We believe in what we want to believe

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Matthew 21:23-46; Proverbs 30:29-31

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Matthew 21:32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

REFLECT
In our reading today, we witness how Jesus questioned the chief priests when they tried to push Him into the corner. It was a question they could not answer, mainly because they could not let go of their self-interest. Jesus knew the heart of the chief priests and hence warned them of their foolishness. Due to their pride and eagerness to protect their own interests, they could not even acknowledge the way of John’s righteousness. Even when they saw it for themselves, they could not believe because they only want to believe what was beneficial to themselves.

RELATE
How often are we like the chief priests? Even when righteousness is right before our eyes, we refuse to say a good word because we fear to lose our own interest. We can even refuse to acknowledge or believe. Worse, we can even side with those who are wicked. As a result, those who are righteous are at times persecuted not so much because of the world; but unfortunately because of the hypocrisy of fellow believers.

Do we have any excuse to claim that we do not know what is righteous? Maybe those who are young to the faith; but believers who have been feeding on the word should know better. We should know how to discern because we have the word of God with us. We also have the Holy Spirit in us! Then why do we keep on acting as if we do not know? Why do we keep on refusing what is good and right? Is it because like the chief priests, we fear to lose what we have in this world? Or like the Jewish elders, we fear to be put to shame even for the sake of righteousness? Help us Lord to repent if this is so!

REST
Lord my God, I seek your forgiveness for the times when I refuse to do what is right for the sake of my own skin. Help me to choose righteousness instead, even if it means that I will be persecuted for it!

Binding and loosing

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Matthew 16:13-17:9; Psalms 140:1-13

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

REFLECT
Matthew 16:19 sounds like Jesus just passed on His “superpowers” to Peter? Some teachers of the Word had consistently misused such a verse to place themselves on a pedestal. They claimed that they are given the “spiritual authority” by God to do whatever they want; all for the sake of the Gospel. Hence, with such a verse, they claimed that God had given them the power to cast out demonic influences or the authority to do whatever they deemed fit.

While Christians can be used by God to cast out demonic influences or even be called to carry out God’s mission; this verse does not seem to say anything about these things. Instead, such a verse is set in the context of the Jewish culture and given specifically to Peter as well as the other Apostles (Matthew 18:18). “Binding” and “Loosing” are idiomatic expressions in Judaism. They talk about the formal declaration of rulings to either forbid or allow certain kinds of activity. One literal illustration of such an idea was God’s discipline of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). Simply put, the Apostles were given the authority to build God’s church in a way fitting of the commandments of God. It certainly wasn’t about certain prophets given special powers to “bind up” and “loose” / “shake” anything or anyone.

RELATE
When men try to be like God and make false claims; chaos begins. When men try to do things through a misuse or misinterpretation of God’s word; the church will suffer. The witness for the Gospel will take a beating. Instead, let us be faithful. Let us be faithful to use our heart, mind and soul to learn and apply God’s word in a way pleasing to Him. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we realise that we are doing it the wrong way. Doesn’t matter, we learn from one another. However, let us not be prideful. Let us not use God’s word to fulfil our own agenda. We are having too many of such charlatans within the community; like how some are now posing as Christians to lure unknowing people into their cultic organisations. Let us pray together that God will expose and protect. Let us be vigilant in the Spirit!

REST
Lord our God, may You help us to be discerning in the way we hear of Your word. Let us not be misled by charlatans or even people who thought they are on the right path (but are not). Instead, help us to be faithful to You and Your word. Amen.

Blasphemy against the Spirit

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Matthew 12:22-45; Proverbs 30:10

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Matthew 12:31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

REFLECT
When it comes to “favourite” verses or passages of the Christian, I am quite sure that Matthew 12:31 is not a popular choice. What did Jesus mean by “blasphemy against the Spirit”? What can be so damning for a God who sent His only Son that He will not forgive? As in all passages and verses, it must be understood in its context. What is the context? The context is that in Matthew 12:22-30, Jesus was addressing a group of Pharisees who accused Jesus of casting out demons by the demonic spirit of Beelzebul. Jesus first destroyed their illogical conclusion. Since no house would seek to destroy itself; why would the demons cast out their very own?

