Friday, January 30, 2009

Thou hast… (Psalm 60) 300109

The first four verses are full of “Thou hast” in NASB, or “You have” in NKJV and NIV. The psalmist clearly understands that God is in control of everything, the big word for it is sovereign. God has rejected, broken, been angry, made the land quake, split it open, made His people experience hardship, given them wine (v1-3), but also given a banner (v4). God seems to be orchestrating all that has been happening in the life of this psalmist. Or rather, the psalmist is declaring the almighty power of God, who can do all which was mentioned, in the midst of adverse situation he was in.

I have been depressed before; the world around me was strangely dimed. There seemed to be no hope, but I know that God was somehow in the whole situation. God has allowed all the things that had happened to me to happen to me. I don’t know why, even up till today. But I am sure that something good has taken place within me.

The psalmist is stating the fact that God is sovereign over his life, and also sovereign over all the nations (v7-8). And because of his understanding of God’s sovereignty, the psalmist is able to put his confidence in Him for deliverance and victory (v12).

I am too lazy today to dig into the background of this psalm, and I do not know what the situation the psalmist was in historically; but I know that this psalmist knows God. Therefore, he can confidently say to God: Thou hast; and know that God will grant him final victory.

Maybe you are struggling with some sins in life which you do not seem to be able to break free for now; but be sure that God knows your struggles, and He has allowed it so that you may learn to trust that He will deliver you. Maybe you are in the midst of some difficult situation, it could be financial crisis, it could be marital conflicts, it could even be church conflicts; and you wonder why you have to go through such things which you try to avoid; but God knows your weakness, and He may be using this to mould you to the person He wants. So trust Him.

The list can surely go on and on, your list can be even longer than mine; but God is not interested in merely deliver you from your problem, He is more keen to see you learn to trust Him and cultivate a personal relationship with Him.

Talk to God, tell Him how you feel, and listen to His reply. This psalm shows us how this psalmist talks to God and listing down a list of “Thou hast”. But he also listens to God as He speaks in His holiness (v6-8). The word “holy” means set apart. And when God speaks in His holiness, He expects us to set ourselves apart from everything else to listen. It is only when we listen to God, then we can know the power of God, then we can know more of God. Take time to talk and listen to God. Prayer is a conversation; it is a dialog, not a monologue, and definitely not a soliloquy (talking to oneself).

God has spoken, are you listening?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

It is not your fault… (Psalm 59) 290109

I just got my driving license, and I am very eager to get hold of a car to drive, especially during this Chinese New Year season. Lo, and behold, a sister in my church who owns a minivan, agreed to trust God by lending her minivan into my hand for two full days. Surely her faith is not in me, though she knows that I have been riding motorbike for the past three years and has much road experience, but letting a less than one-month-old driver to drive her minivan is another issue.

I thank God for her boldness, and before I drove off on the first day; my wife prayed that God will protect us and keep us safe. She seems to have less faith in me than my friend. Anyway, I returned the minivan without a single scratch and my wife is happy with my driving skill.

As I read today’s psalm, I know God is reminding me that it is His grace and protection that I am able to ride a motorbike and a minivan on the road and return safely. People who are behind the steering wheel and on the road, they can be rather or very reckless. I am not talking about you, if you are reading this. But there are many drivers and riders who are really like those bloodthirsty men (v2, NKJV) and wicked transgressors (v5, NKJV) describes in this psalm. They dashed pass me while I was already traveling at 80 or 90 km/h on the expressway. These are the speed thirsty drivers. They cut into my lane without giving me any signal and seem to be unhappy with my slow speed, but I am traveling on the left most lanes! These are the road transgressors.

No matter how hard I try to be alert, there are people out there who are out to get me. I think the psalmist must have felt the same. No matter how he tried not to sin, there are people who will lie in wait for his life, not for his transgression nor for his sin (v3, NASB). Bad things happen to us, and it is not our faults! No fault of mine, no guilt of mine (v4).

Maybe you are a victim of the current financial crisis, and it is not your fault. Maybe you are going through a marriage crisis because your spouse is not being faithful in keeping the covenant, and it is not your fault. Maybe you score badly for a group project because of a mistake make by one of your team members; it is not your fault. Maybe you are putting on some pounds in this season of Chinese New Year, so much good food; it is surely not your fault.

But psalmist regained his strength by singing (v16, 17). He sang of God’s lovingkindness, and acknowledged Him as His stronghold (v16, 17). As we are storming through this financial crisis, our marriages, and even our failures; let’s learn to remember God’s lovingkindness and look to Him as our stronghold.

