God’s choice

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17; Psalms 88:1-18

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Chronicles 2:1-2 “These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher.”

REFLECT
Today’s reading (and in subsequent days) will probably be challenging for many of us because it contains only genealogies. Yet, when we take the effort to read through, we might discover that it is a wonderful treasure to behold. The first two chapters of 1 Chronicles remind us of the very beginning when Adam was created by God.

From Adam, we can trace the genealogy of key characters like Noah, Abraham and then to the twelve tribes of Israel. Such a long list of genealogy serves to remind us that God is in control. He is the Author of time and shall make His choice to carry out His plan. From the very beginning, Israel was a much smaller nation as compared to her surrounding giants. Yet, it is a choice made by God to carry out His purposes. Even through the many pitfalls and sinfulness caused by the Israelites; God has faithfully upheld Israel. Not only that, God has fulfilled His promise to bring forth the hope of salvation (in Christ) through David’s line.

RELATE
God is in control. When God makes a choice, nothing on earth or in the universe can come against Him. With this in mind, I can trust in the Lord and even rejoice if I sense the Lord calling me to do something out of my comfort zone. If there are troubles everywhere; then I should continue in prayer and trust the Lord to make His move in His time. If I know that the Lord has made His choice in an important matter; I should submit to His will and be at peace.

In recent months, my family and I had been quite busy looking for a new home to stay. It was an exhausting journey as we spent many day-offs viewing many homes. It was only recently that we were guided by the Lord to a home which is ideal. We are thankful. Yet at the same time, we are also praying earnestly that the process of purchase will go well. This is because we do not hope to go through the whole viewing process again. Today’s passage reminded me that while it is important to pray, I should also rest in the assurance that God has made His choice. Since God has made His choice, my family and I should choose to rest in Him.

REST
Lord God, You are all knowing and all powerful. Help me to rest in what You have decided. Amen.

Stop it!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Colossians 2:8-23; Psalms 82:1-8

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Colossians 2:20-23
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations– 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)– according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

REFLECT
According to Colossians 2:20-23, Paul reminded the young church in Colossae that they have died with Jesus Christ to the elemental spirits of the world. According to one bible commentator, “elemental spirits” refer to evil or national “gods” that are supposed to rule over the different areas of the world. However, Paul did not think that these “gods” really exist (ref: 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). They only exist as far as those who believed and worshiped them.

Therefore, Paul exhorted that if the Christians in Colossae had died with Christ to such idolatry, why were they subjecting themselves to man-made regulations? Paul warned the young believers that these regulations have no value or power at all in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

In fact, the stopping of the indulgence of the flesh can only happen when believers:

  1. Focus on the things that are above and not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2)
  2. Put to death the old self and put on the new self; for it is now possible to do so for the one who believe in Jesus. (Colossians 3:5-10)

RELATE
I might not be practising Judaism that encourages the believer to apply a list of regulations to stop the indulgence of the flesh. However, I might be practicing a self-made religion when I tell myself to “stop it” using my own strength. When I do so, I am putting faith in myself rather than the One who died for me. When I do so, I am trying to be my own god rather than submitting to the Lordship of the One who has authority over all. Ironically, during my three-year study in the seminary, I practiced quite a bit of “self-made religion”. This was especially so when I was facing a time crunch to finish writing the never ending papers. On occasions, I took the easier way out by relying more on my own intellect and experience to get them done; rather than using the opportunities to reflect and communicate with God.

Indeed, when it comes to indulgence of the flesh, be it succumbing to anger, watching undesirable materials on the Internet, obsession over food and even developing an idolatry for work; the only way to “stop it” is through faith in Christ.

Faith in Christ does not mean adopting a passive stance and hope for the best. It means an ever active exercising of faith to stay close to God through His word and believing that, in the Spirit, I am able to put on the new self and put to death the old. It is also about cultivating an ever increasingly grateful heart towards what Jesus had done on the cross; so much so that the many temptations of this world pales in comparison.

REST
Help me Lord, to grow in my gratefulness of what You have done on the Cross. This is so that everything else in this world pales in comparison to what I can have in You. Amen.

Praying for our leaders

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1-15; Proverbs 25:17

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
1 Timothy 2:1-4 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

REFLECT
The first of Paul’s instructions to Timothy (and possibly the church in Ephesus) was to pray. It was to pray and intercede for all people; and of special mention are those who held high positions in the country. Prayers are to be constant and not merely for certain times of the year. Prayers are necessary, as Paul said, so that Christians may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Such prayers are not so much about praying “away” persecutions or trouble; instead it was to pray so that as Christians, we can remain calm and steadfast even in the midst of persecution and in the context of 1 Timothy – the chaos created by false teachings. Paul said that praying in this way is pleasing to God and he seems to imply that when Christians behave well as we are strengthened by prayers, more will come to be saved.