Jesus then gave them the warning; that their accusation is a very serious one. It was as if the Pharisees are blaspheming (which literally means showing contempt or lack of reverence) the Holy Spirit. Such cannot be forgiven because there is no basis for God to grant forgiveness. Any other sins or blasphemies can be forgiven assuming the one who did them repent. However, how is one to repent against the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It cannot be done. Why?

Because when one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and call out good to be evil; there is no repentance to speak of. Therefore God cannot grant forgiveness when grace is rejected; when the Holy Spirit is accused to be demonic. It was as if the Pharisees, despite Jesus’ warning and rebuke, kept on refusing the Light and insisted that Jesus is the enemy. If this is so, how then can such be forgiven since there is no recognition of who God truly is and even the rejection of what He offered?

RELATE
Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees serves as a great reminder for me. A reminder that the sharing of the Gospel is urgent. Not only to our loved ones or friends; but to any whom the Lord has placed in our paths. We are called to share the Gospel which includes being the Gospel. This means walking in the truth. This means conducting our lives as it should be according to the word of God. Then, as we do so, we pray that those whom we cared about will come to believe.

If they continue to deny the truth despite of the grace and love they experienced, then may the Lord has mercy. At the end of the day, it is God who decide; not us. For the Lord had demonstrated His everlasting love in order for us to come to Him. There is really nothing else more to do or pine for. Jesus’ birth, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension is the all in all. It is done. It is finished.

This Christmas season, let us not indulge ourselves in the “sales” of worldly things; but to be “urgent” in being and sharing the Gospel.

REST
Lord my God, help me to care enough to share the Gospel with love and urgency. Amen.

Pigs or men?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Matthew 8:18-34; Psalm 133:1-3

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Matthew 8:32-34
32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

REFLECT
It was a peculiar scene. Jesus just helped the entire city drove out powerful demons and all the people wanted was to ask Jesus to leave. Why? The text did not say in specific details but we can make good inferences based on what happened. The problem could be because Jesus acceded to the demons’ request to be driven into a herd of pigs. Under powerful demonic influences, the pigs drove themselves into the waters. Witnessing such a scene, the herdsmen fled and probably told all in the city that even though Jesus drove away demons, they have lost their mighty possessions (pigs were a livelihood after all). The city could be in fear that they could lose more if Jesus had stayed. In a way, it was preferred that the demon-possessed men stayed that way and the herdsmen could keep their pigs.

RELATE
By asking Jesus to leave, a choice was made by the city-dwellers. The choice to retain whatever possessions they have left for fear of losing them. They preferred to have not witnessed the power of salvation but to keep whatever the world can offer. It is easy to judge them however. It is easy to say that they were foolish to have missed the Messiah and gave in to fear.

Yet, we could just be as foolish at times. We could have easily choose possessions over Jesus. much of the time. We could have even chosen “pigs” instead of the salvation of fellow men. We do this when we cower at the inconvenience of caring for the people around us. We do this when we prefer to spend time at work than interacting with pre-believing friends or even family members. We do this when we pretend to be pious Christians on Sundays; but deep down, we could barely part with what we have. We do this when we prefer to protect our self-interest than to “risk” it for the sake of His kingdom.

REST
Help us Lord, to choose You instead of what we think is important to us. Help us to have faith and seek Your kingdom first. Amen.

Light vs Darkness

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Matthew 4:12-25; Proverbs 29:21-22

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Matthew 4:15-16 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

REFLECT
Matthew 4:15-16 speaks of the prophecy that was given to the prophet Isaiah. A prophecy that pointed to the coming of Jesus as the Light of the world. In particular, we are told that the Light was made visible and dawned upon those who were living in darkness and even in the shadow of death.

Now, what does this mean? This means that Jesus came not because He wanted to set a new world order nor was He interested to be king of the world. Instead, Jesus came to bring light into our fallen world. In particular, Jesus had brought Himself to be God incarnate to be the source of salvation for those who are lost and grieving. Indeed, Jesus is the Light that was made visible and dawned upon those who were living in darkness.

RELATE
My daughter has a fear for darkness. Up till this day, she would ask me to accompany her if there is a need for her to go to dark places. Sometimes, I would tell her that because Jesus is with her, she need not fear. Jesus is the Light and He can overcome all darkness. Of course, there are times when she cannot appreciate such an imagery when all she saw in front of her is physical darkness.

