Moved by Unmoved

On bended knee I come,

With a humble heart I come;

Bowing down before Your holy throne …

This song was sung during a recent Bible Study. Somehow it brings to my mind a rather common scene in many Korean dramas.

A man sought to have an audience with the King. But the King did not want to meet him. But the man refused to be turned away by the court officials. He went on bended knee, knelt and waited outside the King’s chamber. For a long time he remained kneeling. By then there were whispering concerns by worried onlookers. The night began to fall. The rain came. Still the man did not move an inch from his kneeling position. He waited and waited. All this time the King was watching from His royal chambers. He was moved by the man who remained unmoved. Eventually he came out to meet the man and hears his cause.

It is so easy to give up and give in to thinking that waiting is a waste of time.

The Bible is full of the injunction to wait.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14)

“I will wait for You … My God of mercy shall come to meet me” (Psalms 59:9-10). 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Psalms 62:5).

We read biblical accounts of those who waited.

Like Abraham who was promised a child, waited some 24 years before he became a father.

Like Simeon whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He waited his entire life to see the child Jesus.

Or like the prophet Anna who year after year, decade after decade was waiting with fasting and prayers night and day hoping to see “the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Their wait was rewarded.

Just so we need to go on bended knee. Wait upon the Lord

– When circumstances are uncontrollable and uncontainable

– When people are unreasonable and unchangeable

– When problems are unexplainable and unmanageable

The promise is clear:

“No eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).

It’s because God is always moved when we are truly unmoved in waiting for Him.

Doc … what?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Titus 2:1-15; Proverbs 28:3-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Titus 2:1 “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

Right. Today’s devotion is on sound doctrine.

Sorry … doc … what? Yes, doctrine. Nothing to do with doctors or the latrine but quite simply in the Greek it means “teaching” or “instructions”. So in the context of church, it is a set of instructions given to exhort or encourage right behaviour. Such instructions are supposed to be “sound” as they are derived from our understanding of the Bible.

Sometimes, we get the mistaken idea that “sound doctrine” must mean some complicated theological ideas. No, it is not supposed to be that way. Just take a look at Titus 2:1-15. Sound doctrine here refers not to complex concepts; but rather how one should behave as a Christian; as one saved by the very grace of God. For example, in Titus 2, sound doctrine for the Christian has to do with self-control, renouncing worldly passions, sound speech, loving one another, among other things. In other words, Paul was telling Titus to teach the church on how to live. Sound doctrine has to do with living the Christian life.

Not sure about you, but sometimes I think Christians can be very presumptuous. We assume that the phrase “sound doctrine” must be reserved for those academically inclined. Or those academically inclined love to use such a phrase in order to sound “clever” among other Christians. Yet, many phrases like this, when understood correctly, are quite different from what it is presumed to be. Another example would be “theology”. That is just a word to describe the study of the nature of God. It is not some jargon designed to trip up believers or destroy their faith. When a person starts to talk about God, he or she is practically doing theology.

Now why are such presumptions or misunderstandings occurring? I believe it has to do with ironically how sometimes we do not follow Paul’s exhortation to “teach what accords with sound doctrine”. In Titus 2, I believe Paul wasn’t just telling Titus to provide content. He was telling Titus to explain his content well as he himself explained that we are able to behave in a godly way because of Jesus. In Titus 2:7, Paul was even telling Titus to make himself an example of what sound doctrine means!

Alas. I do know of some so called Bible scholars who teach in the opposite of what Paul was suggesting to Titus. They like to use jargons and complex ideas to speak of a very simple thing. They like to make it sound as if theology or doctrine is purely an academic exercise for those with half a brain like theirs. To me, they make matters worse. They led people to misunderstand that there are two groups of Christian in this world: those smart enough to understand complicated ideas; and those who are not. This is not the truth and we are just not loving when we teach in this way.

There are also times when such misunderstandings occur because we absorb without thinking of the latest fads, teachings or hearsay without investigation. We do not question the origin nor the authority of such a hearsay, teaching or fad. Rather, we choose to hear what we like and make conclusions based on our own preferences. Such a learning attitude can be disastrous too; especially if we keep telling ourselves that our own experience is “king”.

So what can we do? May I suggest:

  1. Those called to teach – teach as how Paul exhorted Titus to teach. Teach deeply but simply. More importantly, do what we teach. Be an example to the flock.
  2. When we listen to teachings, discern. Discern through the word of God, the community of faith and constant prayer in the Spirit.

I believe if we can do more of these, more and more of us would not trip over phrases like “sound doctrine”; but embrace the word of God as it is. In this way, we can focus on what is important: being doers of the word.

Lord my God, help us as a church to be wise and walk in Your ways. Amen.