Some of you are still recovering from the post-Chinese New Year blues, and don’t feel like working today. It is not your fault. I also don’t feel like working.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

In Justice… (Psalm 58) 250109

This psalm is beautifully structured. Justice is the main theme of this psalm. The psalmist has a concern for justice (v1-2) and he closes the psalm with an affirmation of justice (v11). The psalmist also presents the lies of the wicked (v3-5) he saw and describing the joy of the righteous (v10) he experience. And he intensely prays for justice (v6-8) and with an expectation of justice (v9). How can we miss such obvious theme: Justice?
We yearn of justice, we expect God to act justly. God loves justice and He is just. But when we take a step back and take a good look at our heart, are we a person who also acts justly? I am not answering this question for you, because I am not a complete just person. I have my favorite student when I was teacher, and I had ever done something which is completely unjust. I have my favorite youths when I was a youth pastor, and I had also given unjust favor to them. I also have my favorite children as I am involved in Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade, and I have again given them extra care and love. I can go on with my list and I am sure you also have your list.
But I am thankful that God deals with me justly and also with grace. I cannot imagine if God is going to issue a judgment or punishment for my sins, I don’t think I can ever live it through. People usually say that, if we are going to make our life and thought into a video film and play it back to watch, it will be the most horrible film ever make, and even RA(21) may not be justifiable for this kind of film. And we bring this idea into how God is going to deal with us when we go to heaven. Before we enter the pearly gate, all the ‘saints’ will gather in front of it and there will be a super huge screen to screen all our sins (both confessed and secret); and all my friends and church members will be able to see how lustful I have been while I am a pastor, how much I hated some people and have imagination of all sorts for them to be killed and it can go on and on. But you can rest assure, there won’t be you in my video film if you are reading this.
Surely God demands justice, especially from His people, but yet, He is gracious enough to wipe off all our sins as He had already done it on the Cross. I have been writing a devotion guide for coming season of Lent, and I have been intensively meditating upon the Cross of Jesus. I can only have one conclusion: my sins are forgiven. The Cross tells me that God demands justice for that we do, and we can never do what is just and only what Jesus had done on the Cross is able to fulfill the justice God has demanded for Himself. Jesus is the Justice.
We often say we are in Christ, we are in grace. But as we are in Christ, we are also in Justice.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Awake, my soul!!! (Psalm 57) 240109

It is a strange thing that I am writing this early on a Saturday morning. It is now, not even 6.30am. But come to think of it, I had been waking up around 5am in the past to do my devotion; this shouldn’t be too strange a thing. Anyway, it is still a strange thing, sitting at my kitchen table, entering today’s thought on Psalm 57. I actually feel good to be in the Presence of God at my breakfast table, with a cup of coffee. But the truth is that, I am still a bit sleepy.
And during my meditation of this psalm, verse 8 jumps at me: Awake, my soul! It is a call to be awake from my sleepiness; it is a call for me to leave my lethargy behind; it is a call to re-engage my joy; it is a call to my soul; it is a call to look forward as the dawn approaches; it is a call to a new beginning; and it is a call from God.

This psalmist is very much likely to be King David. He was fleeing from the pursued of Saul and he was probably hiding in some cave as he composed this psalm. The first half of the psalm is about David’s lamentation of his situation (v1-5) and the second half is some kind of thanksgiving and praise to God (v7-11). This leaves verse 6 as the turning point. In Hebrew poetry, the middle or center idea is usually the key idea or the main theme, as most Hebrew literatures are arranged in chiastic manner or concentrically. In this psalm, there is only one “but”, and it is found in verse 6, and there is an obvious change of mood within David. Something strange had happened within David and caused him to see things differently.

I don’t know what exactly the thing is, but I believe it is David’s steadfast heart before God (v7). His steadfastness helps him to want to relook at God and makes him rethink of his attitude. And the awakening in verse 8 is acceleration point whereby David took off and flew with songs of praises and thanksgivings.

I have been down for quite awhile and even though I have recovered, I am still in very slow mood. Maybe I am just being careful, not to overwork and burnout prematurely, but I know I am merely functioning on autopilot mood. Things happened recently makes me rethink my relationship with God, or rather how much God has really loved me.