Yes, physical darkness can be an overwhelming experience for some. However, what Jesus promised was much deeper than the overcoming of physical darkness. He had promised that He can help those who are living in darkness and even those in the shadow of death to gain victory.

Spiritual darkness can occur even when the sun is shining. Spiritual darkness is the imagery of how we are struggling in our sins or difficult circumstances which cause us much grief and tears. Yet, Jesus the Light has the power to penetrate our souls and purify us for His good purposes. Jesus the Light has the grace to provide hope and comfort even when we are in the valley of the shadow of death. The promise has been given ever since the time of Isaiah; what is left to do is to come to the Light. What is left to do is to put our trust in Him and follow the Light; as He said to the disciples a few verses later in Matthew 4: 18-20: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.

REST
Jesus, help me to be humble and come to you, especially when I struggle with spiritual darkness. This is because You are the only Light that can help overcome and empower. Amen.

God is King!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Zechariah 14:1-21; Proverbs 29:2-4

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Zechariah 14:9 “And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.”

REFLECT
Ever wonder what Zechariah 14 is talking about? If we are to read the entire chapter, it seems like the prophet was talking about the day when God shall be back to reign forever. Isn’t it peculiar that the prophet spoke of God being “king over all the earth”? What earth? Wouldn’t it be “heaven”? Does it mean that this earth will remain in the Day and thereafter of the Second Coming of Jesus?

Revelation 21 is pretty clear that there will be a new heaven and a new earth; but the first earth and first heaven shall pass away. This means that God shall be King over the new earth and believers shall reign with God in our glorified bodies. Yet, isn’t the Bible stating the obvious? We all know that God is King; whether in the past, now or future. Why was there a need for the prophet to declare that God will be King over all the earth? I believe it is not so much that Zechariah was stating the obvious, but he was making the important point that on that day, everyone shall recognise that God is indeed King. Everyone shall come to the true conviction that God is King over all aspects of our life.

RELATE
Knowing that God is King and recognising with conviction that God is King are two different matters. Knowing that God is King can just be a form of theological knowledge or awareness. However, knowing that God is King as conviction can propel one into godly action. This is because when we are convicted that God is King; we bow to the King with our lives. When we are convicted that God is King; we pledge allegiance to the King cut off old allegiances with other things or persons that are affecting our relationship with the true King.

In other words, when we declare that God is King, we are actually declaring that we shall yield and bow to the King in all areas of our lives. We want to surrender to the King to help us in areas of our lives that are not honourable to Him. This would be how we truly treat God as King; and not as like some who merely want some favours from the King but refuse to yield where it matters. The Lord is indeed “king over all the earth”!

REST
Lord, having consistent conviction that You are King over all areas of my life is a challenging journey. Yet, in You is the grace and power to surrender. Help me therefore with the grace of my Lord Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to yield to you all aspects of my life; this is so that Your Name be glorified in all that I am and all that I do. Amen.

Life in the word

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Zechariah 2:1-3:10; Psalm 119:153-176

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 119:156 “Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules.”

REFLECT
Psalm 119:156 is a clear teaching that we can find life in God’s word. Especially on days when we need the mercies of God, His word can revive us. Yes, we can find the true meaning of life even in His commandments. Why is this so? Because as human beings, we are meant to live to the fullest through our obedience of God’s word. We are meant to rely on God’s word for righteousness.

One of the most important things that God spoke to Adam and Eve about (just because it is recorded in the Bible) was His instructions for how they should regard the Tree of Life as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Through God’s instructions; it was hoped that Adam and Eve learned the essence of life through obedience.

Indeed, God’s word is meant to be our signpost and our manual for living. It was never meant to be something that wearies our soul. So even as Jesus had come to give us life, we are still called to the obedience of God’s word in faith. This was why the Psalmist exclaimed that God was merciful because He is able to give life according to His rules.

RELATE
At times, I hear from some believers that we need not focus so much on the word of God. As long as we have faith in Jesus, we need not be too worried on how we can understand the Bible better. Yet, how can we have faith if we do not understand? Where is the source of our faith? What is our faith telling us about living the new life? How can we fend off heresies (which is ever so rampant) if we are not even sure what the word of God is saying?

