What seems good to the Lord

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Samuel 15:23-16:23; Proverbs 17:16

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 15:25-27 “Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me back and let me see both it and his dwelling place. But if he says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.”

REFLECT
As David suffered the greatest grieve of his life (being persecuted by his own son); the tragedy revealed the kind of person he had grown to be. Throughout the chapter, it was told to us that David faithfully surrendered himself to the hands of the living God. Not just by what he told Zadok in chapter 15, but by how he dealt with servants who wanted to follow him in the run from his own son. He knew that God can do whatever He wanted with him and he would have no escape. God can bring him back to the throne; He can also dethrone him as He pleases.

RELATE
Many of us who had been in the faith long enough know this truth in our hearts: That God, being God can do whatever He pleases with us. Yet, how many of us can be like David, who surrendered himself to the Lord even in times of great suffering? David was ready to be permanently dethroned if the Lord was so willing.

Quite often, we rather pray that we can be out of trouble instead and might have even demanded that God do what we want. These days, I even hear of Christians saying to one another not to pray “negative” prayers such as those ending with “in the will of the Lord”; for it shows our unbelief. Yet, what is really more of “unbelief”? A prayer that goes with who God truly is; or a prayer that only echoes what we truly desire?

My family and I are currently praying about an important decision. The impression I get from the Lord is to go to my knees and seek Him until I get the answer. During such a period of time, it was tempting to pray that God do what I will; and not what He wills. Yet, I know that such a prayer is just futile. It is futile because everything past, present and in the future is in the hands of the living God.

REST
Indeed O God, do what seems pleasing with You and even in times when I cannot understand Your will; please let my heart be at peace with what is given. For You are the Alpha and the Omega. Amen.

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Straight Talk – Sex b4 Marriage

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 2 Samuel 13:1-39; Proverbs 17:14-15

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 13:13 (ESV)
As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”

REFLECT
This is perhaps the clearest guidance from the Bible on whether premarital sex is permitted, or not. The logic seems clear. Although Amnon and Tamar were siblings, they were from different mothers and so incest was not the issue. The “shame” that the virgin Tamar referred to was not that of rape, but of sex before marriage. For she was not objecting to sex with Amnon, but to the need for marital consent from the king. If premarital sex was okay, she could simply have conceded and the issue would have been settled. But no, to lose her virginity before marriage, was a disgrace.

RELATE
As a pastor, I am concerned as to how young (and not so young) Christians today readily practise premarital sex. Many consider the teachings of the Bible as outdated and therefore do not apply to them. Yet they would not consider laws against stealing and killing as outdated. So the real reason, I believe, is that we have become accustomed to getting what we want. If both parties want it, then let’s do it. To deny ourselves would be uncool, and too uncomfortable. The idea that 99% of our friends do it, makes it legitimate for us to do it too. God is no longer the reference, but humans, and self. No wonder people are never really happy, even with all the sex they get.

REST
Lord, renew our minds, and strengthen our hearts. Help us not to fall prey to foolish actions that rob us of the joy of a holy life.

At what price: “unity”?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Samuel 2:12-3:39; Psalm 133:1-3

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
2 Samuel 3:1 “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.”

REFLECT
Originally, it was one house. Yet because of the sins of Saul or rather the sins of Israel to demand for a king; the houses of Saul and David fought bitterly. If David did not rise to unite the various tribes of Israel and assume leadership, Israel will continue to crumble after the death of Saul. Yet, at what price was unity gained? It was gained at the price of much blood, death and destruction when David began to finally reign Israel (2 Samuel 5).

RELATE
There will be times when true unity can only be achieved through confrontation and even the parting of ways. This is not because God is unfaithful; but because we human beings are simply too wilful and sinful. We like to ally ourselves with the Sauls of this world, rather than submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Christ.

We like to cling on to things that are not of God and His Word. We like to practice such things even in the church. We like to go for shortcuts even in the way we do ministry and live our lives. We like to read the Word of God based on our own assumptions and experiences; rather than staying true to determine what the biblical authors are really saying. We like to think that the word “love” can solve all problems; when in fact we do not even understand the biblical meaning of love. We make a big fuss out of what is not essential; and we trample on the efforts of those who voice out on what the church is doing wrong on what is truly essential. We pride ourselves with knowing the Word; and yet our lives display nothing of the Word.

While we read about the willfulness of Israel to prefer a king than Yahweh; I believe that without Jesus, the church will not do any better. Without Jesus, we will always prefer the Sauls of this world. Now that we have Jesus, let us therefore be faithful because He has enabled us to do so. Let us be courageous and choose what is true; and be prepared to part ways with what is not. Only then, can we as a Body of Christ, be truly united with one another and with the Lord.

REST
Lord, help us not to give in to the pressures of this world to conform to what might be popular, appealing to the eye and yet untrue. Help us as a church to be courageous and be faithful. Amen.