RELATE
My family and I had the privilege of attending the 1st preview of Singapore’s National Day Parade 2019 at the Padang. The parade brought good reminders that as a nation, we have so much to be thankful for. Yet, we all know that there is a lot of room for improvement. This is especially so when we talk about the quality of life for those in need and how we can be more patient towards one another. So yes, we need to pray for our leaders in this nation. We pray that they will be given wisdom and discernment to run this country well. We pray for ourselves as Christians, that we will also remain steadfast and be at peace with one another; even if we should encounter trouble and persecutions. We pray for ourselves to be good witnesses and to live out godly lives; so that more can be saved. This is God’s desire and as His children, we pray that we will be strengthened to carry out His purposes.

REST
Thank you God for the leaders of this nation. We pray for them that they will carry out the duties of their office with love, wisdom and strength. We pray for ourselves that as the children of God, we live in a way that is pleasing in Your sight. This is so that more will come to know You as Savior and Lord. Amen.

The lure of procrastination

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Amos 1:1-3:15; Proverbs 24:30-34

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Proverbs 24:30-34
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, 31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. 32 Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

REFLECT
Proverbs 24:30-34 speaks of the sluggard who neglected to care for the vineyard that was entrusted to his care. As a result, the vineyard was overgrown with thorns and even its stone wall was broken down. A vineyard was and still is a great provision from the Lord. However, it needs to be tended to and constantly cared for. Otherwise, poverty (not just in the physical sense I believe) will be knocking at our doors. To be sure, verses 33-34 described that the sluggard did not destroy the vineyard overnight; but it was accumulated “bits of laziness” that caused the destruction.

RELATE
It is rare that I come across people who are so lazy that they don’t even want to work. Rather, I believe many of us struggle with “bits of sluggishness” or what we often refer to as “procrastination”. There are many reasons as to why people procrastinate. Sometimes procrastination can be a good thing especially if one has many things to handle all at one time. So a little slowing down in making decisions could be beneficial.

However, some of us might procrastinate because we keep thinking that we have “time” or that we refuse to optimise what God has entrusted to us. We think that we are not good enough despite the many assurances from the community and the Lord that this is not true. In these circumstances, the wise person in Proverbs warned that such “sluggishness” could cost us dearly.

I thank God for this reminder as there are occasions when I would slip into such a mode of procrastination. I am reminded that God orders my time and entrust me with resources to help me live a fruitful life. Let me therefore be a good steward, trust in His heart and obey.

REST
Thank you Lord for the reminder to be a better steward of what You have entrusted to my care. Strengthen my heart to serve Yours. Amen.

Remember!

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 16:1-21; Psalm 77:1-20

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Psalm 77:12 “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

REFLECT
Once again, the Psalmist (in Psalm 77) was despondent and weary. We do not know what the Psalmist was expressing grief about but we get the impression that he was in deep trouble. Once again, the Psalmist did not submit to his depression but he sought the Lord.

Psalm 77 is a beautiful Psalm that gives us somewhat of a “guide” in seeking the Lord:

  1. In days of trouble, instead of turning to our favourite and often ungodly escapades, we turn to the Lord.
  2. Even if those days are extremely challenging, even if we should lie awake in the night troubled in the mind, we do not forget to stretch out our hand to the Lord.
  3. Then we verbalise our thoughts and converse with God. We tell Him that despite all that we are going through; we will remember. We will remember that He has been and will continue to be holy, trustworthy and faithful. Therefore, we shall continue to trust in His will.

RELATE
There was a time when my heart was deeply troubled by ministry matters. I lie in my bed wide awake, thinking of how I can go about solving the issue at hand. I tossed and turned, asking God to help me. After a few hours of turmoil, I slipped into a fitful sleep and woke up feeling even more discouraged. It was only after a few days when the Spirit reminded that instead of focusing on the issue at hand, I should focus on the faithfulness of God.

I was reminded to think about the many instances when I had almost given up and God held my hand to do His will. From there, I should then seek the heart of the Father with regards to the issue. I should recall His character.

As I did that, my spiritual burden was lifted as I was no longer using my own lens to see the issue. I was slowly brought into the perspective of the Father. From there, I managed to get wisdom to handle the tricky matter and found peace in Him. This lesson taught me one important thing: That I would need to “train up” like the Psalmist on being able to ponder upon the past deeds of the Father. It is extremely important, especially when we are in trouble.

REST
Lord God, give me strength to actively ponder upon Your faithful and holy deeds. This is so that during times of trouble, I will remember to turn to You. Amen.

Great Grace; Great Judgement

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 9:1-21; Proverbs 24:15-16

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Revelation 9:4-5 “They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.”

REFLECT
Reading the book of Revelation can be very encouraging. It can also be quite alarming. We could be wondering for example, what Revelation 9:4-5 means. How could it be that God is going to send monster-like creatures to torment unbelievers for five months? This seems to be the act of Satan and not our loving God. I once read Dr. Beale Campbell’s commentary and he mentioned that these verses suggested that unbelievers will be spiritually and emotionally tormented. So it isn’t so much about physical torment. Such an idea is in line with other verses in Revelation which talks about “weeping and mourning”. Yet, even if this is the right interpretation of the verses; I still wonder why. Why will God send creatures to torment unbelievers; whether spiritually or physically?