Albert Outler, a theologian who wrote much about John Wesley and his writings, coined the term “Wesleyan Quadrilateral”. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral outlined four sources which John Wesley used when making theological conclusions. These four sources are “Scripture”, “Tradition”, “Reason” and “Experience”. “Scripture” being the word of God as given to us in the Bible; “Tradition” as the historical evidence that is linked to the faith; “Reason” as being what is needed to understand “Scripture” but is to be guided by the Holy Spirit; and “Experience” is the way we experience about what is in “Scripture” such as the assurance of faith.

Of these four sources, Wesley (as well as Outler) didn’t have the idea that they are of equal importance nor authority. To Wesley, Scripture is always of the first authority and Scripture is the foundation to interpret “Tradition”, “Experience” and even “Reason”. After all, Wesley had called himself as a “man of one book”.

Like the Psalmist, Wesley understood the importance of Scripture and how it affects our life in Christ. In God’s mercy, let us therefore rejoice that He has given to us His commandments to follow; for surely we can obey and enjoy the true meaning of life in Christ Jesus. We can find mercies in His word.

REST
Help us Lord as a church universal, not to despise a deeper understanding of Your word; but to be assured by the Spirit that Your word is life. Amen.

Restoration of the soul

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Nehemiah 12:27-13:31; Proverbs 28:17-18

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Nehemiah 12:43 “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”

REFLECT
On the day which the wall of Jerusalem was dedicated to mark the rebuilding of the city, the people offered great sacrifices and celebrated with great joy. It is mentioned in verse 43 that God “had made” them to rejoice with great joy.

Does this mean that such a joy did not come from the people but was “forced” by God? Surely not! I think what God did was to enable the people to remember how important Jerusalem was, as a marker for their faith. The downfall of Jerusalem had crushed their spirit because it symbolised how far they have gone away from God; hence the rebuilding symbolised their dedication to rebuild what they have lost. That surely called for celebration and joy.

At the end of the day, what Nehemiah was trying to rebuild or restore wasn’t so much of the physical city; but more of their souls. The soul (life) that was once so intimate with the Lord our God. The wall of Jerusalem symbolised the commitment of the remnant to once again live the life that God had called them. The faithful shall rise again. Souls shall be restored back to the embrace of the Father; just as the wall of Jerusalem.

RELATE
There could be times when we sin against God and tried to rebuild the “structures” of our lives. For example, we could promise ourselves that we would do morning devotion on a daily basis. We could try to prevent ourselves from becoming tempted again by using some computer software for viewing on the Internet. We could even be asking our spouse to be our accountability partners.

While these “structures” can be good starting points, they do not last if our hearts are not sincere for change. Just like the walls of Jerusalem, they could be a great symbol of faith but it will not last the test of time if its inhabitants were to sin against God time and again.

What is really needed is true repentance. A heart that truly understands the condition of our sinfulness, a heart that grieves over our sins, a heart that is convicted of the need to change, and a heart that depends on the grace of God for change. Be it that we take a long time to grow or change; change must be effected and we cannot give up. Then even as we rejoice that the wall of Jerusalem is being restored in our lives; we are committed to defend these walls right till the very end.

REST
Lord my God, help me as a pilgrim in the journey of faith, to have a tender heart for change. To change for the better. To change so as to become more like You. Amen.

Repentance can be painful

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezra 10:1-44; Psalm 119:33-48

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Ezra 10:3-4 “Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law.”

REFLECT
Oh what a horrible suggestion by Shecaniah the son of Jehiel! How could the people of God be asked to put away their wives and children just because they were foreigners?! Even if Israel sinned against God by marrying foreigners, how could a suggestion be made (and later adopted) to destroy families like this? What does this mean for marriages now? Is God telling us to file for divorce if our spouse is not Christian?

If the above thoughts are in our minds when we read Ezra 10, then we could be guilty of a common reasoning error: “Hasty Generalisation”. Contextually, Ezra 10 described a unique situation of Israel when they were given the opportunity to rebuild themselves physically and spiritually from exile. They themselves acknowledged that they have sinned gravely against God because in the first place they directly violated the Mosaic Law (which they have covenanted with God).

