Double life

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Revelation 3:7-22; Psalms 131:1-3

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Revelation 3:17-18 “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.”

REFLECT
The church of Laodicea was given the warning to repent from their deep dependency on wealth and prosperity. The Lord reminded them that even as they became more arrogant with the material possessions they have; the truth is that they are actually poor, blind and wretched. Why was the Lord so harsh on a people that cling on to their own sense of worth and wealth? Why not just let them enjoy their wealth and at the same time give them a “ticket to heaven”? The reason could be that the Lord was concerned for the state of their souls (ref: Rev 3:19); for if they were to continue to worship their own gods of wealth and possessions; they would soon have God replaced in their lives. Apostasy may then occur.

RELATE
In this day and age, there are many who propagate the prosperity gospel. The essence of the prosperity gospel is that it teaches a kind of lifestyle where the worship of God can be done in conjunction with the worship of money. While it is clear as day that such a “recipe” of worshiping God often leads to disaster; many people choose to believe. Why is this so? This is because it helps to create the perfect excuse for wanting to follow God and yet wanting to follow our own desires. The idea of leading a “double life” seemingly “endorsed” by bible verses is enticing. Yet, the Lord God wants us to see how blind, poor and naked we really are if we accept such a way of living. For to follow Jesus means nothing less than to discard our old ways; so that we can live in the new.

REST
Help us Lord to live life as it pleases Your eyes; and not ours. Amen.

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Day 133

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 4:1-5
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people who returned from exile were building a temple for the LORD God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the families. They told them, “We want to help you build because we worship the same God you worship. We have been sacrificing to him since the time of King Esarhaddon of Assyria, who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of Israel’s families told them, “It isn’t right for your people and our people to build a temple for our God together. We must build it alone for the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus of Persia ordered us to do.” Then the people of that region discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to continue building. They bribed officials to keep the people of Judah from carrying out their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia until the reign of King Darius of Persia.

The enemies of Judah claimed to worship the same God as the exile returnees. They claimed they wanted to help build the temple.

But in reality all they wanted was to sabotage it.

How do I know this?
Because the moment Judah and Benjamin shrewdly declined the enemies’ “help”- these enemies began to spout negative speech and discouraged the people from going ahead.

It’s important always to check our motives for what we do as we serve in ministry …
Else we may mask our hidden agendas of building our own kingdom and purposes behind supposedly godly motives …

Sometimes people may object to certain church growth plans not because it is bad for the church but because of the inconveniences it would cause them and they are unwilling to grow.
We ourselves may be such people!
Always important to check my own motives- that is my own reflection on this text today- may what I say match the motives hidden in my heart’s recesses.

Day 132

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 3:6
They started to bring these burnt offerings to the LORD on the first day of the seventh month, even though the foundation of the LORD’s temple had not yet been laid.

In our flawed human logic- if there is no building, no sound system, no visual projection, no working air conditioning, not enough people – it’s not possible, we reason, for worship services to be held.

But that is not what the returnees from the Exile did.
The verse here is clear.

“Before the foundation was laid …”
They got down to the business of worshipping God even though the building was not existent, even though they had a lot of work still to do …

So let us get down to worshipping God …
Even though we have a lot on our schedules …
Even though the building isn’t functional fully …
Even though exams are around the corner for our kids …
Even though the audio and visuals isn’t what we really hope for it to be …

Worship that is unrestrained by such mere superficialities …

Day 131

by Rev Joel Yong

Ezra 1:1-3
The promise the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah was about to come true in Cyrus’ first year as king of Persia. The LORD inspired the king to make this announcement throughout his whole kingdom and then to put it in writing. This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the world. Then he ordered me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem (which is in Judah). May God be with all of you who are his people. You may go to Jerusalem (which is in Judah) and build a temple for the LORD God of Israel. He is the God who is in Jerusalem.

How does a pagan king credit God for his ascent and also decide to build God a temple?

I can imagine how incredulous the biblical readers of this text were.
Jerusem was sacked and destroyed.
The people wondered when they would return and when their ruined city would be rebuilt.

In their minds- perhaps they thought “For the city to be rebuilt, we must first await the end of the Persian empire before we can go about fulfilling those plans.” After all it made sense logically.

Little did they know … God can use a pagan king to restore His city.
He can use a tax collector to write His gospels.
He can use a carpenter to save the world.

He is a God of miracles … as it was then, as it is today and it shall be even so tomorrow …

Day 130

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 34:1-2
Josiah was 8 years old when he began to rule, and he was king for 31 years in Jerusalem. He did what the LORD considered right. He lived in the ways of his ancestor David and never stopped living this way.

