Who do we love more?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 11:1-15; Proverbs 15:27-28

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Corinthians 11:12 “And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.”

REFLECT
Even as the church in Corinth was started by Paul (Acts 18-19), even as he served them without any form of support even when in need (2 Cor 11:7-9), even as they grieved him immensely with their easy fellowship with those who were engaged in sexual immorality (1 Cor 5) and now with those who preached a different Jesus and a different Gospel (2 Cor 11:4), Paul’s conclusion was that he will continue to proclaim the truth. Why? Why not just give the Corinthians up to the wolves? Because he loved the Corinthians (2 Cor 11:11) and he love God more (2 Cor 12:10). He loved them more than the betrayal of the sheep or his own discomfort or his own insecurities. After all, the apostle had proclaimed earlier that his life was no longer his own (1 Cor 6).

RELATE
Who do we love more? Ourselves? Our own needs? Or the people that God has entrusted to us?

If we love God’s people more than ourselves, then why do we keep doing things that seemingly benefit ourselves?

Why do we shun from doing the “difficult” things even though we know that it will, in the longer term, be of benefit to the growth of the people?

Are we so afraid of men that we have learnt to shrink away from our first call as His servants of righteousness?

At the end of the day what really matters? Is it the glory waiting on that Day or is it the way we try to build for ourselves the status, power, recognition and approvals of men?

Don’t we all have to give an account?

The above questions helped to guide the way I serve in ministry. They have helped me not to stray away from His calling for it can be easy to do so. It is always much easier to go with the flow of the world (or even with the demands of those whom we are serving) than to go against it proclaiming the truth.

May these questions be of benefit to those who are reading this journal also, in whatever capacity you are serving His flock. Be it that you are a parent to your child/children, be it that you are a supervisor to your colleagues, be it that you are a leader in ministry, be it that you are a co-worker at the marketplace or ministry, be it that you are a friend to another who might be hurting emotionally, be it that you felt betrayed by some in church, be it that you might be thinking of leaving the church, be it that you might even be thinking of ending your own life because you thought that no one understood you.

That might be true.

But God does.

If we are in Christ, our life is no longer our own. Live it according to His will; not ours. Then we will have freedom, in the truest sense of the word. Then we will discover what Paul means when he said in 2 Cor 12:10-11 that “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

REST
Lord our God, in this dark, depressing and violent world; You are the Light and You are the joy-Giver. Help us to go to the Light and not turn back to darkness. Even if many in this world should misunderstand our love for them, help us to find comfort and strength in the reality that You know. You always know and will make it right. Amen.

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The Bible Trap?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15; Proverbs 15:24-26

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Proverbs 15:24-26
The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.

REFLECT
The book of Proverbs answers the cry of one who asks “how shall we live?” For the author, the greatest reward comes from a life of wisdom. Not intelligence, but wisdom. Intelligence is about brains, but wisdom is about life. How shall we live? We live prudently, with our time, our resources, our choices. We are careful not to follow the crowd. Next, wisdom is not proud, because the wise man understand his frailty and his utter dependence on others. He who is proud must contend with his Creator. Lastly, the wise thinks pure and speaks grace. He believes that while we are sinners, we can choose not to sin.

RELATE
Sometimes we can fall into what I call the “Bible trap”. How the trap works is that it encourages the study of the Bible as an end in itself. It is more concerned about correct interpretation than correct living. It argues that it is not possible to live correctly without understanding precisely. It is prudent to the extent of becoming proud. In short, it makes the mistakes of the Pharisees. The Bible trap stifles the Christian life by choosing intelligence over wisdom. For this reason, I believe God has placed the books of Psalms and Proverbs right in the middle of the Bibl–- to remind us that the Word is to be understood only by living it out.

REST
Dear Lord, free me from religion into relationship, from law into love, from legalism into life!

Unrestricted

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 6:1-13; Psalms 115:1-18

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Corinthians 6:12 “You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.”