Furthermore, the fact was that through such marriages, Israel was spiritually compromised through idol worship. Hence, the lesson here is not about whether one should file for divorce of a non-Christian spouse (For more guidance on this matter; can refer to 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 as well as 1 Peter 3:1-2) rather it is about true repentance. It is about the spirit of repentance which Ezra and the people had when they realised how they have grieved God and how God had graciously dealt with them for nearly 900 years. Yes, it was a painful act of repentance; but they realised they had to do it if they truly want to turn back to God and start anew.

RELATE
True repentance can be painful because it is the act of turning away from our sin and turning towards God. The act of turning away from our sin can be painful because we might be asked to severe ties with something or even someone we love.

For example, we could be asked to severe ties with undesirable materials on the Internet we so cherished. They could be materials which “comfort” us, even when temporarily on days when we feel lousy or stressed. Or we could even be asked to think twice about being in a romantic relationship with a person who is not sharing the same faith as us.

Yet, if the pain (in repentance) does not take place; we know that we could be in a worse position. We could be dwelling in a downward spiral of sin and even end up in a well so deep that coming back up would be immensely challenging. Or we could even cause harm to the person we profess to love if we do not make that tough decision.

Ezra 10 gives the hope that even if repentance is painful; it can be done with God. And when we truly repent to glorify God; we can enjoy the spiritual freedom and joy of which it brings. We can put things right again. Who knows, perhaps those who witnessed such acts of repentance would be so moved to give their lives to God; because they realised that only a God who truly loves would demand such obedience. Let us therefore put our trust in Him, for no matter how painful it might be; repentance is necessary for spiritual revival and the new life.

REST
Lord, search my heart and empower me to severe ties with things in my life which affects my relationship with You. Amen.

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.”

REFLECT
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.

RELATE
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.

REST
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.”

REFLECT
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.

RELATE
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.

REST
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.”

REFLECT
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.

RELATE
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.

REST
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.

God is our Siri / Alexa?

by Rev Jason Phua

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 21:2 “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”

REFLECT
Disaster was at hand. When the stubbornness of Judah stood against the consistent mercy of God; God was determined to send His judgement against the people. This was for the purpose of humbling Judah and after 70 years of exile; may grow to be a better people.

In Jeremiah 21:2-3, it was troubling to hear from King Zedekiah. Even after all that had happened, he had the audacity to inquire of God and expected the Almighty to help them. How could Zedekiah even think that God would help them at this juncture? He and many of his predecessors had done what was evil in the sight of God. Many in Judah had repeatedly rejected the grace of God to repent. Yet, there he was, thinking that God was his Siri or Alexa. While he did not respond to God’s call to repent; there he was asking God questions which he expected favourable responses. How dull of ears and eyes could Judah be?

RELATE
Have we made God our Siri or Alexa? Even when we had not been spending enough time with God; have we been expecting God to respond when we “call”? Even when we have not been responding to God’s call for us to be transformed in His word, have we been expecting God to answer when we ask? Even as we have been resisting His will; are we expecting God to conform to our will?

I believe many of us have the tendency to be so. We have expected God to “answer” when we ourselves are super slow to respond and action on His perfect will. We have even expected God to conform to our will and sulk when He does not do so.

The root issue could be that we just want our own way and not the way of Christ. We are much more comfortable that way. We do not want to change; not when our own comfort or even our “treasured” sins are threatened. Sometimes we even have the audacity to expect God to go according to our way; and not His. How dull of eyes and ears can we be?

REST
God our Lord, forgive us as a people when we are stubborn. Help us to repent and walk according to Your way. Help us to be sensitive to Your calling in our lives; so that we can make wise decisions. This is all because You are the Potter and we are Your clay. Amen.

Eyes to see and ears to hear

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 4:19-6:15; Proverbs 27:4-6

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.”

REFLECT
Jeremiah 5:21 speaks of God’s rebuke upon the people of Judah. The rebuke was that the people of Judah was foolish and senseless. They were foolish because they have eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear. Yet, what were they supposed to see and hear?

According to the surrounding passages, Judah was supposed to see and hear about the truth of God. Here, the act of seeing and hearing are not merely passive observations; but calls for understanding and action. Hence, they were supposed to fear God and walk in His ways in the truth.

Instead they were described as a people who: “lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.” (Jeremiah 5:26-28). So to the Lord, Judah was as good as blind and deaf; for their eyes and ears were tuned to things that were not of the Lord’s. They were an abomination.