Yes, I had fractured my right wrist in May 08, but I was completely recovered within 2 months and it amazed the doctor and physiotherapist. I need rest and slower pace in ministry, and the church is very kind to allow me to work part-time for past half a year, so that I have time to adjust myself back into ministry and at the same time take care of my father and new born Alethea. I need opportunity to practice preaching, and I am giving the opportunity to preach in the Chinese ministry, church service and even a youth camp. And of course I passed my driving with minimal demerit points and minimal practices. What else more can I ask for? God is so good to me.

And recently, my wife (Esther) and I were praying about having my own transport. I am thinking of repossessing a motorbike. But God seems to have other arrangement which is beyond what I imagine or ask for. I think I better wake up my idea.

Awake! My Soul!

Are you also feeling a bit monotonous in your spiritual walk? Are you also longing for an awakening with your soul? Don’t bother to go after revivalist or popular and inspiring speaker, go to God, ask Him to reveal to the goodness and loving kindness He has been doing in your life. Give thanks and look forward to the new possibility and new hope He has for you. All you need is to be awake! Your soul!


Friday, January 23, 2009

In God… (Psalm 56) 230109

Recently, my family observes that my daughter, Alethea, is easily frightened whenever she hears someone’s footstep toward the house. She seems to be very frightened and will quickly run towards her grandmother or grandfather or mother or myself; whoever is nearest to herself. She will seek comfort and protection from us; those whom she trusts. We are not sure what has caused her insecurity, but we know that we are her pillar of strength that she trusts in times of fear.
Today’s psalm reminds me of that. The psalmist declares that when he is afraid, he will put his trust in God (v3). He further declares that in God, he shall not be afraid (v4, 11). As I meditate on this psalm, I can sense the psalmist dependence on God. He is aware of the situation around him, he is aware of the danger and threat he is facing, and he is also aware of his own emotional anguish. In the midst of all these, he seeks refuge, comfort, strength and everything he needs, in God.

In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid (v4).
In God, whose word I praise, In the Lord, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid (v10, 11).

I am drawn to the fact that the psalmist’s ultimate focus is not what is out there, but rather what is in God. He knows that in God is all that he need. He knows that in God is where he can find security, protection, comfort, peace and rest.

The world today which you and I live in is harsh. The financial crisis hits us so badly that our government has to, for the first time; dig into the national reserves to help the people to pull through this crisis. Marriages have been breaking down so badly, that it is not uncommon to find a divorcee within a stone-throw distance, and government has to step in to encourage couples to go for pre-marital counseling. Moral has been also deteriorating so badly, that having an affair in not longer a big affair; cheating on taxes is considered being prudent; back-stabbing and office politics are just means for survival of the fittest; and even road rage can be justifiable as long you are the one who started it first.

In such a world, we really need to find a place to regain our sanity and orientation. We cannot keep going without knowing where we are heading, or even not knowing where we are. Life is race; in Singapore, it is a rat-race. But we must be sure that we are in the right race, so that we can be in the right place where we want to be. Where can we find such place that we can regain our right pace and right orientation?

In God.

The psalmist suggests that the place is in God. No wonder, throughout the history, Christians are strongly advised to have quiet time or devotion time. The bible never says what time of the day is the best time, but it surely demonstrates the truth that it is good for God’s people to spend time with Him, in Him.

I know that you are busy, most probably busier than me. But I think I am less busy because I have chosen to have time everyday to be in God. That is why I am always reminded of the pace I should go in this race, and keep my orientation clear. It is a discipline. You don’t need to follow after my way of doing it, because you are not me; but you must do something about it and find your time to be in God.

The Lunar New Year is just round the corner, it will be very busy for some of you. It will be even busier for some of you after the New Year, but do not be trapped in the wrong race. Run towards God, and stay in God.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Anguish Trust… (Psalm 55) 220109

What is the most painful experience you have gone through? For mothers, it would be the childbirth experience. For man, it could be the season of joblessness, especially true in this financial difficult situation. For students, it might be the moment you collect your result slip after a semester or a year or some years of hard work and discover that you have failed terribly. For lovers, it would be the breakup. I can go on and on, or you can fill it in for me. But for our Lord Jesus Christ, I think the most painful experience for Him is not the Cross, it is the betrayal of His friend Judas.

