Remember!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 77:1-20

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Psalm 77:12 “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

REFLECT
Once again, the Psalmist (in Psalm 77) was despondent and weary. We do not know what the Psalmist was expressing grief about but we get the impression that he was in deep trouble. Once again, the Psalmist did not submit to his depression but he sought the Lord.

Psalm 77 is a beautiful Psalm that gives us somewhat of a “guide” in seeking the Lord:

  1. In days of trouble, instead of turning to our favourite and often ungodly escapades, we turn to the Lord.
  2. Even if those days are extremely challenging, even if we should lie awake in the night troubled in the mind, we do not forget to stretch out our hand to the Lord.
  3. Then we verbalise our thoughts and converse with God. We tell Him that despite all that we are going through; we will remember. We will remember that He has been and will continue to be holy, trustworthy and faithful. Therefore, we shall continue to trust in His will.

RELATE
There was a time when my heart was deeply troubled by ministry matters. I lie in my bed wide awake, thinking of how I can go about solving the issue at hand. I tossed and turned, asking God to help me. After a few hours of turmoil, I slipped into a fitful sleep and woke up feeling even more discouraged. It was only after a few days when the Spirit reminded that instead of focusing on the issue at hand, I should focus on the faithfulness of God.

I was reminded to think about the many instances when I had almost given up and God held my hand to do His will. From there, I should then seek the heart of the Father with regards to the issue. I should recall His character.

As I did that, my spiritual burden was lifted as I was no longer using my own lens to see the issue. I was slowly brought into the perspective of the Father. From there, I managed to get wisdom to handle the tricky matter and found peace in Him. This lesson taught me one important thing: That I would need to “train up” like the Psalmist on being able to ponder upon the past deeds of the Father. It is extremely important, especially when we are in trouble.

REST
Lord God, give me strength to actively ponder upon Your faithful and holy deeds. This is so that during times of trouble, I will remember to turn to You. Amen.

Fear God, my friend!

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Revelations 14; Psalm 76

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Revelation 14:6-7 (NKJV)
6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

REFLECT
Often, in our busy lives, we are unaware of the work of the gospel in this world. If God’s word is true (and it is), then the “everlasting gospel” has gone out to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. Before long, the end will come, and God will reveal Himself in all His power and glory and majesty to everyone – believers or not. Meanwhile, Christians are called to partner the angels in proclaiming that there is only One God to be feared, and all idols must bow and be destroyed.

RELATE
Recently, I visited the house of a friend, and saw that he kept many idols, big and small. Although he had told me that he wasn’t religious, but only believed in himself – his practice seemed contradictory. How I wished I could have declared to him on the spot that his idols were worthless and that he must fear God and glorify Jesus Christ! Yet, it did not feel like a wise thing to do, at least not yet. Unless his heart was softened and his eyes unblinded – my words would fall on hard ground. To this day, I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to touch this man, and his family, that they too might receive God’s blessed salvation. And when the time comes, may I have the faith to declare the eternal gospel to this household.

REST
Lord, have mercy! Do Your saving work in the hearts of our loved ones, friends, and even enemies!!

Great Grace; Great Judgement

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 9:1-21; Proverbs 24:15-16

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Revelation 9:4-5 “They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.”

REFLECT
Reading the book of Revelation can be very encouraging. It can also be quite alarming. We could be wondering for example, what Revelation 9:4-5 means. How could it be that God is going to send monster-like creatures to torment unbelievers for five months? This seems to be the act of Satan and not our loving God. I once read Dr. Beale Campbell’s commentary and he mentioned that these verses suggested that unbelievers will be spiritually and emotionally tormented. So it isn’t so much about physical torment. Such an idea is in line with other verses in Revelation which talks about “weeping and mourning”. Yet, even if this is the right interpretation of the verses; I still wonder why. Why will God send creatures to torment unbelievers; whether spiritually or physically?

RELATE
As I reflected on these verses, a phrase I once told my children came to mind. I told them that in my Christian journey, I am thankful for the great grace that God has been showing and is still showing to me. Yet, in the midst of grace, I am also reminded of the great judgement to come. There can be no grace without also judgement.