RELATE
Do I have eyes and yet not see? Do I have ears and yet not hear? Are my eyes and ears tuned to what they were originally intended to see and hear?

No. Not always. There will be times when I would love to dwell in the word of God for a longer period of time but gave in to the temptation of attending to another less important matter. There will be times when I should tune out unhealthy gossips during conversations but I allow my curiosity to mar my discernment. Even if I know the truth and understood it; I might not always carry out the intended purpose of the truth. For example, I know that God requires me to defend the rights of the needy; yet there were occasions when I failed to do so in the excuse of a more “urgent” matter.

REST
Lord, help me to see and hear more of what you intended and so allow me to act upon these for the furtherance of Your kingdom. Otherwise, my eyes and ears would only be so tuned to the ways of the world; that I would fail to carry out Your purposes for my life. Amen.

Voice of the opposition

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23; Psalm 104:24-35

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 35:20-22 “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo.”

REFLECT
King Josiah did what most kings would have done. He stopped the advancement of a foreign army as it attempted to march through his own land. Yet, Josiah died for such an act. What did he do wrong? Even if Neco sent envoys to Josiah; Josiah was not obligated to let the army through.

Perhaps the only thing that Josiah did wrong was the failure to seek God concerning Neco’s claims that he had heard from God. The enemy from Egypt had claimed that he had heard from God, but Josiah failed to seek God if he was speaking the truth. He took things into his own hands and suffered demise. The truth is that God can use even our “enemies” or people who seemingly oppose us to speak into our lives. We will need to consult God for His wisdom to learn the truth through such conversations.

RELATE
In my previous workplace and current ministry as a pastor; I faced the voices of those who opposed to what I was trying to do. I also faced those who are opposed to the ways of God. While the “biblical” way was to seek God on what had been communicated; the natural tendency was to take things into my own hands. There are times when I would think that this person was just out to oppose me. This person was just trying to further his or her agenda. This person did not really understand what I was trying to say or do. This person was just trying to be nasty to those who believe in Jesus.

Today’s passage reminded me that I would need to go deeper with God about the voices of those whom i do not agree. Are they placed here to help me do better? What was it that they are really saying? Have God spoken to them as well? Am I wrong? Let me hear God with what was being said or done and let God provide His discernment on how to handle the situation. Let me also be humble to accept that the message of God can come through the voice of an opposing party. That would be the best. For the Lord can use the most unimaginable and creative way to speak with us.

REST
Help me Lord to see what You see and discern Your ways. This is so I can depend more on You. Amen.

God’s sovereignty and our roles

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21; Proverbs 26:21-22

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 21:7 “Yet the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.”

REFLECT
Even for the evil that King Jehoram had done, God was not willing to destroy the house of David. This was not because God favoured Jehoram more than anyone else; nor was He condoning of Jehoram’s evil. God stayed His hand because of the covenant that He had made with David. The covenant that God made with David was not a tool that God invented to bind Himself to certain outcomes. Instead, the covenant revealed the sovereignty of God. The covenant was made because God knew the evil of men. The covenant was God’s way of allowing men to come into His sovereign plan; or they can choose to rebel against it. Whatever it is, God will not allow the evil of Jehoram or any other human beings to mess with His plan.

RELATE
Have we thought to ourselves: “If God is sovereign, then what part do I get to play?” “If everything is planned and will go according to God’s way; why am I even here?” “If everything is planned; why do I even need to be right with God?”

Yes, God is sovereign. He will get what He wants. He knows what is best for humanity. Yet, He graciously invites people to partner Him in His plan. So when we walk right with Him; we participate in the plan and reaps the blessings of that partnership. When we rebel against Him; we are out of the plan and will walk ourselves right into disaster.

God is sovereign; but it does not mean that we are robots created to amuse an ego-manic God. God is sovereign because He is God. Whether we like it or not, He will have control over all things. He will prevail. Jesus will be back. Evil will be destroyed. The world will undergo tribulations and a new heaven and a new earth will be created. Tears will be no more. Sin will be no more. Death will give way to eternal life.

