Pitfalls in the “Sacred”

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13; Psalm 34:1-10

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

REFLECT
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the Apostle Paul exhorted the church in Corinth to make “discipline” and “control” of the body a priority of the Christian life. He was also aware that such a discipline cannot be attained by frequent preaching and teaching of the Word. In fact, the words in verse 27 “lest after” seem to suggest that preaching and teaching of the Word could themselves be potential pitfalls to sin.

RELATE
Why is this so? Paul did not elaborate. However, as a preacher myself I could attest that this is possible. This is possible because the preaching and teaching of God’s Word could give us a false sense of security. The preaching and teaching of God’s Word could tempt the preacher to crave for people’s “likes”. The preaching of God’s Word could tempt the preacher to think that he or she is somebody when he or she is just a servant of Christ.

This passage is a good reminder that in whatever I do, even in the seemingly most “sacred” of things; evil is always knocking at the door. Yet the Lord gave the assurance in verse 13 that He will always provide a way out. It is really up to us to submit and walk that way out; no matter how painful to the flesh it might be. Indeed, lest I be disqualified!

REST
Thank you Lord for this good reminder to keep my body under control for the sake of Your glory and purpose. Help me to remember that this is only made possible by the love of the Father, grace of the Son and work of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Heart of the matter

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; Psalm 33:1-11

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
1 Corinthians 8:13: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

REFLECT
As the Corinthians quarrelled about eating food offered to idols; the Apostle Paul sought to make peace by going into the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter was not so much about what to eat or what not to eat. The heart of the matter was whether the church have love for one another. Hence, the advice was that if eating meat sacrificed to idols causes my brother to stumble, then let me choose not to eat even if it doesn’t matter to my own soul.

RELATE
Am I prepared to give up my “rights” in order that others can benefit from the sacrifice? Do I even think about these “rights” in the first place? When I come back from home after a tired day at work, I have the right to rest. Yet, when my children occasionally ask me to play with them the moment I come back home; will it benefit them to insist on my rest or could I have my rest later? It goes into the heart of the matter. Do I really love them and want them to know that Jesus is helping me to love them? The choice is clear but I struggle.

REST
As the Lord wills it, may He who is able help me to deny my own rights for the benefit of others. Amen.

Dealing with oppositions

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Nehemiah 3:15-5:13; Proverbs 21:5-7

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Nehemiah 4:7-8 “But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.”

REFLECT
Nehemiah was doing a great thing in answering God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. However, the enemies of God found in the persons of Sanballat, Tobiah and Gehshem opposed to such a cause.

Opposition to the work of God is not uncommon. We can find many such instances in the Bible as well as in our own lives. The main challenge is not a theological enquiry on whether we will face oppositions or even suffer for the sake of the Gospel; the main challenge is how we respond to such oppositions.

In Nehemiah, we discovered a godly response. What he did frequently and in priority was to pray and seek God’s protection and wisdom. To Nehemiah, this was not merely a ritual he learnt from young as a Hebrew; but an unyielding belief that God is much bigger and will provide the way out.

RELATE
Similar to many people, I face oppositions in the work that the Lord has given. In my younger days, I have the tendency to react defensively against such oppositions. Over time, I discovered that such oppositions could also be God’s way of telling me to that I have done wrong. Hence, I learnt (and still learning) that when faced with such oppositions, the best thing to do is as follow:

  1. Pray and ask God for discernment – if I have done wrong or could improve.
  2. If I sense with clarity that the Lord is asking me to persevere despite oppositions, then I will pray for a wise and God-glorifying way to deal with the oppositions.

REST
May I be constantly inspired by the humble and courageous heart of Nehemiah to respond to oppositions in my life in a God-glorifying manner. Amen.

Where are our mournings?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Ezra 10:1-44; Proverbs 21:3

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Ezra 10:6 “Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehonanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles.”

REFLECT
Ezra is one of the characters in the Bible whom I look up to. This man loved the Lord so much that he readily confessed before the house of God and wept over the sins of Israel. Even after a covenant was made between the people and God to do something with regards to their sinfulness; Ezra continued to fast and mourn over the faithlessness of his people. I like to think that only people who love the Lord deeply can develop such great sensitivities for what grieves the heart of our Father in heaven.

RELATE
When was the last time I mourn over the sins of the church universal or even the churches in Singapore? Even as I witnessed the many transgressions of the church against the teachings of Christ; I can remain so indifferent and so uncaring. At most a prayer is uttered; but mourning over the sins of the church? Hardly.

I am reminded of a time (approximately 7-8 years ago) when I was unwell and stayed home. While at home, i grew restless and decided to watch a video where a preacher was talking about unity in the church. The preacher was preaching at a global prayer event and many leaders of churches around the world attended the event. At the end of the sermon, the preacher invited many leaders across the globe to come together to pray for unity. When that happened, I started to weep. I wept like never before. At that time, I could sense the Holy Spirit witnessing to me that it grieves the Father’s heart that so many of His children do not see eye to eye with one another. That was also the time when I was frequently praying for the Lord to reveal His heart to me. I seldom do that these days.

