Law and Faith

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Galatians 3:10-22, Psalm 61:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Galatians 3:19 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.”

REFLECT
God does not do anything superfluous or embark on anything that is unnecessary. Hence, the law was not given because God had nothing better to do or to make human life more miserable. Rather the law was given because of our transgressions. The law was given so that it reflects our own depravity and hence by the Lord’s grace, a recognition for repentance and the need for a Saviour. By itself, the law cannot save. Only faith in Jesus can save.

Yet, there could be times when we tried to rely on the law to save ourselves. We did so when we thought that we can rely on our own strength to help us overcome. It seemed much easier to be able to do so. In comparison, having a relationship with Jesus is difficult because it is costly. Having a relationship with Jesus is challenging because we know that whatever He said for us to obey in the Bible is good and right.

RELATE
During our church anniversary recently, many came together as a Body in Christ to give glory to the Lord for what He had done and what He is going to do. Even in the midst of the celebrations of many, God was at work in one brother’s heart.

After the service, I was given the privilege to pray with one brother to receive the Lordship of Christ. I explained to this brother that journeying with Jesus is not going to be easy. Yet, this does not deter him from wanting to give his life to Christ because he realised that He is the only way. We praise God that while the law has revealed the sins in this brother’s heart, Christ has given him grace to repent and showed him the way to salvation. Hallelujah!

REST
Thank you Lord. Even as we give glory unto Your Name, You are constantly at work in each of our hearts. We can never out-give you and can only worship Your Holy Name. Amen.

Defilement of the earth through our sins

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Isaiah 22:1-24:23; Proverb 23:15-16

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Isaiah 24:5 “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”

REFLECT
Quite often, we think that our sins affect only ourselves or at most the people whom we transgress upon. Yet Isaiah 24:5 speaks of how our sins are able to defile the earth. Indeed, the effects of our sins can be much more far reaching than we think. This is because the Christian faith is not the faith of an individual but a shared faith. The next time we are tempted to sin, it might do us well to think about the drastic consequences it could bring to ourselves, to our family members, to our community and even to the public witness of the faith. At that moment, we cry out for the strength and grace of God to help us overcome.

RELATE
One of the most widespread and yet seldom spoken of sin among Christians is sexual sin (e.g. pornography). It remained largely unspoken because of the potential shame it brings; especially in an asian society like Singapore. However, the consequences of sexual sin is insidiously far reaching. Not only does it affects the individual, family and community; it also promotes a wrong sense of men view women and vice versa.

God’s creation is insulted. The image of God is distorted and abused for personal pleasures. I am glad that our Pastor in Charge is facilitating a course “Pure and Blameless” to help men overcome sexual temptations / addictions. Indeed, let us pray that churches in Singapore will put in more resources on this aspect of ministry. This will come in a big way to help all of us live in purity for the Lord.

REST
Lord, help us to be awakened to the truth that the effect of our sins can be much more far-reaching than we think. Cultivate in us the eagerness to live in purity by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Judgement from a Caring God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Isaiah 15:1-18:7; Proverb 23:12

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Isaiah 15:5 “My heart cries out for Moab; her fugitives flee to Zoar, to Eglath-shelishiyah. For at the ascent of Luhith they go up weeping; on the road to Horonaim they raise a cry of destruction;”

REFLECT
Whose heart was crying for Moab? In the context of Isaiah 15; it was likely to be God Himself. Question is, how could God’s heart be crying since He was the One carrying out the judgement? Wasn’t God being hypocritical?

God was not hypocritical. Judgment was to be meted against the sins of Moab (particularly for drawing close to Assyria) because God is holy. However, God’s holiness does not mean that He is cruel or uncaring. In fact, in Chapter 16:1-4; God provided refuge and help for who managed to flee the destruction. Sometimes we forget that the Moabites were also the children of God. It must have grieved God’s heart to witness and to punish the sins of His own children.

RELATE
Being a father of two children, I have at times tasted the grief of having to discipline them. It was an emotion held in tension between love and sadness. Most parents discipline their children because of love; yet it grieve our hearts to do so. We can choose not to discipline and allow our children to do whatever they want. However, this will most likely cause grieve to others (like ill-disciplined children terrorising others) or they will eventually break our hearts through sin. Perhaps in a similar way, even as God judge against Moab, He still cares for them and loves them. Even as we have to suffer God’s discipline at times; may we take heart that this is from the hands of a loving God who knows what He is doing.

REST
Loving Father, even if we have to suffer discipline from Your hands; may You give us strength and grace to persevere, knowing that You did it because You want to mould us to be more like Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

What are we really concern about?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 12:11-21; Psalm 56:1-13

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
2 Corinthians 12:21 “I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.”

REFLECT
Sometimes, our fears and concerns reflect the nature of our love for others. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul expressed that if he had the opportunity to go back to Corinth; he feared that he might find many of them going back to their sinful ways. His utmost concern for the Christians in Corinth is not whether they have established the latest discipleship program; or whether they have organised the biggest Christmas service of the year. Rather, his utmost concern was of the state of their souls; and his own as well. In many of Paul’s letters to the churches and individuals, we can see that this is his utmost concern: whether or not people are growing in Jesus.

