God’s love language

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19; Psalms 82:1-8

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 23:5 “But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you.”

REFLECT
I wonder what was it like when the people of Israel heard these words “because the LORD your God loved you”. Did they recollect the way God cared for them? Or had they taken God’s love for granted? It was because of God’s love that all these statutes and commandments were given to the people after they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt. It was because of God’s love that their enemies were destroyed and some even barred from entering into the assembly of the Most High. It was because of God’s love that Balaam’s curses were turned into blessings. God’s love language did not dwell in the theoretical, but that His love is constantly demonstrated through His actions and power for His beloved. We worship a God of action and by right, we should be a people of action to show His love to others as well.

RELATE
I will always remember the times when God communicated His love for me. His timing in the communication of these simple but powerful words are always perfect. It was during these moments that I was deeply encouraged to carry on the things that He wants me to do and be the person that He wants me to be. Yet, God did not merely communicate “about” His love for me through His Word, He constantly demonstrated His love for me as well through actions. Such is the extent of God’s grace for our lives. He cares for the little details that we, in our finite understanding of God’s character, wonder why He even bothered!

In reflection, how can i also show such love to the people around me? For example, how can I verbally communicate love to my children and at the same time, demonstrate to them that I truly mean what I say? Have I been a hypocrite by verbally promising them love but have not done so regularly through actions? Or how can I in action, care for the poor and needy within my immediate community? Do I preach to the congregation about what we can do and yet turn a blind eye to them at times? May i learn more and more from the character of God, who do what He say all the time. For His love language is not only of words, but of action. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

REST
Lord our God, help me to be a man who love not merely in words, but action. Help me to love in accordance to Your Word and even in the most dire of circumstances, as You have purposed. Amen.

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God’s testing

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
Deuteronomy 8:2 “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.”

REFLECT
Why was it necessary for God to test Israel those forty years to know what was in their hearts? Isn’t God all knowing? Why was there a need to “test”? God tested Israel to humble them, to see how they would respond; whether they were still in awe and worship of Him. Hence, they were brought to hunger and then supplied with manna so that they could be reminded that God is their Provider.

Humility, especially when it comes as a result of God’s testing, is not often seen as a gift from the Almighty. Rather, it is often seen as a “consequence” from God’s discipline. Yet, humility can bring believers to new heights in our spiritual journey. Humility based on faith in Jesus, can bring miracles to a believer’s soul; for it can transform what was impossible to what was possible. Humility as a result of God’s testing, is a precious gift.

RELATE
In my own spiritual walk with God, I came to realise that God is ever so patient and loving as my divine Father. He will give me tests so as to shape a particular area of my life. Each of these tests is an opportunity for conviction and learning on humility. Each of these tests is an opportunity for further transformation. Every-time I fail in these opportunities; I wasn’t condemned into hell; but given another set of tests for the purpose of sanctification.

Such tests can come in the form of suffering the consequences from wrong decisions; or in the form of God’s intervention in whatever way necessary to bring conviction and repentance. The key to embracing such tests and allowing such tests to help us change is humility in faith. The humility to know that God is Almighty and I cannot save my own soul. The humility to bow down at His feet and allow Him to mould us, no matter how painful it might be. The humility to know that even in His tests, is grace.

REST
God, help me to see that your tests is good for my soul. Challenging as it might be, give me the grace and strength to go through as You will. Amen.

The whole point

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 14:18-40; Psalm 78:1-31

READ (Verses chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 14:19 “Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

REFLECT
Paul told the church in Corinth that he was given the gift to speak in tongues more than all of them. However, even with such a gift, he would rather “speak five words with his mind to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” In Corinth, it seemed that the church cherished the “manifestation of the spirit” where one of such “manifestations” could be the speaking of tongues. Yet, Paul’s advice was that while these things are from the Lord; they should be done in a way where the church is being built up. No point having such glorious manifestations and yet the church is not built up or even worse; stumbled.

The whole point for the Holy Spirit to pour out His gifts to every believer is for the building up of the church; which according to Jesus is the making of disciples so that more disciples can come into the kingdom. The whole point for the gifts of the Holy Spirit is never to create a class of super Christians or to cause divisiveness in the Body of Christ. The opposite is true. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for acts of service and these are to create unity in the Body of Christ.

RELATE
Yet, if we are to do a brief survey of what is happening to the Body of Christ today; we are ironically divided by non-scriptural interpretation and application of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit. We even cause hurt to one another through such non biblical emphasis of particular gifts. Some Christians thought that they are somewhat “closer” to God just because they can speak in tongues. Some thought that they are a special “breed” just because they are given words of knowledge to speak. Otherwise, even if the persons given such gifts do not feel superior to others; people who are more fascinated by the “manifestations of the spirit” than our obedience to the daily call of the Gospel idolized these persons who are given such gifts.