RELATE
As I reflected on these verses, a phrase I once told my children came to mind. I told them that in my Christian journey, I am thankful for the great grace that God has been showing and is still showing to me. Yet, in the midst of grace, I am also reminded of the great judgement to come. There can be no grace without also judgement.

Indeed, how can the grace of God be great if His judgement is not great as well on Calvary? How can grace be genuine if God is not just towards sin during the Second Coming? Indeed, the prophecy that unbelievers, among other forms of judgement will be tormented for five months is difficult to hear. Yet, who am I to judge of the One who first came to bear my shame and then will be coming to judge all men? I know not why the torment must be done but I am confident that the Good Shepherd knows what He is doing and is going to do. Perhaps only those who truly believe are exempted from such a spiritual torment because of the assurance that God will come to get us to be with Him forever. Perhaps such a torment is an opportunity given for repentance before it is too late.

Great Judgement from the only worthy Judge only bears witness to the great grace that God has shown and is showing to those who choose to believe. After all, the blood stained grace of God has been given in atonement. It is up to all who have heard to receive or face the judgement to come. Great grace has been given. Those who are hard-hearted and unrepentant shall then face the great judgement.

REST
Lord my God. Even as I am thankful to the grace you have given to me in Jesus Christ; help me to be mindful of the warnings and truth given by the book of Revelation. You are God. Help me to submit therefore to Your will and ways. Amen.

It will die

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 70:1-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Revelation 3:1-3
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

REFLECT
Some thought that the “angel of the church in …” referred to in the book of Revelation refer to “pastor of the church”. When I heard it, I asked the question: “Now where did that come from?” Upon my ordination, I thought I didn’t quite hear the title “angel” being conferred to me! 😀

In a very large way, angels in the New Testament serve God as His messengers. Here, I prefer to see the “angel of the church in …” as specific messengers to the churches they have been appointed to (in relation to the seven churches mentioned in chapters 2-3). Hence, the message of Revelation 3:1-6 was given to the church of Sardis as a whole. The angel was probably the first point of contact to relate such a message to the congregation of Sardis. In fact, the messages given to the seven churches seem applicable in many of the churches today.

The message to the church of Sardis was one of warning. The congregation was warned not to continue with their hypocrisy; where they had the reputation of being spiritually alive but in reality, they were “dead”. Hence, the church was exhorted to wake up, repent and strengthen what remains. If they did not obey, the consequence would be that what remains will die.

RELATE
The warning to the church of Sardis is a great warning for many of us in the church today. If we are not growing in the faith, do not expect our faith to stay “alive”. It.will.die.

Such a warning is applicable to the modern day churches because we do have the tendency of comforting ourselves in non-biblical ways. We do have the tendency to comfort ourselves that we are always “alive” no matter how wrecked our spiritual life is. Or there could be other types of teaching that we absorbed without much discernment. Teachings that go something like: “No matter how far away from God you are, God will always find you back”.

Personally I have big issues with such teachings. Firstly, it smacks of pure arrogance. We expect God to come find us when in reality, we do not really care about who is God in our daily living. Secondly, it gives believers a false sense of security. It is not divine assurance. Hebrews 10:22-23 made this clear: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Yes, God is for us. But biblically, we are called to submit ourselves to Him in faith and hold fast to Him for faith. So Revelation is consistent: Wake up, repent and be strengthened. Do not be hypocritical and let our lives be authentically Christian. Otherwise, what remains will die.

When I was in Europe some years ago. I lament on the many churches that had turned to drinking holes, hotels and restaurants. Apparently, many had given up their faith and had now chosen to be “atheist”. I wouldn’t be surprised if churches in Singapore find ourselves in the same predicament if we do not wake up, repent and be strengthened. The call for Sardis to seek renewal is the same call for me to do the same. My faith in God is simply not a joke nor a passing cloud. On the eternal side of things, it is all I have and all that I am.

REST
Therefore God, help me to wake up, repent and be strengthened! Help me not to take this precious gift of Christ you have given for granted; but to seek renewal and growth on a daily basis with You. Amen!

Sought to understand it

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Daniel 8:1-27; Proverbs 24:3-4

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Daniel 8:15-16
15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.”

REFLECT
When Daniel saw the vision (as described in Daniel 8:1-14), the very first thing he did was that he sought to understand it. He did not make any flippant guesses about what the vision could be, but he sought to understand it. He did not go and tell it to his neighbours, but he sought to understand it. He did not post it on social media so that everyone could “like” it, but he sought to understand it. Daniel sought to understand the vision because he knew that it was from the Lord. Daniel knew that the vision needs to be explained by God Himself. For Daniel’s consistent faithfulness, God answered Daniel’s seeking. God sent His very own archangel Gabriel to explain the vision to Daniel. In the end, the vision affected Daniel so much that he fell ill for several days (Daniel 8:27).

