Pursuit of holiness

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7; Psalm 47:1-9

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
2 Corinthians 7:1 “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

REFLECT
Many believers understand that the key to living a Godly life is the pursuit of holiness. The Apostle Paul exhorted that such a pursuit is to be done with God’s promises in mind as well as with a heart that fears God.

What are these promises? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 says that as we commit ourselves to God, He will make His dwelling place in us and we shall be His very sons and daughters. In practical ways, this means that in the pursuit of holiness, we can do well to remember that God will help us as He will help His very sons and daughters. Hence, we can readily in His strength seek to be holy especially when temptations come knocking at our doors.

This also means that in times when we fail, God will not just frown at us and all ready to kick us into eternal damnation; but like a good Father, He awaits our repentance with divine patience and offers His hand to us if we are willing to change.   Our pursuit for holiness therefore not arises because we have something to prove, or a Christian badge to achieve; but because we know that God loves us so and we want to learn to love Him more.

RELATE
My own experience of the pursuit of holiness can only testify to the great mercies and goodness of God. If not for His grace, I would have given up long time ago. If not for the community He has given to me, I would have drowned in my own self-pity. Let us therefore be of good hope. Christ is not resurrected so that we perish; but He did so that we can truly live. Let us therefore grow to hate sin, love God and be the persons that He has created us to be.

REST
“In using all means, seek God alone. In and through every outward thing, look only to the power of His Spirit, and the merits of His Son. Beware you do not get stuck in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labour. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, fix on Him in all, through all, and above all…Remember also to use all means as means-as ordained, not for their own sake…” (John Wesley in “How to pray”). Amen.

How God respond

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Job 37:1-39:30; Proverbs 22:13

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Verse chosen for reflection: Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

REFLECT
For all that was suffered by Job and spoken by his friends, the Almighty appeared and gave a seemingly unsatisfactory response to Job through chapters 38:4-39:30. What did God’s speech about His power and creativity seeks to accomplish?

At this point of the book, we might expect God to tell Job about the very beginning when He had that wager with Satan; or at the very least, shouldn’t God comfort Job and restore him immediately? Some of us might even have the idea that God should apologise to Job for allowing him to suffer as a “blameless and upright” (cf: Job 1) man.

Yet, the Creator did not answer Job his many questions; at least not directly. The response that God had for Job painted a beautiful picture of His mighty creation for which Job was invited to be a part of. From the impending doom of Job’s sufferings, he was suddenly spoken to by the One who gives life. From the darkest possible situation of deaths and failures; God once again brought Job into His universe of life and creation. Yet, before Job was to be restored; he and his friends must first learn the truth about their place before the Creator.

RELATE
There are times when I sought responses from the Lord; thinking that He will answer me in a certain manner. During those times, I forgot that He is the Almighty and so has the right to respond in whatever way He wants. I forgot that He knows what I am thinking even before I know what I am thinking. I forgot that His will is perfect while mine is often a composite of limited knowledge and selfish desires. In my forgetfulness of where I stand in His vast universe, I will miss and even misunderstand His response to my prayers. In my pride, I will even imagine responses that did not come from God. Only when I surrender “all”, would I hear clearly the heartbeat of God and what He is really saying to me.

REST
Lord Almighty, you are sovereign upon all that you have created. Have mercy on me and teach me Your ways. Help me to know Your will and follow. Amen.

Beholding the glory of God

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Psalm 43:1-5

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Verse chosen for reflection: 2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”

REFLECT
How privilege we are to be able to behold the glory of God with unveiled faces! During the time of Moses, such an act would be inconceivable. As said in 2 Corinthians verse 13 as well as Exodus 34, Moses had to veil his face because it was “frightening” to the people. The people were frightened because it seemed unnatural and hence something they could not understand.  Even then, not everyone was able to have the privilege of meeting with God in a direct conversation.

However, due to the work of Christ on the cross, all of us who believe understood that we can now have access to the Father. We can now enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator Himself. Unlike Moses, whose glory from his meeting with God faded through time, the glory given to us in Christ will not fade. For those who continue to behold God in His glory shall be transformed into the image from one degree of glory to another.

RELATE
How have I been appreciating such a privilege of being able to behold God’s glory with unveiled faces? I must confess that there are times when I had taken such a privilege for granted. Instead of cherishing the moments where I can speak with my Father in heaven over issues that trouble me, I chose to use my own strength to meet such issues. Instead of enjoying the time I can have with my Lord during devotional, I have allowed my mind to be distracted by work and cares of the world.

REST
May the Lord help me to be in remembrance of how I can behold His glory with unveiled faces. This is so I can continue to grow in the image of the living God. Amen.

Risen

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Job 12:1-15:35; Proverbs 21:30-31

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Job 14:11-12 “As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep.”