Fragile Leadership

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Samuel 29:1-31:13; Psalm 132:1-18

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 30:6 (NKJV)
Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

REFLECT
How unfair for David the leader, who has done everything right up to this point and yet was about to be stoned! David’s men have lost all their possessions and their loved ones were captured, and understandably they were aggrieved. Unable to handle their loss, they had to find someone to blame – who else but the leader? If he had not led them out with the Philistines, they would have been around when bandits attacked their homes. In such times, David could not depend on anything else – not his looks, not his strength, not even his stellar reputation – but only on his God.

RELATE
In the end, it all boils down to a man’s relationship with his Maker. If we look to another human being (even our spouse, or best friend) for our satisfaction and security, we will be disappointed. As a pastor, while my call is to serve God’s people, I am ready to be disappointed (even stoned!) by those whom I serve. This is deeply humbling, but this is necessary – lest I seek to please men instead of God. Yes, I need to constantly strengthen myself in the Lord my God. For I am human, and I am fragile.

REST
Lord, you know me inside out. You know how weak and fragile I am. Strengthen my soul, and heal my heart. Help me to find hope and salvation in You alone.

Leadership and Self-awareness

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Samuel 18:5-19:24; Proverbs 17:2-3

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 18:8 “And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?”

REFLECT
Saul was angry that David was more successful than him. Saul was angry that the people recognized this truth. Saul was jealous that the people had switched their hearts towards David. What more can Saul expect? Through the prophet Samuel, God already told Saul that He will not be with him, because he had taken things into his own hands (ref: 1 Samuel 15-16). Due to Saul’s growing pride and insecurities, the king could not see his own faults, did not seek repentance but blamed young David for the frustrations he was facing. Such was how a humble person of the Lord (1 Samuel 10) who held his peace when some persons despised him; grew to be an egoistic, angry and abusive king who blamed others for his own sins.

RELATE
Today’s text on the life of Saul reminded me that the most challenging part about leadership is not about the work given to us by the Lord; it is not even the persons who come our way. What could be most challenging is having a lucid awareness of ourselves. Leadership tends to cloud such an awareness because the exercising of authority could easily tempt people to think that we are better than who we really are. Leadership can also invite not so open feedback from others because some might not want to “offend” the leaders; or had wanted to give much benefit of the doubt to those appointed to leadership. Yet, Saul was not without open counsel. He had Samuel with him. However, Saul’s pride was bigger than any good advice and rebuke.

May the Lord help us leaders, whether in church or marketplace to always serve in humility and having a lucid awareness of our own spiritual walk with God. For those of us who might not be in leadership positions or are working with leaders, we can pray to be more like the “Samuels” to the leaders around us. Let us be courageous and discerning to speak the truth in love; so that by doing so, we might even be used by God to save the souls of some leaders.

REST
Lord, help us to learn from the example of Saul. Help us to appreciate persons who come alongside us to be our “Samuels” and help us to be open to feedback so that we can change for the sake of God’s glory. Amen.

Blame and Bribe

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: 1 Samuel 15-16; Proverbs 17:1

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
1 Samuel 15:21 (NKJV)
“But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

REFLECT
Blame and bribe. Blaming the people, and bribing God – that’s what Saul tried to do. The Lord has given him very specific instructions to destroy everything. Perhaps Saul thought that he had already obeyed 90%. What a waste to kill all the livestock. Let’s keep the king alive as a prize catch – and show the neighboring nations what Israel was capable of. But when confronted by the prophet, Saul was quick to blame his subordinates for his disobedience. And he tried to bribe the Creator with creatures. How foolish!

RELATE
Yes, foolish. That’s how I am sometimes. Instead of taking responsibility for my own failures, I try to find scapegoats. Blame the other person. Blame the weather. Blame the government. Blame God. But until I am able to be honest and take ownership, I will remain in my immaturity. I will keep finding excuses, and evade the matter at heart. Worse still, I will begin (like Saul) to think that perhaps I can get God on my side if I share some of my spoils with Him. Yes, I would become religious, yet unsaved. May God save me from such a tragic end!

REST
Lord, help me to trust You enough to always do the right thing – even if it baffles my mind, and hurts my pride.

Feeling and Fact in Worship

There are quite a few worship songs these days in Charismatic circles about the atmosphere, the environment in the room when Jesus walks in, etc., all focused on feelings and experience. I appreciate the fact that they help us remember that corporate worship is not just about singing enthusiastically but also about experiencing God in a personal and even tangible way, after all God is so real. You just cannot sing to God without feeling anything in your heart, He is not a stone tablet or an inanimate idol! What is important though is that while we lead people into the presence of God, leading them to experience the Lord personally and warmly, we must also lead them through other types of songs to make sure that our Christian faith is not founded upon feelings and emotions but primarily upon the foundation of the Word of God. For instance, we need to remember that our faith in God is founded upon the redemptive work of Christ on the cross – a historical fact that remains unchanged no matter what we may feel in our hearts. Negative feelings do not negate the historical fact. Our circumstances do not change our identity as children of God – deeply loved and highly favored. We also need to remember that we receive grace in order to give grace, it’s never for personal consumption only. Don’t you feel annoyed when some think that it is all for their own benefit? We receive love to give love and we receive hope to give hope. Jesus is the Light of the world and He tells us “you are the light of the world, so let your light shine!” (Jn.8:12; Mt.5:14-16)