Today’s devotion is a sobering reminder that I need to keep in check of my intimacy with God. Serving in ministry is definitely no guarantee of my growing relationship with God. In fact, it could easily go the opposite direction.

Where is my mourning over the sins of the church universal? Where is my pain when I witness in myself and others the many transgressions we have against God? Do I love God enough to care?

REST
Lord, help me in times when I slip into indifference. Help me to constantly check my intimacy with you. Reveal to me your heart for the church and may You direct my prayers in Your mighty will. Amen.

Admonishment!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:1-21; Psalm 30:1-12

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
1 Corinthians 4:14-15 “I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 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
To the Apostle Paul, “admonishment” was definitely part of his way of shepherding the Christians in Corinth. In fact he saw admonishment as something he would give to his “beloved children”. In other words, admonishment was an expression of the Apostle’s love for one another.

While admonishment seemed to be a common feature of ministry in the early churches; this does not seem to be so in the modern day churches. Is it because the modern day churches need less admonishment? Is it because we are doing so well that we need no admonishment from one another? We know in our hearts that this is certainly not the case. In fact, the opposite seems more probable; churches today would benefit much if the Lord send His people to come and admonish us on the areas we have strayed far from the Gospel.

I would think that admonishment is always necessary because our hearts are stubborn and even as God’s children we can be tempted to sin. Yet the modern day churches have the tendency to “skip” such an important part of loving one another. We prefer to uphold so called “peace” (in the name of love); but all we do is to give ourselves excuses to retreat from doing what is less popular or from the fear of confrontation. We might even have the wrong idea that “love” cannot contain admonishment – yet the Word of God proved that this is very far from the truth.

RELATE
If someone is to ask which is the phase of ministry which I learned the most; I would say the phase where someone bothered to admonish me for something foolish I did or a behaviour I should watch out for. I am blessed to have people in my life who love me enough to do that for the sake of my growth in God. How about you? Do you have someone like that in your walk with God?

REST
If you are reading this and you are praying for someone to come into your life to walk with you in that kind of authenticity and love, may I pray with you that the Lord will grant you this holy desire. Amen.

Is Christ really enough?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4; Psalms 28:1-9

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

REFLECT
Believers of the Lord Jesus Christ are given the promise in John 14:26 that when Jesus ascended into heaven; the Holy Spirit will dwell in the children of God to teach them all things.  Paul affirmed this promise by saying that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is far greater than the wisdom of even the wisest in this world. The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is needed to understand the things given to us freely by God. Indeed we need the Holy Spirit to interpret spiritual truths so that as disciples of the Lord Jesus, we can walk in the truth. We need the Holy Spirit because God has chosen to reveal to us and help us in our walk with Him; not only through God the Son, but God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

RELATE
Many of us have probably heard or can sing the following by heart: “Christ is enough for me, Christ is enough for me, Everything I need is in You, Everything I need …” It’s probably one of the most beautiful song written about the joy of salvation by Hillsong Worship. Christ is indeed everything we need if we are just talking about the salvation of our souls. However, it dawns upon me that the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross is not really “enough” if we talk about the sanctification of our souls. The Holy Spirit is given to believers so that we can grow in holiness in Christ. Post conversion, believers will also need to understand the love of God the Father as well as the work of the Holy Spirit in order to “abide” in God’s Word and hence becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ.

REST
Lord our God, help us to know that the Holy Spirit is sent to us to help us in our walk with You. And as the Holy Spirit is God and Person, may we be of confidence to go to Him in times of need, celebration and even despair. Amen.

God’s promises and our prayer

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezra 1:1-2:70; Proverbs 20:22-23

READ (Verses chosen for reflection)
Ezra 1:1-2 “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

REFLECT
According to Ezra 1:1-2, it is clear that God has moved the heart of Cyrus to set the Hebrews free. This is to fulfil what the Lord has promised in Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10. This is an encouraging passage to read. No matter how dismal the situation may seem; God’s promise will be fulfilled. This is because God’s promises are as sovereign and true as God Himself. What He said will happen; will happen.

RELATE
Many nations around the world are facing the horror of civil wars. Millions of people are displaced; thousands of civilians are brutally killed. As we read these news, there could be times when we lose hope in praying for these nations. It seems that God is not acting. It seems that such wars will just rage on forever. Yet, if God can move a powerful king such as Cyrus to set His people free; He might do likewise for some of these nations to experience peace. We do not know what the Lord has planned for these nations, but we can trust in His sovereign will and just keep on praying. We pray because God wants us to. We pray because we are called to intercede for those in need. We pray because we can totally trust in a sovereign God who will carry out His purpose in spite of our failings and the sins of this world.

REST
Lord, may you help us to keep on praying for people who are undergoing persecutions, abuse and displacements because this is what You want us to do. Build us as a house of prayer for Your glory sake. Amen.