This psalm exemplifies the genre of the individual lament. The psalmist pours out his heart before the Lord surrounded by expressions of animosity, not only from old foes, but now even from "friends." The mood of the psalm moves from despair, to complaint, to a note of confidence in the Lord. Some have seen in the psalmist's experience a reflection of that of our Lord as he was betrayed by Judas. (Taken from VanGemeren, Willem A. “Psalm 55: The Lord Sustains the Righteous!” In The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Volume 5. 392. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, © 1991.)
When I read through this psalm, verse 4 echoes loudly in me. It says: My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. NKJV translates as: My heart is severely pained within me. As I meditate upon this verse, in particular, there seems to be a painful pierce within me, right at my heart. I am not sure what this experience is, but I know that I am not having a heart attack at that moment. I think the Spirit of God is leading me to experience the pain of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord knew that His good friend who had been traveling with Him for the past three years was going to betray Him.
Betrayal is one of the most painful experiences a person can go through. The psychological and emotional damages cause by the betrayal of a very good and close friend can be devastating. If you are married, just imagine, your spouse whom you have been together for years, betray your trust and cheated on you and have an affair with one of your close friend. I think you will be very angry, sad, disappointed, and devastated; because the one you have trusted the most, betray you. Even if you are not married, you can also imagine that your closest friend whom you share all your secrets, including the most horrible sins, betray confidentiality and tells others about your secrets. I think you will be embarrassed, feeling angry and even hatred towards that friend.
The consequences of betrayal; a wall is build. You will not trust or love another person easily in the future and this will hinder ones growth in the Lord. And this is the irony; we need to learn to trust people in order to grow spiritually; but the most painful experience is when the trust is being betrayed. No wonder the Lord has to go through it Himself, so that we know that we have a God who can completely understand us and yet He still step out in love toward the Cross.
I love this psalm, because it does not only describe the pain of being betray and thought of revenging and the feeling of hatred; neither does it tells us how can the hurt of betrayal can be dealt with; but it simply points us back to the Lord. But as for me, I trust in You (v23, NIV).
This is an emphatic statement of the psalmist to trust in the Lord. Anyone around us can betray us; anyone whom we place our trust in can possibly betray us; and anyone whom we consider as friend might betray us. Husband can betray his wife, your close friend can betray you, you business partner can also betray you, your colleague might betray you, and your sibling might also betray you. But only the Lord God will be forever faithful and will not betray us. Therefore, put your trust in the Lord, and choose to trust in Him. Only God can heal the pain of betrayal, because He understands how you feel. He has been there, done that.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

God is my Sustainer… (Psalm 54) 210109

Yesterday was a good day. I have gotten some parts of my house being cleaned up, with the help of a part-time cleaner. She helped me to clean up all the windows, washed the two toilets, scrubbed my kitchen floor, wipe all the kitchen cabinets, cleaned all the fans, and cleaned up the interior part of the cabinet under my stove and sink (this is the dirtiest part of my house, in my opinion). Anyway, my house is much cleaner now. It is good to live in a clean house.
I remember that there was once, I had a battle with hundreds of cockroaches ( Though I have won that battle and the cockroaches suffered great casualties, they never give up in re-organizing themselves and call in for reinforcement to plan for a cockroaches strike back. I also did not relax in my defense. I have sealed up my drainage hole with a valve-like mechanism (water can be drained out, but cockroaches cannot enter from there); I have also planted a pot of pandan leaves near the rubbish bin. But all these couldn’t deter the cockroaches’ commando team to penetrate into my house, and they will leave behind eggs waiting for the right time to launch another attack in my house again.
The cleanup of the area under my stove and sink, eliminated majority of the eggs; and I can have peace for a while. God has sent the part-time cleaner to destroy my enemies. God is my deliverer, for He has delivered me from all my cockroaches (v7).
Do you have enemies like mine? Maybe your enemies are your colleagues whom keep backstabbing you because you always leave early for small groups on Friday and refuse to work on Sunday even the company pays you extra. Maybe your enemies are your classmates whom refuse to take you in as part of their group for projects because you always cannot to meet on Sunday for discussion. Maybe your enemies are other rude road users with big and expensive cars because they like to honk at you when you refuse to change lane at double white lines and slow them down.
I think it is alright to have enemies, the psalmist also has enemies. Though we are not sure who they were, the fact is that the psalmist has such a psalm to ask God to destroy them (v5).
The most important thing of this psalm is not about how God is going to destroy the enemies and vindicate the psalmist (v1). It is about the character of God being his helper and sustainer of his soul (v4). This is the central theme of this psalm, both theologically and structurally.
A. Prayer for Deliverance (vv.1-2)
B. Occasion of the Prayer (v.3)
C. Affirmation of Trust (v.4)
B'. Resolution of the Prayer (v.5)
A'. Thanksgiving for Deliverance (vv.6-7)