REFLECT
Paul told the Corinthians that as faithful disciples of the Lord, they (Paul and his team of disciples) had spoken freely to them. They had freely and courageously exhorted the Corinthians to live a life of holiness and to have nothing to do with anything that might sway them away from the truth. Therefore the Corinthians were not “restricted” by the Apostle and his team. If they obey the truth that were carried by the Apostle, then they will be free to bear good fruit for God’s kingdom. Yet, the reality in Corinth was that many of the believers were still clinging on to their old affections i.e. sexual immorality and idolatry. In this sense, they were highly restricted to live the Christian life to the fullest by their unholy affections. They were chained by the shackles of their old desires to fully experience true freedom in Jesus Christ.

RELATE
Indeed, we are often restricted by our old affections to fully live and serve Christ. We are not helpless to such old affections; we simply allow such affections to restrict us. For me, I am still struggling to deny my own flesh to better serve and love my family members. There will be days when I just want to “chill”, instead of engaging the children in the activities they like me to be a part of. In my mind, I know that such are great opportunities to deepen my relationship with the children; yet my flesh is weak and I occasionally succumb to the temptation to disengage. What can I do but to persevere in trusting God, who had unreservedly and freely given His grace for me to do what is good and right. Help me Lord in my unbelief!

REST
Lord our God, You have freely given to us all things so as to keep us in faith and in step with You. Forgive us during the times when we fail to obey and give us grace to continue to learn and to grow in You for Your sake. Amen.

What do we want to see?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Cor 4:13-5:10; Ps 113-114

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

REFLECT
What does Paul mean when he says he walked by faith, and not by sight? Does he mean that he closes his eyes when he walks, trusting God to lead him and keep him from danger? I don’t think so! It is clear that he is repeating an idea he introduced at the end of chapter 4, that what is seen is temporal while what is unseen is eternal – therefore we should focus on what cannot be seen! Don’t focus on your ailing body, Paul says. Instead, look to the One who will give you a new one! Don’t find fulfilment from food, drink and worldly pleasures. Rather, find joy and rest in God’s presence though the Holy Spirit.

RELATE
Some years back, I learnt a precious lesson, i.e. you can only see what you expect to see. I was on the island of Komodo, learning how to spot Komodo dragons. At first, it was impossible to see them even if they were right in front of you, for they blended into the environment perfectly. But after some time, my eyes were trained to see the “unseen”. Yes, just because we cannot see something doesn’t prove that it is not there. Those who don’t believe in God cannot see Him because they don’t expect to. But for those who walk by faith, we can discern the invisible and discover the eternal. The question is – are we so satisfied with the seeable that we no longer search for the Seekable?

REST
Psalm 113:4-5
The Lord is high above all nations,
His glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
Who dwells on high!

Get Real!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 1:1-11; Proverbs 15:11

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

REFLECT
In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul’s understanding of God is that He has not come to take away our afflictions, but to bring comfort to the afflictions we are going through for His sake. Furthermore, as a Christian is afflicted, he or she does not only receive comfort; but is also blessed to be a blessing (in the form of comfort) to others who are in affliction. Such is the kingdom of God. God’s comfort to us in our afflictions is not meant to be “kept in”; but to be “given out” to those who are afflicted among us. What comfort have I received through my afflictions that is meant to be a blessing to others?

RELATE
Henri Nouwen’s “The Wounded Healer” was one of the earliest books I read for the pastoral ministry. The main idea was that when we minister through what we have gone through ourselves, it can be powerful and effective. Nouwen’s idea makes a lot of sense because afflictions are often a very personal experience; even if such afflictions are committed to a large group of people. If it is a very personal experience, then those who had been through similar experiences can provide good empathy on the various sensitivities relating to such afflictions. So when God allow us to go through afflictions or call us to suffer with Him, it wasn’t just about helping us to grow in Him. It also means that through that “growth”, we are better able to be of help to others.