RELATE
When I am given a vision from God, do I seek Him first for understanding? Or do I get so excited that I begin to invent theories on what the vision could be? Or would I get so prideful that I post it on social media for friends to “like” it and secretly hoping that people will conclude that I am “highly favoured” by the Lord? Along the same line, when I am given the privilege to witness a miracle from the Lord, do I praise Him for who He is and be encouraged? Or do I think that I am better than everybody else?

I believe I was given a vision by the Lord in the year 2007, during a time of prayer with several men in ministry. In that vision, I saw an eagle flying towards me. The vision was so clear and detailed that I know it is from the Lord. Initially, I did not know what to do. Secretly, I felt encouraged that God would put such a vision to me; for I assumed that it was something good. Later, by the grace of God, I came to realise that I was just being prideful. I should, like Daniel, sought to understand it first. Who knows? Maybe it was a warning for me to turn from my sins! Through some years of prayer, seeking and affirmation. I came to realise that the vision was an encouragement from the Lord as I prepared to go into full time church work.

I believe God do give visions or allow us to witness or experience miracles. Question is: Are we allowing these experiences to draw us closer to God? Are we seeking to understand God even more? Or do these only serve to make us prideful? May we be like Daniel, who sought to honour God in everything.

REST
Lord my God, help me to honour you like Daniel; even in the wonderful visions and miracles you have allow me to see and witness. Amen.

We shall be satisfied

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-48:35; Psalm 65:1-13

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Psalm 65:4 “Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!”

REFLECT
Psalm 65 is a song of David. It is a song of praise for the many things which God provided and for whom God is to His people. It was David’s praise for:

  1. God’s willingness to hear the prayers of His people.
  2. God’s atonement for our iniquities.
  3. God’s grace for bringing His people to dwell in His temple.
  4. God’s righteousness, which was demonstrated through His awesome deeds.
  5. God’s hope in His salvation for the whole of creation.
  6. God’s abundant provision for the whole of the earth and all who dwell in it.

For all of these things, David give praise to God and advised that we shall be satisfied in the goodness of His house!

RELATE
In the here and now, are we really satisfied?

For all of the things (1 to 6) that David gave praise for; God fulfilled them in Jesus Christ. We who believe in Jesus therefore enjoyed and continue to enjoy all these blessings in His Name. What else do we seek? We have a God who hears our prayers, who atoned for our sins, who provide for our every need and even guide us in righteousness!

Yet, I am one of those believers who sometimes take all these things for granted. Sometimes, I felt discouraged when God did not seem to answer my prayers especially for justice to be done. Even as I preach frequently of the Gospel, I do not find myself consistent in rejoicing and being grateful for the love and grace that Christ has for my soul.

Today’s readings reminded that I am very blessed in His Name. I am His child whom He has chosen to bring near in His courts. I should be satisfied. I should be thankful. I should be like David who shouted for joy.

REST
Yes Lord, help me to be more grateful of Your many blessings to me and my family. This is so that I can be of great joy and serve you better in Your Name. Amen.

Conviction through grace

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 35:1-36:38; Proverbs 23:19-21

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 36:31: “Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.”

REFLECT
Ezekiel 36 records how God will punish the nation of Israel due to their iniquities and abominable acts. After some time, God will then restore Israel and even bless it with a new heart. God said that He will do this not for their sakes but for the sake of His holy Name. His holy Name is important because it bears witness to the world of Who God is. This is so that the rest of the world may come to know the true nature of God and worship Him. Through such an act of grace, God also said that the nation of Israel shall come to the deep conviction of their iniquities and abominations. They will come to realise of how wrong they were towards God. Israel shall come to hate themselves for the sins they have committed; when God bestowed grace upon them.

RELATE
When I read this part of Ezekiel, I can thoroughly relate to the grace of God for my own life. Despite my sinfulness, which are no less than what was done by Israel, God chose to forgive through Jesus and even gave me the the Holy Spirit for continuous godly living. Indeed, the believer can only learn of how vile we truly are and can be when God demonstrate His grace for our lives.

We will not learn of such a great conviction through mere discipline or laws because of our human depravity. Our hearts need to be transformed by the blood of Christ which carries with it the essence of the divine grace of God on the Cross. It is only when grace overwhelms our sense of self-sufficiency and pride; that we learn to hate what God hates and love what He loves. It is only when we realise how we are given so much of what we do not deserve; that we learn to cherish the faithfulness of God. It is when we encounter the grace of a Holy God, that we crumble to our knees crying Abba Father. Only then, can we live the grace-enabled life and give grace to the people around us. Only then, can we say that we shall rejoice in suffering; for that shall help us to see more of God.

REST
And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should’st die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should’st die for me?

Right or wrong way to pray?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 21:1-22:31; Psalm 58:1-11

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 58:6: “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!”