Indeed, how can the grace of God be great if His judgement is not great as well on Calvary? How can grace be genuine if God is not just towards sin during the Second Coming? Indeed, the prophecy that unbelievers, among other forms of judgement will be tormented for five months is difficult to hear. Yet, who am I to judge of the One who first came to bear my shame and then will be coming to judge all men? I know not why the torment must be done but I am confident that the Good Shepherd knows what He is doing and is going to do. Perhaps only those who truly believe are exempted from such a spiritual torment because of the assurance that God will come to get us to be with Him forever. Perhaps such a torment is an opportunity given for repentance before it is too late.

Great Judgement from the only worthy Judge only bears witness to the great grace that God has shown and is showing to those who choose to believe. After all, the blood stained grace of God has been given in atonement. It is up to all who have heard to receive or face the judgement to come. Great grace has been given. Those who are hard-hearted and unrepentant shall then face the great judgement.

REST
Lord my God. Even as I am thankful to the grace you have given to me in Jesus Christ; help me to be mindful of the warnings and truth given by the book of Revelation. You are God. Help me to submit therefore to Your will and ways. Amen.

Purified by Perseverance

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Revelations 7:1-17, Proverbs 24:13-14

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Revelations 7:14
I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb

REFLECT
I think I sometimes read too quickly the imputed righteousness of Christ into these verses. Indeed, all of us will be saved only by the sacrificial work of Jesus – but is that what is meant here? It seems to me that the “ones” here have played a part in washing their robes. And they did so with the blood of the Lamb. Could this be a reference to the costly persecution and suffering they faced by being obedient, and the “blood” to that of physical harm and death? Could the “white” robes be more likely the reward for faithful Christians purified by perseverance?

RELATE
How would I feel if all the reward I get in heaven is a white robe? Would I be disappointed if I don’t get a big mansion and lots of heavenly goodies? Well, I don’t think so. To stand before God, pure and holy, is the greatest reward I can wish for. To have fought the good fight, overcome sin, and completed my mission on earth – is highest happiness. Even if I am to be a bell boy in heaven (dressed in white), I would be very contented.

REST
Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary for You.

It will die

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 70:1-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Revelation 3:1-3
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

REFLECT
Some thought that the “angel of the church in …” referred to in the book of Revelation refer to “pastor of the church”. When I heard it, I asked the question: “Now where did that come from?” Upon my ordination, I thought I didn’t quite hear the title “angel” being conferred to me! 😀

In a very large way, angels in the New Testament serve God as His messengers. Here, I prefer to see the “angel of the church in …” as specific messengers to the churches they have been appointed to (in relation to the seven churches mentioned in chapters 2-3). Hence, the message of Revelation 3:1-6 was given to the church of Sardis as a whole. The angel was probably the first point of contact to relate such a message to the congregation of Sardis. In fact, the messages given to the seven churches seem applicable in many of the churches today.

The message to the church of Sardis was one of warning. The congregation was warned not to continue with their hypocrisy; where they had the reputation of being spiritually alive but in reality, they were “dead”. Hence, the church was exhorted to wake up, repent and strengthen what remains. If they did not obey, the consequence would be that what remains will die.

RELATE
The warning to the church of Sardis is a great warning for many of us in the church today. If we are not growing in the faith, do not expect our faith to stay “alive”. It.will.die.

Such a warning is applicable to the modern day churches because we do have the tendency of comforting ourselves in non-biblical ways. We do have the tendency to comfort ourselves that we are always “alive” no matter how wrecked our spiritual life is. Or there could be other types of teaching that we absorbed without much discernment. Teachings that go something like: “No matter how far away from God you are, God will always find you back”.

Personally I have big issues with such teachings. Firstly, it smacks of pure arrogance. We expect God to come find us when in reality, we do not really care about who is God in our daily living. Secondly, it gives believers a false sense of security. It is not divine assurance. Hebrews 10:22-23 made this clear: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Yes, God is for us. But biblically, we are called to submit ourselves to Him in faith and hold fast to Him for faith. So Revelation is consistent: Wake up, repent and be strengthened. Do not be hypocritical and let our lives be authentically Christian. Otherwise, what remains will die.