He became king at 8.
Why?

His father Amon was so evil that he was assassinated by his servants.

So it’s written that Josiah walked in the ways, NOT of his father but of his ancestor David.

So a bad king had a good son.

You and I might not have had good parents like other people.
But it does not mean we are destined to repeat their mistakes.
We can do something new and break out of the mold, for in Christ each day is a new beginning.

Day 129

by Rev Joel Yong

2 Chronicles 21:3-6
Their father gave them many gifts: silver, gold, and other expensive things, along with fortified cities in Judah. But Jehoshaphat gave the kingdom to Jehoram, who was the firstborn. After Jehoram had taken over his father’s kingdom, he strengthened his position and then executed all his brothers and some of the officials of Israel. Jehoram was 32 years old when he became king, and he ruled for 8 years in Jerusalem. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as Ahab’s family had done, because his wife was Ahab’s daughter. So he did what the LORD considered evil.

His father followed God.
You would think that sons of believing fathers would naturally do so too.

But that is where freewill comes in.
We see in the Bible that good fathers can have good sons and bad fathers also can have good sons.
We also read that good fathers can have bad sons and bad fathers too can have bad sons.

There is no formulaic way to ensure your sons follow your footsteps.
But it doesn’t mean that we needn’t lay down a good example for our descendants in our lifetimes. That is the least that we can do.

Jehoshaphat obviously didn’t expect his firstborn to slay all his brothers when he inherited the kingdom.

But he did.

I love the story of Hezekiah and Manasseh though.
Hezekiah was a good king but his son Manasseh was evil-

2 Kings 21:3
He rebuilt the illegal places of worship that his father Hezekiah had destroyed. He set up altars dedicated to Baal and made a pole dedicated to the goddess Asherah as King Ahab of Israel had done. Manasseh, like Ahab, worshiped and served the entire army of heaven.

But God punished Manasseh by allowing the Assyrian invasion and Manasseh was subsequently led away in captivity.

2 Chronicles 33:11-16
So the LORD made the army commanders of the king of Assyria invade Judah. They took Manasseh captive, put a hook in his nose, put him in bronze shackles, and brought him to Babylon. When he experienced this distress, he begged the LORD his God to be kind and humbled himself in front of the God of his ancestors. He prayed to the LORD, and the LORD accepted his prayer and listened to his request. The LORD brought him back to his kingdom in Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God. After this, Manasseh rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David from west of Gihon Spring in the valley to the entrance of Fish Gate. He made the wall go around the Ophel, and he built it very high. He put army commanders in every fortified city in Judah. Manasseh got rid of the foreign gods and the idol in the LORD’s temple. He got rid of the altars he had built in the temple on the LORD’s mountain and in Jerusalem. He built the LORD’s altar and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it. And he told Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.

But while he was in chains, I wonder if he thought about his father’s example and that his father called on God from his sickbed. And it turned him back from the path to doom.

The love we had

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Readings: Revelation 2:1-17; Psalms 129:1-8

READ (Verse chosen for reflection)
Revelation 2:4-5 “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

REFLECT
The church of Ephesus seems to us a church that had been right on many counts. They were diligent and had patient endurance; they were clearly against those who used the Lord’s Name in vain especially of those who called themselves apostles but were found to be false. They had not grown weary but maintained theological discernment and biblical purity. However, the Lord found them guilty of having abandoned the love they had “at first” and exhorted them to repent. Much ink has been spilled in discussion of what this “first love” is. Personally, I believe that a viable explanation could be their love for one another. Hence, the Lord warned them to repent and do “the works you did at first”. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians had also exhorted the church to focus on being in unity with one another. Perhaps in the midst of trying to hate sin, they have failed to love those who committed the sin.

RELATE
It is probably easier to maintain a good understanding of the Bible, than obeying the Bible’s call for us to love God and one another. Therefore, churches have the tendency to slip into “holy huddles” which found comfort in each other’s “sameness”. So when a person who is not “similar” comes into the community, he or she is already subconsciously rejected. Why? Because in the first place there is no effort to seek out those who are so very “different” from us. The key is not trying to make people conform to the same mould; the key is to embrace one another’s uniqueness, backgrounds, status and personalities as created by God, to love them and point them in oneness towards the Saviour. This will be the first love that we can well remember. For when we say that we love His Word but is not convicted by the compulsion of His Word to love one another; then that makes us liars.

REST
Lord our God, may you help us to be one with what we embrace biblically and what we do as a community. Help us to repent even as we failed so that in your grace, as you shown grace to the church of Ephesus, to walk rightly with You again. Amen.