Double life

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Revelation 3:7-22; Psalms 131:1-3

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Revelation 3:17-18 “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”

REFLECT
The church of Laodicea was given the warning to repent from their deep dependency on wealth and prosperity. The Lord reminded them that even as they became more arrogant with the material possessions they have; the truth is that they are actually poor, blind and wretched. Why was the Lord so harsh on a people that cling on to their own sense of worth and wealth? Why not just let them enjoy their wealth and at the same time give them a “ticket to heaven”? The reason could be that the Lord was concerned for the state of their souls (ref: Rev 3:19); for if they were to continue to worship their own gods of wealth and possessions; they would soon have God replaced in their lives. Apostasy may then occur.

RELATE
In this day and age, there are many who propagate the prosperity gospel. The essence of the prosperity gospel is that it teaches a kind of lifestyle where the worship of God can be done in conjunction with the worship of money. While it is clear as day that such a “recipe” of worshiping God often leads to disaster; many people choose to believe. Why is this so? This is because it helps to create the perfect excuse for wanting to follow God and yet wanting to follow our own desires. The idea of leading a “double life” seemingly “endorsed” by bible verses is enticing. Yet, the Lord God wants us to see how blind, poor and naked we really are if we accept such a way of living. For to follow Jesus means nothing less than to discard our old ways; so that we can live in the new.

REST
Help us Lord to live life as it pleases Your eyes; and not ours. Amen.

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The love we had

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Revelation 2:1-17; Psalms 129:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Revelation 2:4-5 “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

REFLECT
The church of Ephesus seems to us a church that had been right on many counts. They were diligent and had patient endurance; they were clearly against those who used the Lord’s Name in vain especially of those who called themselves apostles but were found to be false. They had not grown weary but maintained theological discernment and biblical purity. However, the Lord found them guilty of having abandoned the love they had “at first” and exhorted them to repent. Much ink has been spilled in discussion of what this “first love” is. Personally, I believe that a viable explanation could be their love for one another. Hence, the Lord warned them to repent and do “the works you did at first”. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians had also exhorted the church to focus on being in unity with one another. Perhaps in the midst of trying to hate sin, they have failed to love those who committed the sin.

RELATE
It is probably easier to maintain a good understanding of the Bible, than obeying the Bible’s call for us to love God and one another. Therefore, churches have the tendency to slip into “holy huddles” which found comfort in each other’s “sameness”. So when a person who is not “similar” comes into the community, he or she is already subconsciously rejected. Why? Because in the first place there is no effort to seek out those who are so very “different” from us. The key is not trying to make people conform to the same mould; the key is to embrace one another’s uniqueness, backgrounds, status and personalities as created by God, to love them and point them in oneness towards the Saviour. This will be the first love that we can well remember. For when we say that we love His Word but is not convicted by the compulsion of His Word to love one another; then that makes us liars.

REST
Lord our God, may you help us to be one with what we embrace biblically and what we do as a community. Help us to repent even as we failed so that in your grace, as you shown grace to the church of Ephesus, to walk rightly with You again. Amen.

Pass it on!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Joel 1:1-3:21; Proverbs 29:18

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Joel 1:3 “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.”

REFLECT
Through the prophet Joel, God wanted the people of Israel to tell their children and their children’s children of their sinfulness, of how they betrayed the Lord of His love and a call for repentance. Why did the Lord want His people to do that? This is so that not only this generation will learn and turn from their wicked ways, but they will also understand that what they do as parents will have an effect on their children. This will also serve as a reminder to the generations to come of their need to submit to the Lord our God.

RELATE
In certain parts of the world, Christianity has been seen and practiced as an “individualistic” religion. This is “my” faith”; this is “my life in Jesus”. Even the songs we sometimes choose to sing on a Sunday service tells of the kind of influence we embraced from certain parts of this world.

Yet, the Word of God has been given to us in the context of community and not individualism. Hence in the Bible, there are many references to how sin affects community life; of how we need to pass on the faith to our children; and how restoration is a corporate act of worship. In the same manner, the Bible keeps exhorting that parents have the primary responsibility of passing on the faith to the next generation so that they can do the same and even better in the context of faith being communal.

As parents in the Lord, I believe we should take a serious look at how the people of old teach and model to their children about the faith. We need to do so much better in terms of how we can pass on the faith to our children. We should reflect on our tendencies to “outsource” the modelling and teaching of faith to people whom we think are “specialists”. While others can help to assist, equip and guide us, fundamentally we parents are exhorted time and again in God’s Word to pass on the faith to our children. Let us not pass the buck to someone else. Otherwise our children will suffer from a misalignment with what the Lord wants to do through us and for them.

REST
Lord our God, help us to be parents whom you have called us to be. Help us not to push the blame to others but examine our souls on whether it is aligned with what You have said in Your holy Word. Amen.

Flippant “love”

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Hosea 6:1-9:17; Proverbs 29:12-14

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Hosea 6:4 “What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.”

REFLECT
Through the prophet Hosea, God lamented upon the hearts of His people, whose love was like a “morning cloud, like dew that goes early away”. We can say what we want with our lips or do what is necessary to gather praise; but the Lord is clear as day upon how we truly feel inside our hearts. Is our love for Him like the morning cloud? Or are we steadfast in our love for the Lord as He so desires? In some ways, it is heartening to know that God desires steadfast love even as He loves us first. He is not treating our relationship with Him like some like to do – merely transactional and like a barter trade.