Unfortunately, the church of today seems to move in a different direction than what was prescribed by the Apostle Paul. This is a time where words are often loudly proclaimed but lives are superficially demonstrated. Perhaps, there were too much bitterness or betrayal that were left unresolved. Perhaps our way of discipleship has gone astray; that as disciples of the Servant King, we have chosen to hide in our own afflictions in exchange for the forms celebrated by this world.

Yet, 2 Corinthians speaks of a much different way of ministry; where weaknesses were boasted for the sake of God’s glory, where God’s power was made perfect in our weakness, all so that more lives can be laid bare for the Spirit’s mighty work. Paul was not interested in beautifying forms and styles of ministry; but on the transforming power and grace of the Gospel in this real world. So even at the risk of being afflicted even more, let us not hold back to proclaim of our afflictions, so that others might be comforted for His glory. Our Lord Jesus had done so and set for us the example; so what are we really waiting for?

REST
Servant King, help us to have faith even in the proclamation of our weaknesses and afflictions. This is so that others might be comforted. We live in a world where deception is rampant and superficiality equipped as a form of avoidance. Help us therefore to be real with one another and be of real help to one another. Amen.

Dream God’s Dreams, Make a Difference!

dream god's dreams

How do you make a difference wherever you go and wherever you serve? First, you gotta know if God wants you to make a difference, and make a significant contribution. Once you have that settled, you move on. As far as I am concerned, the Lord wants every one of us to make a difference wherever we go. Second, you seek the Lord. Ask Him to show you what you are called to do in that particular church, ministry, company or organization. Ask for a revelation from heaven, a dream, a divine blueprint, a vision. Third, after having received the revelation, dream, blueprint or vision, don’t rush into it. Seek the Lord and ask Him to give you His timeline and His strategy. Imagine Noah rushing off to build the ark without waiting for God’s instructions on how to build it and when to build and float the ark. It would have been a disaster! Fourth, once you know the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’, you just go and do it boldly, courageously, yet gently and patiently. Above all, love much, as much as you can. Don’t compromise. When you hit a wall, pray; when someone goes against you (including people who had been good friends and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ), pray more; when the enemy hurls all kinds of things at you, pray even more. Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. Don’t let the devil win. Ask God to lead the charge, ask Him to give you the breakthrough and trust me, He will. Fifth, once you’re into it and doing the very thing God has asked you to do and to do it the way He wants you to, take a step back and watch God in action. Walk by faith, not by sight. And finally, give all the glory to God because you will see success! Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and go on to the next thing God wants you to do, and continue to make an impact, make a difference, dream God’s dreams and change the world around you. And when you are gone one day, may the Lord’s work and legacy continue because someone caught the vision and they will take your place. Hallelujah!

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Mt.19:26

Common Superstition

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Judges 17:1-18:31; Proverbs 15:8-10

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Judges 17:13
Then Micah said, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!”

REFLECT
How is this possible? A man who made for himself idols, who arbitrarily appointed his own son as priest, and then hijacked a Levite – considers himself to be blessed by “the Lord”! This passage teaches us that not every reference of “the Lord” in the Bible is legit (short for legitimate – youth lingo). Because he recruited a Levite, Micah assumed that God would bless him. For some reason, he didn’t realize that he has broken the first three of the 10 commandments (worshipping idols, making idols, taking God’s name in vain). The only mitigating factor was that Micah (and his mother) was probably never taught Moses’ laws, and therefore depended on common superstition.

RELATE
Just because a pastor has blessed our home does not mean that God will bless it too. Just because we said grace does not mean that our food will be rid of cholesterol and carcinogen. Just because we are members of PMC does not mean that we are going to Heaven. The fact is that many Christians today depend on common superstition more than the Word of God for faith and life. That’s why we continue to make idols and bow down to them – and still think that God is blessing us. Just because life is comfortable doesn’t mean that God is on our side. Conversely, just because life is tough doesn’t prove that God is being bad to us. In fact, your suffering right now might likely be the consequence of carrying your cross on the road to Blessedness.

REST
Bless me, O Lord – with joy in suffering, peace in pain, and hope against hell.