REFLECT
In Job 14, Job addressed himself to God. He desired to make his case in the audience of God and awaited the renewal of his soul. He was so confident that God would speak with him that he said that even if he should die; God will “appoint a set time, and remember me!” (Ref: Job 14:13) Yet for Job, death knew no resurrection. For the wise man, death will definitely send a person to Sheol. In his words, Job concluded that “man lies down and rises not again”.

RELATE
In his time, Job would never have imagined that the Son of God would die and rise again. This Easter season, as churches around the world celebrate the victory of the Risen Christ; believers remember that we died and is raised with our Lord and Saviour. So those who hope in the Lord can now rise with Him on eagle’s wings. Those who cling on to the Lord can now rest and grow in Him. Indeed, the resurrection power cannot only be taught, remembered nor encountered on Resurrection Sunday; but it should be the anchor of our daily living as those who have risen with Jesus Christ our Lord. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:14, if Christ has not risen, our faith would be in vain.

REST
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.*

Amen!

*Lyrics from “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” by Charles Wesley.

Condemnation of One

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalms 37:30-40

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Psalm 37:32-33 “The wicked watches for the righteous and seeks to put him to death. The Lord will not abandon him to his power or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.”

REFLECT
The Psalmist was confident that God will not allow the righteous to fall into the power of the wicked or allow the righteous to be condemned. If we take this at face value, reality does not seem to be so. There are times when the righteous are persecuted by the wicked or they suffer condemnation for things they have not done.

Yet if we see this in context of what God has done through Christ, then yes! Those who believed and hence righteous in Jesus can enjoy such an eternal privilege. The eternal privilege that because of Christ, we will not succumb to the power of darkness nor the condemnation of hell.

RELATE
During the Last Supper, Jesus sat at the same table with one who plotted to surrender him, the Righteous One to the power of the wicked. At the Last Supper, Jesus taught the disciples to remember that He was on his way to be condemned for sins He had never committed and will never commit.

In Jesus’ final hours, the wicked watched for the Righteous One to put Him to death; and they managed to do so. Yet they were only allowed to; so that the rest of us can have life. They were only allowed to; so that those of us who submit ourselves to the crucified King can learn to truly love one another.

REST
On this day and the rest of the Holy Week, let us behold the King for His amazing grace to open the door for us to come and join Him at his table. Not as those condemned; but as those consecrated by the holy blood of Christ to be His children. Amen.

Rejoices with the truth?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13; Psalms 37:1-11

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
1 Corinthians 13:4-6: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”

REFLECT
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul gave a clear exhortation on what love is about. According to the Apostle, “love” is very different from how the world perceives or understands it. For example, one of the facets of love is that it “rejoices with the truth”. This is opposed to how the world increasingly embraces wrongdoing or wrong thinking into what they thought is “love”. For example, as long as people “love” one other; it doesn’t matter if they are engaged in pre-marital sexual relationships. Yet, as a believer of God’s truth as given to us in His Word, can I confidently say that I always rejoice with the truth? No. Not always.

RELATE
On one occasion, I was confronted with God’s truth for me on the need to learn to better communicate with my daughter. I did not immediately rejoice. Instead, I tried to justify my own thinking and even negotiated with God if I can take His truth another day. Of course, it is a futile endeavour; I can do nothing but submit to His will. It occurred to me then, that I can only consistently rejoice with God’s truth if I consistently seek the truth and submit to the Spirit to live in the truth.

REST
Lord, may You help me to seek Your truth and live in the truth. This is so I can learn what is true love, that is, of rejoicing with the truth. Amen.

The gift of God’s Word

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Nehemiah 12:27-13:31; Proverbs 21:17-18

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Nehemiah 13:3 “As soon as the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent”

REFLECT
God’s instructions were given a long time ago, that Israel shall not associate themselves with the Ammonites and Moabites. This was because they had turn themselves to be enemies of the Lord by having sought evil to curse His people. It was the Lord that turned such a curse into blessing (ref: Neh 13:2). Yet God’s people were blinded to His instructions and such a mighty act of protection. If not for the reading of the law and hence the Word of God, God’s people will continue to be blind and lead their lives in sin. How important than is the Word of God for those who believe.

RELATE
The reading, reflection and application of God’s Word is the lifeblood of the Christian life. Yet I have on occasions chose to live in blindness than to allow God’s Word to be His lamp unto my feet. There were even times when I could be reading God’s Word but allowed myself to be distracted by cares of the day.

As Israel’s eyes were opened through the read of the law; so the daily nourishment of the Word is important to me. It is important to me not just as a pastor but as a husband to my wife, father to my children and human being living among others in a sinful world. Only in reflection and obedience to the Word, can our salvation be worked out in worship of the Father. Obedience is usually painful to the flesh; but God gives grace for us to obey in the Spirit. The Christian life can only be properly nurtured upon such tensions; for we are naturally opposed to God but is reconciled through the blood of His only begotten Son.

REST
May the Lord help me to read, reflect and apply His Word on a daily basis, not grudgingly, but in joy and worship of the King. Amen.