REST
Question is: Where will God find us when His sovereign plan unfolds and come into completion? What are our roles now in the light of God’s sovereignty? Shall we persevere? Or give up? May the Lord so help me to persevere in Him so as to bear fruit in the light of His sovereignty over my life. Amen.

God dwelt with man

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 4:1-6:11; Psalm 97:1-98:9

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 6:18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!”

REFLECT
Solomon finished building the temple and in the presence of God and the people of Israel, he prayed a prayer. In his prayer, he uttered the prophetic question of whether God will indeed dwell with man on earth. Never did he know, nor would he had imagined, that approximately 900 years later, his question was answered. His question was answered quite literally, that God came to dwell with man on earth in the flesh. Immanuel. God with us. Jesus came as fully man, even as He is fully God, to dwell with man. Jesus came to dwell with man, so that He can obey the Father’s will to atone for our sins at Calvary.

Why would God do such a thing? Why would a holy God choose to dwell with sinful creatures who rebelled and betrayed His trust? Why would a Creator of the universe and beyond choose to dwell with human beings whom He had created? I believe it is because of God’s desire to reconcile His people back to Him. I believe it is because of God’s faithfulness to the covenant that He had made with David especially of 2 Samuel 7:16 “Your house and kingdom will endure before Me forever, and your throne will be established forever.” God was not saying that David’s line will be kings forever. God was saying that David’s line will involve the birth of the Christ child and through Christ, God’s kingdom shall be established forever. Indeed, nothing on earth can contain God. However, if God so choose; He can dwell with man in the flesh for the sake of rescuing us from ourselves. Such is the magnitude of God’s grace and love for man.

RELATE
As one who regarded myself as a follower of Christ, how am I responding to such a magnitude of love and grace from my Creator? Do I worship, pray and give reverence to God like Solomon? Does my life reflect that I am truly in awe and gratitude of such a great God? I have much to learn from Solomon at this point of his life. I do not think that I am always in awe of who God is in my life. If it be so, then I wouldn’t have prioritized my own comfort to His will. I wouldn’t have surrendered to impatience instead of being still to seek His face. I am thankful that God has chosen to come and dwell in the flesh. If not for such a miracle; I would have continued in my old ways and not the privilege of living in the new.

REST
Lord God, help me to learn from the sense of awe that Solomon have for you at this point of his life. This is so that my life in Christ can be more pleasing in Your sight. Amen.

Heart of the Father

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:30; Psalm 95:1-96:13

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

REFLECT
In the presence of “all the officials of Israel, the officials of the tribes, the officers of the divisions that served the king, the commanders of thousands, the commanders of hundreds, the stewards of all the property and livestock of the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the seasoned warriors” (1 Chronicles 28:1-2); King David charged Solomon his son to serve God with his whole heart and a willing mind. By proclaiming such a charge in public, David was telling his people that even as his son, Solomon would be of no exception to know and obey God. Such a charge came from the heart of a father who wanted to honour God above everything else. Such a charge came from a parental heart that would take the effort to nurture his children to know God and serve Him.

RELATE
Unfortunately, such a charge isn’t often proclaimed anymore. Not in the public, not in church, not even at home. These days, many fathers are “outsourcing” such a charge. So the school should be helping their children to behave. So the church should disciple their children to grow in Jesus Christ. If the faith of their children are wrecked; it must be the fault of the Sunday school. It must be the fault of the youth ministry. It must be the fault of the church!

I wonder what King David would think of such a theology. Such a theology of discipleship was never in the mind of King David. Nor was it in the minds of many godly parental characters in the Bible. Yes, it is true that there are quite a few parents in the Bible who missed the mark of nurturing their children well in the faith; but none had ever thought to outsource! When have we started to push the blame when it is us who failed? When have we started to get upset when we have not honoured God in helping our children to grow in the faith? Is it because we ourselves have not been growing in our relationship with God? And so we felt so inadequate and even ashamed?

Fathers. I believe in the grace and power of God to help us change. I believe in the will of God that He wants us to take our rightful authority once again. It is time to take hold of our destiny as parents. It is time to wake up from our stupor. It is time to take hold and declare: “And you, my son (daughter), know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” Fathers, disciple our children. It is never too late to start.

