W.U.H.A.N

There is no scarier word today than the mention of Wuhan.

WuhanThe city of Wuhan is the epicenter of the fast spreading Sars-like virus. As I write, it has taken 56 lives in China and the death toll is still escalating. There are near 2000 confirmed cases of this Wuhan virus. Ten cities of Hubei province, including Wuhan has been locked down. It affected 20 million residents. Restrictions of travel and public gatherings are imposed. All planned holiday activities are abruptly cancelled.

Anxiety and anger in Wuhan are high as worried residents crowd the hospitals where loved ones are being tested for the corona virus. Medical teams in hazmat suits are stressed in the rush to identify the infected.

The Wuhan virus has spread to other Chinese cities including Beijing, as well as Singapore, the United States, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Australia, France, Canada and Nepal. There is a deepening concern this outbreak may become pandemic.

The situation that dominates our headlines is a clarion call for prayer.

Our hope lies in II Chronicles 20:9

“If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You – for Your name is in this house – and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.”

So we pray:

Dear God our Father in heaven, You are in control of all deadly virus. By Your command You bring forth pestilence to punish. And by Your Word You are able to deliver Your people from pestilence.

So we lift our eyes to You to pray for deliverance from this mutating and adapting Wuhan virus.

Give to the Chinese authorities and the governing bodies of cities and countries, the guided wisdom to prevent and contain the outbreak of this virus. 

Protect the medical health workers. Grant them vigilance and the uncanny ability to detect, identify and prescribe.  

Give to the medical researchers the ability to develop a vaccine to prevent and stop the virus. 

Give to those who lost their loved ones Your comfort and peace. 

Give to those who have caught this Wuhan virus, Your grace and strength to overcome and recover. 

Give to the people in the affected cities, the calm and co-operative spirit to act responsibly and not exacerbate the situation by their anger and frustration. 

We pray to the end that communities may learn to guard against contamination of their health and environment. But most of all, to be grateful to Your divine intervention in this Wuhan virus situation. In the name of Jesus and for His glory we pray. Amen.

May W.U.H.A.N remind us to practice good personal hygiene.

Wear surgical mask if you are sneezing and coughing.

U should take personal responsibility if you have a fever. Go see a doctor.

Hand washing is a good hygiene habit to observe.

Avoid going to Church or public places if you are sick.

Never take lightly the spread of flu virus.

Elevated

Story was told of a running coach in a school. He was looking for potential runners that he could train for track and field events.

One day he spotted a boy named Johnny. What caught his attention was he saw Johnny chasing after girls. Johnny was always running to meet the whims and fancy of every pretty girl in the school. Running to carry their books. Running to buy them a drink. Running to meet every girl that shay sway by the corridor.

The coach said to himself, “That boy has the potential of a great runner.”

So he invited Johnny to join his track and field team. At first Johnny was reluctant. Said he was busy with many things.” But the coach was very adamant and persuasive. Eventually Johnny agreed to give it a try.

The training was tough, rigorous and demanding. Johnny had to give up many things. He had to forgo his favourite fast food, his weekends, his pastimes, even his sleep just to get up early for the training.

There were times Johnny felt like quitting. But his teammates encouraged him not to give up but to press on.

Then came the big day when he had to run the 4X4 relay event.

The gun went off. His teammates gave their best. The race was tight. It was neck to neck with another team. When third baton was passed they lost their lead and was falling behind. But when Johnny took the last baton for the last lap, he ran like Usain Bolt.

His rigorous training paid off. The coach was right to see the potential in him.

Johnny eased passed the lead runner and reached the finish line. And the crowd gave uproar of applause and cheered with standing ovation.

For Johnny, the feeling was just indescribable. His coach was proud of him. His parents were proud of him. The school was proud of him. Most of all, Johnny was proud of himself.

And from then on, Johnny’s outlook in life changes.

ElevatedHe is still the full-blooded hormonal boy who is attracted to pretty girls. But now he has a higher purpose. He is realizing his potential. He is thinking of achieving his higher goal. He is no longer thinking of running after girls. He is thinking of running for the school. He is thinking of running for the SEA games. He is thinking of running in the Olympics.

His thoughts have elevated. His mind is no longer on “things below” but “things above.”

So the Word of God tells us:

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2 NIV)

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!

Worry Rat

Just when you thought the Christmas shopping is over, the Lunar New Year shopping begins. And we join the rat race to get the best buys to welcome the Year of the Rat.

Since this is going to Rat Year, let me share with you a story I’ve heard recently from my colleague.

Sir Frederick Handley Page was a decorated pilot. Once he was on a flight to an isolated place. After flying for some two hours, he heard a noise in his plane. It was the sickening sound of a rat gnawing.

His heart began to pound. He could visualize the serious damage. For all he knew the rat could be gnawing through a vital cable or control of the plane.

The more he pondered on the situation, the more anxious he became.  At first he did not know what to do. It was two hours more to the next landing field. Then he remembered that rats are rodents and they cannot survive high altitudes.

So he pulled back on the stick. The plane climbed higher and higher, until Page himself found difficulty in breathing. All the while he was listening intently. He was relieved the gnawing had stopped. When he finally arrived at his destination he found the rat lying dead behind the cockpit.

Worry is like the gnawing of a rat. However no rat of worry can survive in the secret place of the Lord Almighty.

The worry rat cannot live in the high altitude of prayer that propelled us into the Presence of the Most High. Worry dies when we ascend higher to the Lord.

May this Lunar New Year and all the years to come be worry-free as you ascend higher.

I leave you Colossians 3:1-2

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things, which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

 Happy Gnaw-free Year!

20:20

We just bid farewell to 2019 and say hello to 2020.

I venture to say most of us welcome 2020 with cautious optimism.

We enter the New Year with news of human loss, tragic events, and global disasters.

We read of the spreading wild fire in Australia, massive floods in our neighboring country, typhoon in Philippines, unrelenting riot in Hong Kong, protest in India, strike in France. The world is chaotic.

The world is changing. It would never be the same after Brexit. The global ethos is shifting with the rising sentiment of anti-establishment, the dispensing with political correctness and the distrust of globalization, free trade and foreign migrants. Added to this is the fear of a global financial meltdown, unrecoverable climate change, nuclear threat, tariff war, recession and job losses.

2020 casts a long shadow of chaos, changes and challenges.

There was also a time when the people of God faced a vast invading army that threatens to change the history of Judah forever.

We read in II Chronicles 20 of three nations that had been nursing long history of hostility suddenly moved against Judah. They were the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Menuites.

The threat is real and imminent. King Jehoshaphat was told, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar”  (II Chronicles 20:2).

The enemies are at the doorsteps. King Jehoshaphat was shocked. His response was more shocking.

It makes no sense by any conventional human standard.

Instead of readying his army to defend the country, he readied his people to fast and join him in prayer.

“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah” (II Chronicles 2:3). 

The King, the priests and the people had the faith to believe, For the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15).

Subsequent event proved that to be true. In a supernatural act of God, the enemies were defeated, put in disarray and driven out of Judah.

What is most noteworthy is the encouraging statement of King Jehoshaphat to his people in II Chronicles 20:20

“Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld.”

2020 may present to us the “Moabites” of problems, the “Ammonites” of anxieties and the “Menuites” of uncertainties.

But let’s hold on to II Chronicles 20:20.

Let’s welcome 2020 with II Chronicles 20:20

Then and only then, we can confidently say, “Happy New Year!”

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.