REFLECT
If we are to read the whole of Psalm 58, we might come away with the feeling that the Psalmist was as “bloodthirsty” as those who persecuted him. I mean, he prayed for his enemies to be swept away. He prayed that their teeth be broken and even be like snails that dissolved into slime. How can a godly person pray like this? Shouldn’t he pray like how Jesus said to love our enemies?

Yes, Jesus did say to love our enemies. He also said to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43). Yet, what Psalm 58 was saying was not whether the Psalmist’s prayer is right or wrong. Rather, it expressed the depth of relationship between the Psalmist and God. The Psalmist was so intimate with God that he told God his heartfelt emotions. He was having such a hard time from his enemies that he asked of God to take them away. Psalm 58 did not end with whether God will act upon the prayers. It was left as a prayer from one who had experienced extreme suffering and begging God to enact His justice. Of course, whether God will do as the Psalmist prayed, it is entirely up to Him.

RELATE
While in Nepal, we heard news that there were several bomb blast in the capital. These bomb blasts were fuelled by political interests within the Nepali government. Many people in Nepal expressed that they wish the government can be more stable; as they are suffering under such instability. They are praying that those with evil in their hearts be taken away. When we saw and spoke with some who suffered for a long time under such an unstable government; we joined in their prayer. We pray that indeed God will “break the teeth” of those who meant to do evil, so that they can no longer do any harm to anyone.
As I pray in this way, it occurs to me that if I am not careful, I could end up being a presumptuous believer. I presume based on my head knowledge of God’s word to judge what is right or wrong. Yet life is much more complex than that. What is right or wrong in life cannot merely be judged by a theoretical understanding of the Bible. I need to constantly seek to apply God’s truth in the real world. I need to constantly listen rather than speak. In that way, I can better empathize with those who are suffering and pray and minister in a godly way.

REST
Lord, help me to draw close to you and better understand what people around me are going through. This is so I can be of better use for Your kingdom. Amen.

Patience of the Lord

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Ezekiel 7:1-9:11; Proverbs 23:4-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Ezekiel 9:4 “And the LORD said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”

REFLECT
Even at the very end, God showed patience and grace to Israel. Even when Israel was committing abominations to the Lord in all ways and at all times, the Lord sought to spare those who repent. We have the tendency to focus our eyes on how God, commanded His executioners (Ezekiel 9:1-6) to kill the young and old. We complain in our hearts that God was so merciless. We suspected that God seemed to be more concerned with His reputation than with the lives of children. If we do so, we are missing the point.

The point is that God had shown much grace to the people of Israel (If you don’t believe me, just read how He had done so right from Genesis to the Kings). The point is that God had gone out of His way seeking the repentant. The point is that there was actually no need for Him to do so. He is God, why does He need to show grace to our persistent sinful behaviour? Yet He chose to. Even in the book of Ezekiel, even in the Gospels, even right now when we read the word and is thrown into remembrance of how we sinned against the Holy One of Israel. Why? Because as the word says, His steadfast love endures forever.

RELATE
His steadfast love endures forever.

I reflected on the day God blessed us with our first child. I cried on that day because the good news of my wife’s pregnancy came after I told the Lord in secret that I am going to obey His call to ministry. However, the rejoicing of having our first child did not endure the human sinfulness in me. I am in many ways a father in much learning of how I can better disciple my son. I remember the time when I was so angry with him over but a small matter. I used words I never should. Yet God was ever so full of grace. Not only did He forgive when I repented; he created many opportunities for spiritual heart surgeries in me.

REST
Oh God, how patient You are! Otherwise, I would have perished a thousand deaths! Yet in Jesus, You have given me salvation, a beautiful family and a wonderful family of faith. How then can I but sing praises to You for these debts I can never repay! Help me to ever grow in pleasing You and You alone. Amen.

Do not enter into temptation

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 22:35-53; Psalm 51:1-19

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 22:45-46 “And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

REFLECT
Twice our Lord Jesus said to the disciples to pray and not enter into temptation. What did Jesus mean by that?

Firstly, what “temptation” was Jesus talking about? For Jesus, it was the temptation of giving in to his mortal will of rejecting the will of God for him to be crucified. For the disciples, it had to do with how they might lose faith as we are told that they were “sleeping for sorrow”. So “temptation” in this context does not mean God’s testing for the believer, but of situations that might render the believer to stumble.

Secondly, what does prayer have to do with not entering into temptation? Why didn’t Jesus ask the disciples to pray when they are tempted? The Greek grammar for “pray” in Luke 22 suggest that we must take it upon ourselves (for our own benefit) to pray constantly that we do not enter into temptation. The assumption seems to be that for the Christian, being watchful that we can enter into temptation is part and parcel of the new life. Furthermore, for the sake of holiness, it might be better not having to enter into temptation than having to struggle when we do enter into temptation. Indeed may the Lord grant that we do not enter into temptations, if He is willing. For the Lord knows that when we do enter into temptation, there is always the possibility for us (due to our own will) to stumble in the faith.

