arrived, he was startled to see people who were not only suffering physically but socially, emotionally, and spiritually. In the leper colony he saw extreme drunkenness, immorality, abuse, and a heavy sense of total hopelessness.

What he saw were people who desperately need to know where is God in their lives.

And so, in 1873 Father Damien lived among the 700 lepers. He knew the dangers and the inevitable result of so much personal contact with a highly contagious disease. He built hospitals, clinics, and churches and some 600 coffins.

Whenever a church service was held, he would warmly and lovingly address the lepers as “my dear brethren.”

Then one morning in 1885, at the age of 45, in a calm clear voice, instead of “my dear brethren,” he began with, “My fellow lepers, I am one of you now.”

The humble priest became one of them. He becomes for them the iChrist Incarnation. It changed their lives for all of eternity for he answered their question, “Where is God?”

Today, people are still asking, “Where is God?”

The only convincing answer you can give is when you become for them the iChrist Incarnation.

Me? A child of God?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: John 1:1-28; Psalm 101:1-8

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
John 1:12-13  “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

We were once the enemies of God (Romans 5:10). Yet, in His grace and mercy, God made the promise that all who believed in His Name shall be given the right to become His children. By worldly standards, this is almost unthinkable. Many of us are already finding it difficult to love our enemies; how much more will it take to adopt our enemies as our own family? The truth is that God has done it but not without a tremendous cost to Himself. He has sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we who believed can become His children. This is so that through the amazing love of God, we can be born again in Christ Jesus.

After receiving the Lord Jesus into my life, I took a long time to comprehend the idea that I am now a child of God. Christian? Yes that I can understand. But a child of God? That is quite incomprehensible… How can the blessed Creator bless me with such a honourable status when all i did was to sin against Him? In time, the Lord revealed to me through Scripture that He will do no less. This is because as 1 John 4:16 says it, it is the very nature of God to love. In fact, God is love and His will is for us to abide in Him. I don’t think I can even seek to repay such a love; but I can respond to God for His love through my daily worship of Him in all areas of my life.

Thank you Abba Father, for your amazing grace and love for me. Help me to worship you in spirit and in truth; so that I can grow to love and glorify you more as your child. Amen.

God sent an evil spirit?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Judges 9:22-10:18; Proverbs 14:11-12

READ (Verse chosen for meditation)
Judges 9:23 “And God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, and the leaders of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech,”

How can God send an “evil spirit”? Isn’t God “good” and His “steadfast love endures forever”? (Psalm 106:1). Taken into context, the word “evil” does not describe the attributes of God; rather it describes the wrong-doings and treachery between the leaders of Shechem and Abimelech. Such “evil” had its roots from their unholy partnership in the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubbael. As said in verse 56, the downfall of Abimelech is attributed to God’s righteous punishment; for the man had cold-bloodedly murdered his seventy brothers in order to be king. In addition, if we take into context on how the word “evil” is used in similar Old Testament passages; we get the sense that Judges 9:23 is a figure of speech to mean that (1) such “evil” is permitted / allowed by God to happen and (2) God remains sovereign; so men’s wickedness and evil shall be turned to goodness for His purposes.

Throughout history, we have witnessed the many evils of men. If not for God’s offer of salvation through Christ; we ourselves could also be capable of such evils and even more. The truth is that all of us are in desperate need of the saving grace of God. It is sobering to be reminded of this truth today. It seems that the longer I am in the faith, the more I need reminders that God is holy and sovereign. This is so that my soul can be constantly “awaken” to hold on to the sovereign Lord in “desperation” for growth.

Dear Lord, even as you allow evil to happen in this world, it is not of your will that men should behave like this. Help us O Lord to be reminded of your sovereign grace so that we would not be asleep; but cling on to you desperately as our very lives depend on it. Amen.

What “Might”?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Judges 7:1-8:17; Proverbs 14:7-8

READ (Verse chosen for meditation)
Judges 7:2 “The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.”

Judges 6 gave the account that due to the disobedience of the people of Israel, they were given into the hands of the Midianites. When the Israelites could bear it no longer, they cried to the Lord for help. In His mercy, the Lord chose Gideon and sent him to save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites. The words given to Gideon were: “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14).

What is this “might” that God is talking about? As revealed in Judges 7, it is not the “might” of tens of thousands of soldiers nor even the power of angelic beings, for the men given to Gideon were dramatically reduced from 22000 to 10000 and then to a mere 300. Rather, this “might” refers to Gideon’s obedience as he led 300 men against their enemies who “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance…” (Judges 7:12). As said in Judges 7:2, this is so that God be glorified and not have Israel to boast over the Almighty. The “might” of obedience in Christian living is indeed powerful. This is because our obedience to God is not merely a “Christian thing to do”; but it is the essence of our discipleship and our allegiance to the One whose ways are not our ways.

In my early years of ministry, the Lord called me to lead a Small Group (Life Group). As a group leader, one of the most challenging things to endure is the weekly attendance of group members. There were days when the meeting was only attended by three or four members of a roster of fifteen. Those were the days when I felt discouraged and wondered what could be done to improve the situation. During one of those days, the Lord impressed upon my heart to just be obedient and serve faithfully the few who turned up. It was a struggle but i tried to do so. The result was sobering. The few who turned up always felt that they were deeply ministered to by the sharing; sometimes even more so as compared to days when there more people in the meeting. Ever since, i learnt not to underestimate what God can do even when our human eyes see only despondency and disappointment. Indeed, He is a God of love, hope and truth. We just have to obey; for the glory is His to begin with.

My Lord and my God, may you continue to teach me your ways, so that i can serve you as you will. This is so that Your Name be glorified. Amen.