You are who you worship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 49:23–50:46, Psalm 115:1-18

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 115:8 “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”

The Psalmist in Psalm 115 talked about Israel’s worship of idols. These idols could not hear, speak, see or even feel. They were the work of human hands. They could be made of silver and gold, but they were still brought forth by the imagination and beliefs of human beings. Hence, the Psalmist lamented that when Israel made or put their trust in such idols, they became like them. They could not “hear, see, speak or even feel”. They became as “worthless” as these idols. In the end, many of them could not appreciate the beauty, glory and truth about God; and even broke away from His love.

In this day and age, most of us do not worship idols such as those worshiped by Israel. However, many of us might be struggling with “idolatry” brought forth by our time spent with our hand phones or gaming media on a daily basis. If we are not careful, we might become more and more like what we are spending our time on. We could become just like our hand phones: having much data or information, but very lacking in real human interaction or involvement.

We could become so entrenched in the hyper activity brought forth by gaming that we become increasingly distant to real people in the real world. We could even become easily angered or irritated with people around us. As we continue to worship (or become addicted to) such devices, we might just become more and more like them; great to look at on the outside, but real hollow on the inside.

We become who or what we worship. Therefore, let us focus our eyes upon the One who is truly worthy of our attention so that we can become more like Him.

Lord, help us to take a step back and realise how much we have come to rely on our devices. Help us to break away from such addictions (if any) so that we can re-focus on You. We know that this is the best way. May the Holy Spirit empower us to be in the best way. Amen.

Fear God because He is good?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:1-34:22; Proverbs 27:15-16

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 33:9 “And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.”

Quite often, we equate the fear of the Lord with our awe of His power, might and holiness. Yet, in Jeremiah 33:9, it is suggested that the fear of the Lord can come through our realisation of His goodness and mercy in our lives. This can only happen when we are focused on the One who delivered such goodness as He pleases; and not so much on the “goodness” itself. Yes, when God bless a nation or an individual when the need arises, we can learn to fear Him. This is because it is a great reminder that He is in the know and in control of all things.

In recent months, while searching for a new home, we witnessed for ourselves the very goodness of God. To save on agency fees, we decided to administer and search for the property on our own. While doing that, we met with many owners as well as housing agents. Some were friendly and acted in a fair manner. However, some were quite unscrupulous.

It was an eye and heart opener for us. While some of these incidents saddened our hearts; we found joy in a sovereign God who acted on our behalf. On more than one occasion, the Lord interceded on a potential deal that would have been unfair for us; or highlighted our attention to some aspects of the house that we would not have taken note of. Indeed, while we thank God for His goodness; we are also humbled by His grace to us all. He knows it all and already accounted for our foolishness in our journey with Him. What a mighty and good God He is! He is indeed worthy to be feared.

Lord my God, as I ponder upon your goodness in my life. Help me to be humble and learn to revere you even more. Amen.

Genesis Day Thirty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 50:15-18
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Their deeds haunted them all the way to the end.
Even though Joseph had already forgiven them, their consciences did not let them forget.

They lived under the shadow of doubt, fearing Joseph who was now powerful, held back from vengeance for his father Jacob’s sake.

Sin is not without its price.
Often the pleasure or thrill we get from sin, lasts but a brief moment.

Yet the consequences last a lifetime.
The only relief that is possible, will come from God.

Joseph was also able to forgive his brothers, because he looked to God.
He was thus able to see the bigger picture.
That God’s plans for us, cannot be foiled by mankind’s schemes.

Genesis 50:19-21
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Trust God.
Men may plot your doom but the Almighty God’s plans are not disturbed by such vain attempts.

Genesis Day Thirty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 49:3-7
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

Israel was at his deathbed and he called his sons to him, to receive his final blessings which also turned out to be prophecies.

I found it interesting, that up till his death, he never forgot that Reuben slept with Bilhah and shamed his father by doing so.

Genesis 35:22
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

He also did not forget that Simeon and Levi, in their anger, slew an entire city by the sword.

Genesis 34:25
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males.

Of all the things they did in their life, their father could not forget these moments and by these memories, defined what his sons were like …

What memories do you wish to leave with your kids, your nephews and nieces, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your other relatives?

Well, firstly, for it to even be possible that there are memories left behind, we have to be in their lives today …

Take time and spend time with your loved ones.

6 days a week, I attend to pastoral concerns and matters.
1 day a week, I try to be there for my kids without interruption. My wife has a long day on this particular day so I am the one with them, taking them to school and picking ’em up and coaching them in schoolwork in the afternoon, taking them to afternoon classes.

And yes, it matters to me the kind of memories I am leaving my sons with- whether I am constantly leaving them aside to be at meetings, to attend to church member’s needs, or too tired out emotionally by the time I come home, to listen to their story about their day at school …

And the latter is something I am wary of … for this job can suck up all my emotional energy and cause me to come home depleted.
Those at home, need me to have enough emotional energy to listen to their concerns too …

It’s a struggle for me, and also a priority.
What about you?
What memories are you leaving for your household?