Fear God because He is good?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:1-34:22; Proverbs 27:15-16

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 33:9 “And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.”

Quite often, we equate the fear of the Lord with our awe of His power, might and holiness. Yet, in Jeremiah 33:9, it is suggested that the fear of the Lord can come through our realisation of His goodness and mercy in our lives. This can only happen when we are focused on the One who delivered such goodness as He pleases; and not so much on the “goodness” itself. Yes, when God bless a nation or an individual when the need arises, we can learn to fear Him. This is because it is a great reminder that He is in the know and in control of all things.

In recent months, while searching for a new home, we witnessed for ourselves the very goodness of God. To save on agency fees, we decided to administer and search for the property on our own. While doing that, we met with many owners as well as housing agents. Some were friendly and acted in a fair manner. However, some were quite unscrupulous.

It was an eye and heart opener for us. While some of these incidents saddened our hearts; we found joy in a sovereign God who acted on our behalf. On more than one occasion, the Lord interceded on a potential deal that would have been unfair for us; or highlighted our attention to some aspects of the house that we would not have taken note of. Indeed, while we thank God for His goodness; we are also humbled by His grace to us all. He knows it all and already accounted for our foolishness in our journey with Him. What a mighty and good God He is! He is indeed worthy to be feared.

Lord my God, as I ponder upon your goodness in my life. Help me to be humble and learn to revere you even more. Amen.

Genesis Day Forty

by Rev Joel Yong

There are no further devotions but spend today recapping your 40-day journey of reading through Genesis with me.

What were some key insights and what is God challenging you to change in your life?

Go act on it.
Be hearers AND doers of His Word.

Genesis Day Thirty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 50:15-18
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Their deeds haunted them all the way to the end.
Even though Joseph had already forgiven them, their consciences did not let them forget.

They lived under the shadow of doubt, fearing Joseph who was now powerful, held back from vengeance for his father Jacob’s sake.

Sin is not without its price.
Often the pleasure or thrill we get from sin, lasts but a brief moment.

Yet the consequences last a lifetime.
The only relief that is possible, will come from God.

Joseph was also able to forgive his brothers, because he looked to God.
He was thus able to see the bigger picture.
That God’s plans for us, cannot be foiled by mankind’s schemes.

Genesis 50:19-21
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Trust God.
Men may plot your doom but the Almighty God’s plans are not disturbed by such vain attempts.

Genesis Day Thirty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 49:3-7
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

Israel was at his deathbed and he called his sons to him, to receive his final blessings which also turned out to be prophecies.

I found it interesting, that up till his death, he never forgot that Reuben slept with Bilhah and shamed his father by doing so.

Genesis 35:22
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

He also did not forget that Simeon and Levi, in their anger, slew an entire city by the sword.

Genesis 34:25
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males.

Of all the things they did in their life, their father could not forget these moments and by these memories, defined what his sons were like …

What memories do you wish to leave with your kids, your nephews and nieces, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your other relatives?

Well, firstly, for it to even be possible that there are memories left behind, we have to be in their lives today …

Take time and spend time with your loved ones.

6 days a week, I attend to pastoral concerns and matters.
1 day a week, I try to be there for my kids without interruption. My wife has a long day on this particular day so I am the one with them, taking them to school and picking ’em up and coaching them in schoolwork in the afternoon, taking them to afternoon classes.

And yes, it matters to me the kind of memories I am leaving my sons with- whether I am constantly leaving them aside to be at meetings, to attend to church member’s needs, or too tired out emotionally by the time I come home, to listen to their story about their day at school …

And the latter is something I am wary of … for this job can suck up all my emotional energy and cause me to come home depleted.
Those at home, need me to have enough emotional energy to listen to their concerns too …

It’s a struggle for me, and also a priority.
What about you?
What memories are you leaving for your household?

God is our Siri / Alexa?

by Rev Jason Phua

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis Day Thirty Seven

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 48:13-20
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph thought Israel was old, nearly blind and confused.
He only thought of man’s order of blessing which traditionally puts the firstborn ahead of the younger sibling.

But Israel was not mistaken.
It was a prophetic act, by which he was declaring that the younger Ephraim would become greater than the older Manasseh.

Have you been there?
Whereby you think- you were chosen by mistake and it could not possibly be so?

I did.
When I was called to become a pastor, I was only in my 2nd year in NUS. That was 1998.
I said to God, “How can this be? Pastors are old men, like sages – I am too young!”

And now I am at about my 17th year as a pastor- and some of my colleagues who have served less than 17 years as a pastor have already retired!

And I have at least 22 years left in my journey as a pastor, that is, if I remain in this job till I turn 65 … clocking 39 years in total.

I will not be the longest serving though, because remember, I was in NS and then NUS. Some of my older colleagues joined before they went to a university, straight out of NS and some did not need to serve NS at all, as they are ladies.

When God revealed my destiny to me – I was saying: “How can this be?!”
But friends, you see, God makes no mistakes.

He knew Ephraim would surpass Manasseh.
Just like He knows how you and I would turn out.
When He sends His blessings or issues His calling- it is deliberate, intentional and yes, He knows what He is doing …

It does not mean you are great, that’s not why He chose you.
I have seen too many persons want to serve in positions in ministry and they consider themselves to be God’s gift to the church and become big-headed and lose focus.

That is not why God calls us …

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

If you are prone to thinking, He chose you because you were talented and some kinda star – time for a reality check.

God chose us, precisely because when He does His work through us- people will see that its not possible that it came from us (because of how imperfect and broken we are), and naturally conclude that it must be God at work.

God never makes mistakes.

Genesis Day Thirty Six

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 46:1-4
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

At Joseph’s invitation, Israel moved with all he had.
There was nothing left behind, no “Just in case Egypt does not work out, let us leave a place here for us as reserved accommodation – just in case.”

Sometimes we don’t go, to a place we are called to, or sent to, with all our heart.

We long for the people we leave behind, the workplace we leave behind, the security and familiarity it affords …

Its natural but it also impedes our progress in wholeheartedly doing what God intends for us to achieve in the new place He is leading us to …

God assures Jacob/Israel that –

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

The place may seem strange and unfamiliar.
But what matters most, is that God is there with us.
That trumps everything else …