RELATE
In this day and age, we seldom hear of friends in the faith asking about the state of our souls. Rather, we are often queried about what we do and how we are doing in the works of ministry. It is as if the works of ministry is a “safer” topic to speak on; rather than perhaps the “awkward” query: “How are you doing in the Lord, my friend?” or even “Are you well with your soul?” Or we could be spending so much time discussing about the works of ministry that we assumed that everyone is just doing well in our souls. I am afraid that would be a rather big assumption. My guess is that many of us would from time to time, need a letter from the likes of the Apostle Paul – “Oh that I fear that I may find you going back your old ways!”

REST
Lord, may you help us to be of concern for things that truly matters. Help us to be a true spiritual friend to one another and keep us humble to receive such queries or feedback from others. Amen.

Bearing with fools

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33; Psalm 54:1-7

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
2 Corinthians 11:19-20 “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.”

REFLECT
Indeed, there are times when we would rather bear with fools than with those who are wise. We would rather allow the evil one to make slaves of us in the pleasures of life than to grow as a slave of Jesus Christ. We would rather tolerate a mishandling of God’s Word than to speak the truth in love. We would rather stay in our comfort zone than to take the effort to speak and care for a fellow brother or sister who sinned. Some would even rather be led by false teachers than to follow those who lead in purity, good conscience and a sincere faith. Some, even after being deceived would choose to stay on the path of unrighteousness.  Why is this so? Like the church in Corinth, people who would rather bear with fools were those who gave in to their own flesh. With itching ears, they tolerated and even accepted the ridiculous teachings of the so called “super-apostles”.

RELATE
As a young believer, I once attended a mega church. I liked the sermons as they were easy to listen to and the jokes were funny. The sermons were largely humanistic. They would usually inspire a person to focus on God’s “promises” for material wealth and physical health; but nothing was being said about the need to die to self and seeking forgiveness for sins.

If not for God’s grace to help me discern the difference between false and sound teaching; I can imagine myself staying in that kind of church for a long time. Why? Because it appeals very much to my own flesh and it is easy believism. In some ways, when we give in to our own flesh in disobedience of God’s Word for our lives; we could be our very own “false teachers”. We “falsely” taught or tried to convince ourselves that it is alright to give in to sin. May the Lord help us during those times, reminding us to stay close to Him and strengthening us to do His perfect will.

REST
Lord, help us to be aware that we can be our very own “false teachers”. May you convict, purify and teach our very hearts of things that are good and right and give us the strength and grace to obey. Amen.

Fruit of our deeds

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Isaiah 3:1-5:30; Proverbs 22:28-29

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Isaiah 3:10-11 “Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.”

REFLECT
I can only imagine, that when the righteous heard of Isaiah 3:10-11, they must be so encouraged and perhaps even relieved. However, the wicked could have trembled when the message was delivered to their ears.

We can say a thousand things with our mouths and portray ourselves as the most noble person on earth; but the Lord knows what we are truly thinking and what we have done in secret. Some may be able to fool the world or even the most discerning of saints; but we cannot fool ourselves and definitely not God Almighty. Even as the Lord is full of grace; He is also full of truth and will put us in our place if that is necessary to mould us to be more like His Son.

RELATE
These two verses reminded me that in ministry and in life, i must guard my heart in the Lord to be pure and of good conscience. However, I cannot do this just out of fear for the Lord’s punishment. If that is the case, then I will find no joy in His calling for me to minister. Rather, the fear of the Lord must be the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord must be my strength. Then I will learn more about serving God in His love. Then I will learn to enjoy the fruit of good labour which can only come through the grace and peace of being in Christ Jesus.

REST
Lord, for whatever challenges may come, may you help me not to despair or even become hardened in heart. Rather, help me to be strengthened in You and serve with a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith. Amen.

Holy love

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Song of Solomon 5:1-8:14; Proverbs

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Song of Solomon 6:3 “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he grazes among the lilies.”

REFLECT
Some scholars have referred to the Song of Solomon as an allegory of God’s love for humankind, some referred to it as a celebration of human love. Whichever the explanation, some find it difficult to accept the extent of sensuality described in the many verses of such a “holy” book. Yet, the Song of Solomon reminds us of an important truth: that sexual love is a gift from God. Sexual love can even be considered to be holy since it comes from God. As long as sexual love is enjoyed within the sanctity of marriage and being faithful to God’s Word; there is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it should be celebrated.

RELATE
As parents, we often find it difficult to explain sexual love to our children. Subconsciously, we might even find it to be a “shameful” thing to say. Yet, as shepherds of our children’s heart; we must engage them on such an important topic and steer them towards God’s perspective of love and sex. In fact, the Song of Solomon might be a good place to start the conversation.

If we do not take the opportunity to explain the biblical meaning of love and sex to our children; somebody else (like what they see on the Internet or their friends) will. Children might then have very wrong ideas and even act out in ways that are not pleasing to God.

REST
Lord, may you help us to see what you see; and not be ashamed of things which You have created to be beautiful and holy. Amen.