RELATE
Today’s passage is a powerful reminder that my daily prayers ought to consist of “not entering into temptation”. Quite often, I only pray that God will help me to resist temptations or not sin due to temptations. Today, Jesus reminded that I should (by His command) constantly pray that I do not enter into temptation; for the temptations of this world can be powerful and dangerous such as social media, food and sex. Such a prayer comes from a heart of humility and reliance on the grace of God. For a heart that thinks that I can resist or overcome temptation anytime of the day is prideful. A heart that thinks I will certainly rely on the Holy Spirit when I am tempted, looks too much on my own strength; but not on the work of the Spirit.

REST
God, by your sovereign grace, let me enter not into temptation. However, if it must be so, give me grace to stay in the Spirit to avoid stumbling in the faith. Amen.

The Zacchaeus in us

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 19:1-27; Proverbs 22:17-19

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

REFLECT
Whenever I read about Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, it never fails to amaze me on how the chief tax collector radically transformed from being a loyalist of the Roman Empire to becoming a loyalist of the Lord. When Jesus wanted to come into his house (of which no Jewish leaders had done before); he was so filled with joy and declared that he will generously compensate anyone he had defrauded and give half of his money to the poor. While the Jews grumbled against Jesus’ action to go into the house of a “sinner”; Zacchaeus was so full of gratefulness that the Messiah was receiving his hospitality. Notice that it wasn’t until Zacchaeus made the faith call for restoration that Jesus pronounced salvation. Zacchaeus’ heart was truly for the Lord. This is in deep contrast to the story a chapter earlier, where the wealthy young man found it difficult to let go of his immense wealth to follow Jesus; though ironically he asked what must I do to inherit eternal life.

RELATE
Indeed, God had come and will come again to save the lost. His primary purpose was and still is, to save and sanctify those who are remorseful of our sins, willing to repent and seek grace from God to be saved. Anything else is to be in support of this primary mission. Even for those who had believed; we must make the decision on a daily basis to be sanctified. We must work with God to grow in holiness and worship.

As I read this passage, I am convicted that there is much of me that needs the heart of Zacchaeus. There is much of me that needs to climb that sycamore tree, seek Christ and be filled with joy that He is already my Lord and Saviour. There is much of me that needs to extend the love of God to others, to receive the poor, the lost and the outcast just as Jesus did. There is much of me that needs to follow the primary mission of God; to be used as an instrument for leading others into the kingdom. Therefore Lord, help me to be like Zacchaeus, who abandoned the many things in this world to sincerely follow You.

REST
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love!

Amen.

Humbled

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 14:7-35; Psalm 44:9-26

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

REFLECT
When Jesus was at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, He noticed how the invited guests were choosing for themselves places of honour. Such places of honour might not be very much different from those in today’s context. They could have been places at the head or upper corners of a dining table.

Jesus then told a parable about how those invited to a wedding feast should not choose for themselves places of honour but to go to the lowest place. Otherwise there is potential for the person to be shamed. Jesus ended off with the teaching that those who exalt themselves will be humbled while those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Here, Jesus was talking about the hearts of those who consider themselves righteous in comparison with those who surrender to the Lord as penitent sinners. For those who are prideful and self-righteous, they will be humbled by God. On the other hand, for those who know that they are sinners and walk with God in humility shall be exalted. Such is the nature of the kingdom of God.

RELATE
Self-exaltation can come in many forms. Most of us do not do it blatantly but it could manifest in subtle ways. I know of one person who thought so highly of himself that he treats people around him as “second class” citizens. He don’t really say it outright; but for those who know him well will attest that this is a self-righteous man. To this person, few or none is holier than him. He is always the righteous one. The person next to him is always inferior. Recently, I got to know that God humbled him through a series of events. I am praying that he will turn to God for grace and growth.

Knowing this helps me to reflect on my own walk with God. How am I walking with the Lord? Do I exalt myself and think that I am better than others? Do I post pictures or thoughts in the social media to make people think that I am great? Or worse, do I post stuff on the social media to exalt my own position at the expense of others? Do I think that I deserve a better seat in God’s kingdom? Am I walking with Him as one who needs His grace and mercy consistently? Or am I always deluding myself that i am “OK” and only go to God sporadically?

May the Lord help me to know of the times when I am self-exalting; for He will humble those who have such a corrupted heart. May the Lord help me to repent if there are times when i exalt myself and may He bring me to my knees to get right with Him. Indeed, only God is worthy to be exalted. Let me exalt God rather than myself. For only the Almighty is worthy to be praised.

REST
Thank you my Abba Father, for you love me more than myself; and because of Your love for me, You are always ready to humble my arrogance and pride for the sake of Your glory in my salvation. Amen.