RELATE
How is my love for my Lord? I must confess that it is not steadfast all the time and need the grace of God to help me. I can recall moments in my life when at one moment, I can be in such passion for the Lord but at the next moment, I chose to withdraw! Oh how wretched and flippant is my soul! The human condition is truly in need of salvation and being saved each and every day. I thank God that I still hear His voice in convicting me to change for the better. May He who is able help me to be more steadfast in my love for Him; He who loves me in much much greater measure.

REST
Lord our God, you know our hearts. Help us to cultivate steadfast love through in the Spirit and in truth. Amen.

God, one another and His commandments

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 John 5:1-21; Psalms 124:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 John 5:1-2 “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

REFLECT
The Apostle John provided a systematic way of helping us appreciate that those who believes in Jesus Christ has been born of God; and those born of God should also love everyone within the family of faith. By what is such a love measured? Through our obedience of God’s commandments.

Therefore, when we say we love God and have no love for one another, then we are lying to God and to ourselves. When we profess that we love one another but have no love or desire to obey God’s commandments, we will also find in ourselves a liar. For loving God and one another are not first and second tier “to dos”; but they go hand in hand in our relationship with God and with His children. Everything comes in a package – God, people and His commandments as found in His Word. They are not separate entities.

RELATE
We have the tendency to separate the ideas of “God”, “one another” and “Word” in our daily living. For example, we could be worshipping God in music and songs with gusto and passion; but right in the midst of it, we can get easily frustrated when a baby cries at the back of the sanctuary. Or we could be so excited about going for a bible study or a teaching session; yet along the way we choose to ignore the cries of a person in need; all because we are rushing for time.

It is a challenging world to live in and it is really not easy trying to live up to Jesus’ call for us in the Great Commandment. Yet, Jesus said that if we can only follow His leading in faith, then the yoke will be easy and the burden light. Personally, I know that there are so much more to learn about John’s simple yet profound exhortation for me to live out the Great Commandment. May the Lord has mercy and help me to love, trust and obey.

REST
Lord our God, help us to love others as You have love us. Help us to truly understand what such love is. Amen.

This or that way

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 John 3:7-24; Psalm 122:1-9

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

REFLECT
The Apostle John pulled no punches in his writing to the recipients of 1 John. He was exhorting them that there are only two ways to live – either be righteous in God or be in alliance with the devil to abide in sin. Those who choose to practice sinning will be of the devil. There is simply no in-between. Righteousness cannot be blended with sin just as light cannot be merged with darkness.

I often wonder how the recipients of John’s letter responded to such “strong” words; for in the modern world we are often easily sensitive and at times defensive to such exhortations. Yet we know that John was not writing because he had a personal axe to grind; he wrote because that is the truth and Christ has said that the truth shall set us free.

RELATE
As predicted by the Apostle Paul, we live in a world where many believers shall increasingly choose what our flesh want to hear, say and do. So when we come across a rather “strong” or “hard” exhortation, we squirm in our seats and get all uncomfortable. So these preachers are sometimes told to “simplify”, be “sensitive” and even “tone down” the sermon content.

Question is, why shouldn’t preachers give messages that cause discomfort to our souls? After all, the Gospel is given not to massage our egos, but to challenge, convict and transform the innermost of our wretchedness.

So as like what the Apostle John said, there is no other way. Either we pursue righteousness, which can and will be excruciating for our flesh but the reward is Godliness. Or we can lean our souls to the devil and let him have his way. May the Lord help us to hear what He wants us to hear and receive with joy His Word that transforms.

REST
May the Lord help us to choose the right way and be empowered to stay that way. Amen.

Loyalty

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Daniel 1:1-2:23; Proverbs 26:14

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Daniel 1:8 “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.”

REFLECT
Why would Daniel think it a defilement if he were to eat of the king’s food and drink of his wine? Why did Daniel not consider the offering of education, changing of names and being allocated government positions by the Babylonian king forms of defilement as well? The passage is not clear as to why Daniel was particularly sensitive to the king’s food and wine. One explanation could be Daniel’s faithfulness to God’s laws on food as the Babylonians would have no qualms serving unclean animals as well as serving food offered to idols. However, this does not explain why Daniel refused the wine.

Perhaps a more viable explanation could be that Daniel and his three friends wish to preserve a sense of loyalty to God without indulging in the fellowship of the king. They wanted vegetables and water to remind themselves that they are the children of God, and not loyalists of Nebuchadnezzar. As we shall read in the later chapters of the book of Daniel; it is more than a matter of food laws but allegiance to the only King of all kings.

RELATE
Daniel’s loyalty to God in a hostile environment made me question my own loyalty to Him. Have I been loyal to the King? Or am I more loyal to the things provided by the prince of this world? If I say that I am loyal to the King, then how is my life reflecting such loyalties? Am I actually more loyal to myself than to Jesus Christ?

At one time, my friends and I discussed about being in fellowship of people who are powerful and wealthy but are morally corrupt. Would we still been fellowship with them? I thought then that it all depends on why we truly want to be in fellowship with them. Is it really to witness to them the Gospel? Then we also need to pray that in the midst of doing so, we stay strong in the Lord to resist the subtle but powerful temptations they might offer. Or are we really deceiving ourselves for the truth is that we want to get more resources from these people? The heart is deceitful but the Word of God is clear as day. May the Lord help us to choose wisely and be brutally honest to at least ourselves.

REST
Lord, may You help me to stay loyal to You; even in the midst of temptations and challenges that are ever so present in this world. Amen.