Yet, nothing in the Bible suggested this. Gifts given are by the pure grace of God to edify the church. The human vessel of which such gifts are bestowed ought not to be idolized nor given any special favours; be they church members, leaders, pastors or in some areas self-proclaimed apostles. Today’s reading puts a strong reminder that as a believer and pastor, I must be careful that my actions does not promote such human tendencies to favour more of what is spectacular; but to be faithful to God’s mission.

What is biblical is that all believers are gifted in some way or another by the Holy Spirit. No gift is more important than the others. All work together as a Body and for the glory of Christ. We are no less nor more as compared to one another. We are to serve the Lord in unity, purity and humility. That is the whole point.

REST
Lord our God, forgive us as believers universal, for we have constantly swayed from Your path. Help us to see as You see, love as You love and not to show special favour to anyone gifted in any manner. For such a behaviour divides the church and is harmful to the Body of Christ. Amen.

The disqualified preacher

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13; Proverbs 12:12-14

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

REFLECT
Christians like to preach and / or share the Gospel to others, which we should. The Apostle Paul loves to preach too since as he said, he became all things so that he can do it all for the sake of the Gospel (v.23). Yet, Paul was humble and experienced enough to be aware that as much as Christians love to preach, he must “discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified”.

Question is, how can this happen? How can the one who loves to preach be disqualified from the content of the preaching? Isn’t it true that all who loves to share the Gospel with others also walk in the Gospel? Yes and No. We might be walking in the Gospel at first, but after learning how to share the Gospel and witnessing its power to save; we could become complacent. We could be preaching / sharing so much and so powerfully that we even forgot that we need the saving grace of God each and every day. Even as our lips are involved in the ministry of the Gospel; our body could be so out of control because we deceived ourselves that being involved in such a powerful ministry is enough for sanctification. That is precisely the reason why people are saying that the church is full of “masked” individuals.

RELATE
One of the books I am reading is Paul David Tripp’s “Dangerous Calling”. In this book, he spoke of how bible colleges these days could have “academized” the Word of God. This happens when well informed seminary students, after having graduated to be pastors of His flock, gradually failed the exact thing we are trained to be i.e. being examples of how we can love God and one another. This happens when the seminary train the idea of God in us; but not so much as the formation of our souls in the grip of God Himself.

With this, I recalled the days at seminary, when I could be reading and studying the Word of God almost every single day; yet there were times when I caught myself to be more excited with the idea of God, then how I should allow the Word of God to transform and nourish my soul. As a result, my body and soul were “de-linked” from the Word I was studying and preaching. As a result, I suffer exhaustion easily and made certain foolish decisions with respect to my studies.

Paul’s warning is not just to those who are called to the pulpit; but in everyday living where we share and teach the Gospel. Much as the Great Commission is important; we really can’t do that without the joyful obedience of the Great Commandment in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, preachers / teachers / sharers of the Word can be disqualified if we our bodies are not kept under control in the Word.

REST
Lord our God, help me not to be a believer who only gets excited with the preaching and sharing of the Word of God; that I lose self-control when it matters the most. Let me not be the disqualified preacher that Paul is warning us all. Amen.

Many guides, but a “father”?

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21; Psalm 71:1-24

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Corinthians 4:15 “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

REFLECT
In 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul was telling the Corinthians that while they have many people among them who preached and taught God’s Word; they did not have anyone who like Paul; will love them to the extent of being willing to speak openly and admonish them for the sake of growth. Indeed, much as the Christians in Corinth behaved in a way not pleasing to the Lord, Paul reminded them that through the Gospel, they are still his “beloved children” and the Apostle saw it as his charge to correct them in righteousness.

RELATE
I can really relate to 1 Corinthians 4:15. I do have many guides in Christ; but few I can truly call “spiritual father” or “spiritual mentor”. “Guides” can teach good things in the Lord but when we need someone to speak truth into your life; they might not be willing to do so or at most give a vague response. “Spiritual father” is way different! He is ever so willing to listen, to be there and to act even at the expense of his own “reputation” or relationship with us or other people. Why? Because he really cares. His way of discipleship is love and not self-interest. His way of helping us to grow is the realistic realization that sometimes, admonishment is really necessary. Do you have someone who is willing to do that for you? If yes, I rejoice with you! If not, do pray for one for someone like this can really help us grow in Him.

REST
Lord, help us to cherish persons in our lives who truly cares for our growth in You. Help us not to disdain them especially when they lovingly rebuke us for the sake of righteousness. Bless these persons for they are truly, the living example of Christlikeness. Amen.