Huh? I am the good neighbour?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 10:38-11:13; Proverbs 22:7

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 10:36-37 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

REFLECT
When the lawyer asked Jesus in verse 29 “who then is my neighbour?”, Jesus did not answer his question directly. Instead, Jesus gave a parable which highlighted the issues of the day: (1) the lawyer, who was one of the Pharisees, considered the Samaritans to be enemies because of their lineage as well as differing views on the word of God and where to worship (2) the supposedly teachers of the law did not seem too keen to do what the word of God says. The Gospels was filled with examples of how Jesus considered the Pharisees to be hypocrites.

So when the lawyer asked: “Who then is my neighbour?”, the Gospel writer highlighted that he was merely trying to justify himself. Perhaps he had hoped that Jesus would respond by saying: “Your neighbours are your fellow Jews who go to synagogues with you”.

Yet, our Lord is no fool. He knows the hearts of all people. Through the parable, Jesus’ loud sounding message to the lawyer was like “Stop trying to justify yourself by asking who is my neighbour; but BE the good neighbour to everyone, including those you considered to be your mortal enemies. By doing this, you would have truly lived out the greatest commandments of loving God and neighbour.”

RELATE
So it is for everyone of us who consider to love God and our neighbour.

I am the good neighbour. If I can be the good neighbour, then it does not really matter who are my neighbours. I have no need to ask who are my neighbours because as the good neighbour, God has called me to love everyone. The love required of me is not just about doing the minimal; for the Samaritan who showed mercy had done an extraordinary act of love for the injured Jew. To Jesus, the giving of love is always sacrificial. After what Jesus had done on the Cross, Jesus’ disciples will recall what He said at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34).

To be the good neighbour is not a natural thing to do. We all have our biases and histories with people. We have days when we don’t feel like doing any “loving” at all. We could even have “enemies” whom we have not spoken to for a long time. So the good neighbour must learn to love God; primarily through His word. The good neighbour must draw from the everlasting supply of God to love as He had loved in the Spirit. To be the good neighbour is an extraordinary call which can only be accomplished when we surrender our lives to the Lord on a daily basis.

“You go, and do likewise.”

Yes Lord, with You as my Helper.

REST
Dear Lord, help me to be the good neighbour. Give me the strength, patience and joy to do so. Amen.

How do we hear?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 8:4-21; Psalm 39:1-13

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Luke 8:18 “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

REFLECT
How do we hear?

In Luke 8 (Parables of the Sower and Lamp), Jesus gave a fair bit of warning on how we hear the word of God. Do we hear but allow our hearts to be choked by cares of this world? Do we hear but grow skeptical of the Lord when we face challenges in life? Do we hear and allow the evil one to tempt us to discard faith and sin against God? Do we hear, was convicted and yet not do anything about it, like how we would put the lamp under our beds? All these lead to fruitlessness where Jesus’ warning was that even of the things one think he has, will be taken away. On the other hand, those who hear and put into action what was heard, shall be given more.

RELATE
Fruitlessness is not an incubation stage where Christians “goes back” to being worldly for a season of time; and then hopefully “comes back” to God when he or she is happy to. In my experience, none has been able to do that without severe influences to their personal walk with God.

Rather, fruitlessness is the refusal to put God’s Word into action. It is the exercise of our will to suppress convictions by the word of God to bear fruit for His kingdom. It is a deliberate rebellion against the call of the Spirit to grow in God’s grace. So fruitless persons often hear; but often do not put into action what was heard. So someone could be so called Christian for a long time but do not bear much fruit. To these persons, Jesus warned that they might lose whatever little they think they have.

I thank God for this reminder that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian. Either one follows the Lord, even if imperfectly, or one is not. I was reminded of a conversation i had with a friend many years ago. He told me that he did not want to follow Jesus because he knew he had to sacrifice what he had. I am sad for this brother of mine and is reminded today to pray for him. Nonetheless, i thought at the very least, he is not a hypocrite. He didn’t profess to follow Jesus and then live a fruitless life. May the Lord help me not to be hypocritical but to put what I heard into action. Let me walk the talk in the grace and strength that God provides.

REST
Lord my God, help my dear friend to see the truth and help him to know that you are the most important Person in his life; and not the things of this world. Amen.

The much greater thing

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 4:31-5:11; Proverbs 21:25-26

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Luke 5:9-11 “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men. And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”

REFLECT
There was something about Simon Peter, James and John that Jesus knew; of which many people might not know. Perhaps not even their own parents. That was perhaps why they were the first disciples to be called. While we lament about the many foolish behaviours that plagued the first disciples as they journeyed with Jesus; here we are reminded of the great faith they demonstrated. They “left everything and followed him”.

Notice that Peter, James and John did not leave with Jesus at a state where they had no possessions. Instead, the narrative tells us that Jesus just brought them a windfall of fishes, which to fishermen means much food and money. With this windfall, the three disciples did not bow to Jesus and beg for more. Instead, they were captivated by the Person of Jesus and the call for them to “catch men”. So the three left everything they had (which included the nets full of fishes) and followed the Holy One for the much greater thing.