REST
If you are a father reading this and like to pray for your children, you can pray this with me:

“My Father in heaven, holy is Your Name. I am sorry that I have not been fulfilling my role as a parent to ____________ (your child/children’s name(s)); help me Lord, help me to disciple my children according to your commandments. Give me the power and wisdom to do so as You did for King David and the many godly fathers in the Bible. Help me to grow in my own journey with You. This is so that my children can see that I am serious in the faith; and they should be too. May _____________ (your child/children’s name(s)) come to You in humility and declare Your Lordship over their lives. In Jesus’ mighty Name. Amen”

Submit to what the LORD says

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 16:37-18:17; Proverbs 26:3-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Chronicles 17:25-27
25 For you, my God, have revealed to your servant that you will build a house for him. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray before you. 26 And now, O LORD, you are God, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. 27 Now you have been pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever before you, for it is you, O LORD, who have blessed, and it is blessed forever.”

REFLECT
Out of reverence for God, David proposed to Nathan the prophet to build a house for God. However, God “reversed” the situation and had Nathan reveal to David that He the Lord Almighty will establish the king’s house instead. Upon hearing God’s desire, David was full of gratitude as he received the Lord’s blessings. Instead of insisting on his own way, David was quick to submit to the Lord’s desire. This is so even if David had thought that his desire to build God a house was a good thing.

RELATE
Have I ever thought of doing a good thing for the glory of God; only to have it stopped or undone by the Lord’s command? Many years ago, I thought that my way of serving and honouring God is to do my excellence in the marketplace and continue to minister as a zone leader in my home church. However, in the year 2006, I received God’s call to resign from my marketplace vocation and be prepared for full time church work. At that time, I definitely wasn’t like King David who submitted quickly to God’s desire. I took some time to struggle with God for what I considered to be a “big move”. Looking back, God had been and still is so good to me and my family. His desire is the best and I am so blessed to be able to do His will. How about you? Have you been struggling with God for a desire He had expressed to you? If so, may you continue to take courage and pray and perhaps one day, like David, you would submit to His will.

REST
Lord our God, help us to be clear with and submit to Your desires. This is the best for us, even if it doesn’t seem to be so at this moment in time. Amen.

Songs for worship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 4:5-5:17; Psalms 89:1-13

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 89:8 “O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you?”

REFLECT
Psalm 89 is a song written by Ethan the Ezrahite. In verses 1-13, Ethan sang to the steadfastness and faithfulness of the Lord our God. He sang that none can be compared to God when it comes to His steadfastness, faithfulness and might. He sang with praise that God had made a covenant with His chosen one (King David) and that He had promised to establish his offspring forever. Who is indeed like the Lord our God? He ruled all that is on earth and in the heavens. God has a mighty hand. His hand is strong! I believe that the Psalmist Ethan was a faithful person who worship God with great sincerity. Someone who understood and worshipped God for His faithfulness.

As believers, we can sing similar praise songs or hymns like Ethan the Ezrahite. We can sing songs that honor God for all of His faithfulness and power. Yet, how much do we really revere God for who He is? When we proclaim the might and power of God; do we declare them more as lip service? Or do we declare with all sincerity and belief? Do our lives demonstrate that we truly believe in God’s faithfulness even as we sing it? Or are we just trying to get some inspiration from the songs to “feel good” on that Sunday?

RELATE
In today’s world, we have millions of praise songs and hymns written by many great musicians and song writers. Many of these song writers and musicians are anointed by God to write these songs and we praise God for them. I like to believe that like the time of David, many of these hymns and praise songs are wonderful gifts which a believer can use to worship God and strengthen our faith. However, even as we sing to God through these beautiful hymns and songs, we might want to reflect and ask ourselves some of these questions:

  1. What are we really singing? Do the words help us to know God more? Are these words true to what we know of the word of God?
  2. As we sing and make melody; are we faking it? Or are we truly enjoying God and surrendering ourselves to be ministered by His great love in worship?
  3. Are we truly worshipping God through songs and hymns? Or are we worshipping these songs and hymns themselves?

God is mighty. He is faithful.

I am reminded today that as I worship Him with songs and hymns, I must check my own heart towards Him. Otherwise, it is ever so easy to be lost in the “music” of the songs; that my soul is not really there to worship.

REST
Lord my God, even as my lips declare of Your faithfulness and greatness in songs and hymns; may my life reflects what I have been declaring. Amen.