When I was in Europe some years ago. I lament on the many churches that had turned to drinking holes, hotels and restaurants. Apparently, many had given up their faith and had now chosen to be “atheist”. I wouldn’t be surprised if churches in Singapore find ourselves in the same predicament if we do not wake up, repent and be strengthened. The call for Sardis to seek renewal is the same call for me to do the same. My faith in God is simply not a joke nor a passing cloud. On the eternal side of things, it is all I have and all that I am.

REST
Therefore God, help me to wake up, repent and be strengthened! Help me not to take this precious gift of Christ you have given for granted; but to seek renewal and growth on a daily basis with You. Amen!

Love or Labour?

by Rev Lai Kai Ming

Readings: Revelation 1; Psalm 69:19-36

READ (verse/s chosen for meditation)
Psalm 69:30-31 (NIV)
30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. 31 This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves.

REFLECT
I sometimes wonder, isn’t it so easy to praise God and thank Him, as compared to sacrificing ox and bull? The former are acts of the mouth, the latter requires considerable financial resources. Then why does the Psalmist says that songs and praises please God more? Don’t we sometimes see people who are worshipful on Sundays, but who don’t seem to live out their faith practically after that? Well, I think that the Lord is seeking for our love, rather than our labour.

RELATE
I must admit that for me, it’s easier to labour than to love. I would rather spend time working for God (like Martha), than having a chat with Him (like Mary). Sometimes, I wonder if my songs-singing in church is really praising and glorying God. Or is it just enjoying the songs for its music and meaningful words. The difference is subtle, but it’s real. The test comes when I have to sing a song that I don’t really like, or if the worship leader leads badly. Can I still give thanks and praise, if I don’t enjoy the singing?

REST
Lord, help me to keep learning what it means to worship You in spirit and in truth. Help me to love You with my whole being, as You love me with Yours. Stop me, when I confuse my love for labour, with my labour of love.

Sought to understand it

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Daniel 8:1-27; Proverbs 24:3-4

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Daniel 8:15-16
15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”

REFLECT
When Daniel saw the vision (as described in Daniel 8:1-14), the very first thing he did was that he sought to understand it. He did not make any flippant guesses about what the vision could be, but he sought to understand it. He did not go and tell it to his neighbours, but he sought to understand it. He did not post it on social media so that everyone could “like” it, but he sought to understand it. Daniel sought to understand the vision because he knew that it was from the Lord. Daniel knew that the vision needs to be explained by God Himself. For Daniel’s consistent faithfulness, God answered Daniel’s seeking. God sent His very own archangel Gabriel to explain the vision to Daniel. In the end, the vision affected Daniel so much that he fell ill for several days (Daniel 8:27).

RELATE
When I am given a vision from God, do I seek Him first for understanding? Or do I get so excited that I begin to invent theories on what the vision could be? Or would I get so prideful that I post it on social media for friends to “like” it and secretly hoping that people will conclude that I am “highly favoured” by the Lord? Along the same line, when I am given the privilege to witness a miracle from the Lord, do I praise Him for who He is and be encouraged? Or do I think that I am better than everybody else?

I believe I was given a vision by the Lord in the year 2007, during a time of prayer with several men in ministry. In that vision, I saw an eagle flying towards me. The vision was so clear and detailed that I know it is from the Lord. Initially, I did not know what to do. Secretly, I felt encouraged that God would put such a vision to me; for I assumed that it was something good. Later, by the grace of God, I came to realise that I was just being prideful. I should, like Daniel, sought to understand it first. Who knows? Maybe it was a warning for me to turn from my sins! Through some years of prayer, seeking and affirmation. I came to realise that the vision was an encouragement from the Lord as I prepared to go into full time church work.

I believe God do give visions or allow us to witness or experience miracles. Question is: Are we allowing these experiences to draw us closer to God? Are we seeking to understand God even more? Or do these only serve to make us prideful? May we be like Daniel, who sought to honour God in everything.

REST
Lord my God, help me to honour you like Daniel; even in the wonderful visions and miracles you have allow me to see and witness. Amen.