Not the kind of God we want

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Numbers 30:1-31:54; Proverbs 12:1

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Numbers 31:17-18 “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

REFLECT
Numbers 31:17-18 are two verses which delighted the sceptics of Christianity and caused much confusion among Christians. We cannot understand why our God of love can be so cruel as to command the massacre of children and keeping the virgins for the Israelites. To understand these two verses, the context of Numbers 25 is important as well as Deuteronomy. Those to be massacred were the children of the Midianites and Midianite women who could tempt Israel into idolatry like how the Moabites did in Numbers 25. According to Deuteronomy chapters 9 and 14, the Midianites were among a group of nations that were considered extremely evil by the Lord. Hence, Israel was to destroy them as the chosen nation to bring forth the holiness of the Lord.

As challenging as it is to do so, we need to surrender to the wisdom of the all-knowing God; that sparing the children of the Midianites would have resulted in causing more harm to themselves and to Israel. It could be that given the wicked ways of the Midianites, these male children will anyway be raised in a cruel manner and be taught to seek vengeance when they grow up. As for the Midianite women, it was common practice in post-war situations where the women of the combatants were given the right to be spared the sword to become slaves. Yet, the Midianite women whom the Lord knew would lead Israel into idolatry had to forfeit that right according to the judgement of God; so only those who have yet to lie with men could be spared. Again in the book of Numbers, we witness how God’s holiness and foresight prevailed in the sea of human wickedness.

RELATE
For us “moderns” who could never quite understand in full the cultural context of the ancients; we find it challenging to accept these two verses. Yet, in reflection, i have this question for myself: “Am i a person who is more comfortable with certain characteristics of God such as His steadfast love, being slow to anger and generosity on providing for our needs; but try not to think too much about His other characteristics such as holiness, being a covenant-keeper as well as being just?”

In my younger days of being in the faith, I have had such a disease. The disease of being double minded about who God truly is. Such double-mindedness is partly due to my ignorance of the least favourite parts of the Bible; partly due to my desire to mould an idea of God according to my fancies. It was also partly of how I tried to read my own experiences to the interpretation of the Word; a common act in Christendom which tends to give rise to all sorts of problems.

Yet, the God who confronted our humanity and sinfulness is a God who knew it all through His act of redemption on the Cross. He need not pretend. He need not inspire the authors of the Bible to do away with what seem to be unpopular with the people. He surely would not conform to our own idea of who He is. God is God. He is who He is. Either we surrender to Him in full or none at all. He detests double-mindedness because that only feed our own desires to actually want to be “God” or at least want to have a kind of God we can accept.

REST
Lord our God, teach us to have faith in who You truly are and not trying to “bend” you into our own idea of who You should be. Amen.

Holiness and Fairness

by Rev Jason Phua

Readings: Numbers 19:1-20:29; Proverbs 66:1-20

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Numbers 20:12 “And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

REFLECT
Whenever I read about the punishment for Moses and Aaron, my heart aches. These two leaders had been slogging hard for the people and yet because of their act of disobedience, they were forbidden to enter into the Promised Land which they had been pining for (40 years!).

I used to question if God was “fair” in this episode. Couldn’t He make an exception? Couldn’t He provide a way at least for Moses for the good he had done? After all, it was the people who made him frustrated with their endless sense of ungratefulness and rebellion.

Yet, what the Lord said to Moses and Aaron that they had failed to “uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people in Israel” shed some light into what was truly the problem. The problem was not whether God can be merciful for He had already shown much grace even to Moses. The problem was that as appointed leaders among the children of God, Moses and Aaron had shown themselves to have failed to uphold all that God stood for i.e. His holiness. If Moses and Aaron went unpunished; the whole of Israel will just grow in their rebellion. For they will come to regard God’s holiness as something laughable.

RELATE
We often try to interpret God’s holiness using our own sense of “fairness”. Yet, God’s holiness operates not within the framework of the conscience of this world; but within His character and covenant with His people. The true “fairness” is this: we are a doomed people right from the start; it is only by His grace that we can ever live a new life in Jesus. Furthermore, what might seem “unfair” is perfectly justified where God’s holiness is concerned. Hence, it was totally justified for Moses to be punished and forbidden to enter the Promised Land. Even then, God’s holy love was also shown to Moses, for he was given a view of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34) just before his death at the age of 120.

I should stop asking God if things are “fair” in my life; I must learn that they never will be, not in the sense of the rules and conscience of this fallen world. Not until God comes back again where the fullness of His glory will be shown on earth and in the heavens. For now, I can only look in hope and true justice through the lens of His kingdom here and is to come; where His holiness is all that matters and where His love is already won at Calvary. He knows best. Taking a serious look at Moses’ life and reflecting on how I can grow in spiritual leadership, I believe this is where I should be heading.

REST
Lord, may my heart be stricken by the urgency of wanting to please a holy God; instead of being lured into the never ending story of humanistic “fairness”. May He who holds all answers hold me in peace and faithfulness towards Your calling for my life. Amen.