RELATE
Jesus showed the disciples that He can give them all things, if He wanted to. Yet, He also suggested to them that there are much greater things in life as compared to just earning a living. The much greater thing is to share the Gospel and disciple His people.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with earning a living but the central message here is about priority. What matters to us more? The heart of God for reconciling His people back to Him? Or God’s ability to provide for our needs? Jesus had demonstrated that He will not forget about our needs when we follow Him to where and how He wants us to. As we follow Jesus, we might not be able to “enjoy” what we had previously but that should not matter anymore. For the greater thing is before us and we should praise God for such a privilege to share in His kingdom work.

I thank God for this timely reminder that the much greater thing is to partner God in “catching men”; for I have been feeling quite disappointed recently on news about church leaders who abused their positions at the detriment of those they were called to disciple. It seems like a direct opposite to what Jesus had called us to be. I find it difficult to understand.

REST
Lord Jesus, give me the humility to ponder on these things in a way that is pleasing to You. Help me to always be reminded that my joy should be in the sharing of the Gospel and discipling men in the Gospel. Amen.

Nothing will be impossible?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-56; Psalms 35:1-16

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Luke 1:37-38 “For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

REFLECT
“For nothing will be impossible with God”.

This message was given by the angel Gabriel after Mary was left wondering how the miracle she just heard could be fulfilled. How will it be that the Son of God be conceive by a virgin like her? The angel Gabriel assured Mary that the Son of God will be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and also gave an added encouragement, that Elizabeth had been barren but was blessed with a child by the Lord. Hence, the angel Gabriel concluded “for nothing will be impossible with God”.

“Nothing will be impossible with God”.

I wonder how many of us have at some point in our lives, heard of this verse from Luke 1:37. Perhaps such a verse was given in the midst of an extremely difficult circumstance and so it served as a form of encouragement. Perhaps it was given in the midst of a heart to heart talk about a desire and so it was given as a hope. Whatever it is, I wonder if we had taken time to reflect on such a verse; for Mary’s response is to me is even more inspiring: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

It seems to me that upon hearing Gabriel’s proclamation that nothing is impossible with God; Mary did not ask for anything new or of her own desire. Instead, she obeyed the message given to her through the word of God relayed by the angel Gabriel. Mary was confident that whatever God wills, nothing will be impossible for His will to be carried through.

RELATE
“For nothing is impossible with God”.

The connective “for” is important because verse 37 was only given after Gabriel talked about the will of God for Mary. It wasn’t a “blank cheque” given to Mary that because nothing is impossible with God’ and so she can ask for anything. It was more like a solid assurance that whatever God wills, it will be done for Mary. Indeed, whatever God wills, if I receive and obey, it will not be impossible for God to fulfil because it will be His good pleasure to do so.

But what is the will of God? For Mary, the will of God for baby Jesus to be conceived through a human being was conveyed through an angel. For me, the will of God can always be found in His Word. Let me not proclaim carelessly verse 37 unless i know for certain, what God’s will is for a person under my care.

Let me pray for better discernment through Gods’ Word, obey His will through His Word and yes boldly proclaim like Mary: “Let it be to me according to Your Word”. Amen.

REST
Lord my God, thank you for the assurance given through Luke 1:37-38 that in Your will, nothing is impossible. You are an all-powerful God and nothing can stop You. So let me rest in that assurance and continue to be obedient in Your call for me to walk this journey in faith and holiness. Amen.

Carriers of the good news

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Isaiah 51:1-53:12; Proverbs 21:11-12

READ (verse chosen for meditation)
Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

REFLECT
The Lord announced through Isaiah that He will soon end the suffering of His people in captivity. He will come to bring them the good news. He will come to bring them the message of salvation. He will bring the good news through His people and these carriers of the good news are considered privileged to be able to do so. Indeed, the feet of those who carry the good news of hope, peace and righteousness are beautiful. For in the midst of suffering, discouragement and helplessness, their news are most welcomed.

RELATE
This passage in the book of Isaiah always brought back memories. Memories of the time when my seminary cohort were tasked to dramatize the passage at a praise festival. It was then considered apt to choose this passage because the end goal of a theological education is not to be puffed up in knowledge; but to serve and witness as a people of the Gospel. We are to prioritise on this because as verse 7 reminded “Your God reigns”.

Indeed, my God reigns and because He reigns in my life; so i should obey and carry the good news to others. I looked at my own feet and wonder from then how many times have i carried the good news to others? Not as much as i like to. I thank the Lord for His reminder that this is why He has called me to pastor in the first place. Actually not just as a pastor, but most importantly as a redeemed messenger of His peace and reconciliation; just like you and everyone of us who call upon the Lord as King.

REST
Thank you Lord for the great reminder that I am called to be Your carrier of the good news to others. No matter what form it takes, empower me and gives me the love of Christ to obey and reach out even more to the lost. Amen.