Such structure of this psalm can hardly be missed. This is a very common way how Hebrew writers like to structure their work, both in poetry like psalm and even in narrative like the story of Ruth.
I believe that the psalmist longed for deliverance, he also longed to be vindicated; but most importantly, he knew and acknowledged God as his helper and sustainer of his soul (v4). We can be easily overwhelmed and overrun by our enemies. But there is one thing which no enemies can take away from us is our soul, only we can give it up ourselves. All that enemies can do is to weaken it and make you want to give it up. But God is the sustainer of my soul, He can sustain me and keep giving me hope to press on and hang on.
I just have a Day Alone with God. Those who are in pastoral ministry need such time to allow ourselves to realize that God is the sustainer of our souls. God is also the sustainer of your soul. Take time to realize that and allow Him to keep re-nourishing your soul.
My enemies, the cockroaches, can keep coming and launch their attacks, but God is my helper, and He is the sustainer of my soul. I will not give up holding my fort and defense my house from these cockroaches. Sometimes, I might feel tired and lax in my defense; God is my helper and my sustainer. I will get up and fight back. And no cockroaches will have victory in my house!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

God despised… (Psalm 53) 200109

This psalm is a parallel version of psalm 14. Coincidentally, I wrote the devotion of psalm 14 during the last Chinese New Year season (see below or click, this is my older devotional blogs). It has been a year, and God is somewhat leading me to revisit this theme.
Yesterday, I had a restful day; it’s my Day Alone with God. I am thankful that the church has provided such off day for pastoral staffs to have a day to spend alone with God, not just to rest or do our own things, on top of our weekly off day; but to have a day to be immersed in the Presence of God intentionally. I have chosen yesterday because it was right after the church’s monthly Adult Bible Fellowship. I know that I will be exhausted and will need much rest. I need to be re-established my connectivity with God. I do not want to merely run and organize events without God working in and through me. Another reason that I choose to take my Day Alone with God around the third week of the month, is because I usually preach on the last Sunday of the month in the Chinese Ministry. I really need to hear the heart beat of God before I preach the Word of God to His people.
Back to psalm 53, the main difference with psalm 14 is at Ps 53:5 and Ps 14:5-6. In psalm 14, the psalmist declares God as his refuge (Ps14:6) in the midst of the godless world he was in; while in psalm 53, the psalmist pronounces that God despised those godless people (Ps 53:5). What a harsh reality!
It is not difficult to realize that we are living in a godless world. Though people around us will claim to be worshippers of all sorts of gods; in actuality, they are the ultimate god to themselves. They will never admit that there is no god, they will never admit that they are a fool (v1); but look at the way our world has become, look at how children are being abused, look at how sexual promiscuous is being ‘celebrated’, look at how violence is being permitted, look at how justice is being manipulated by the rich, and look at how greed has become a form motivation.
The most alarming thing is that, all I have mentioned above are not only found in the world out there, but it is also found in the church of Jesus Christ. Though we confess that we have Christ as God, we live as if there is no god. We harbor bitterness against one another and not willing to confront the issues in the name of being a peacemaker; we gossip about each other problems in the name of concern and sharing for prayer; we manipulate others to do what we would like them to do by sending them off to a guilt trip in the name of encouraging people to serve; and we show off our talents and success stories in the name of glorifying God. I am sure that I am also guilty of all the above. No wonder the psalmist says that there is no one who does good, not even one (v1, 3).
No wonder God despised (v5) and NASB uses the word “rejected”. I would definitely not want God to despise or reject me; I want Him to be my refuge (Ps 14:6). But how can?
Yesterday, during my Day Alone with God, I read John Piper’s book: Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. I realize that there are so many tensions within the Christianity. For example: the Kingdom of God is already here, but also not yet here; God is full of mercy but also full of wrath. As I put Ps 14 and Ps 53 together, I will get God rejects and God is also a refuge. Such tension is not for me to be resolved, but to be live with, as John Piper suggests.
God is my refuge (Ps 14:6) in this godless world, and I must also realize that I will be rejected (Ps 53:5) if I am also being “godless” in God’s church.
Remember: God despised and God rejected.


There is no one who does good… (Psalm 14) 040208
Yesterday was a very busy day for me. I went home feeling extremely exhausted. I guess I was not fully ready for such an intense day of meeting with people yet. I was really being zapped. But I am thankful that I feel refresh this morning. I can sense the hand of God holding me.
This week, I will be having Lunar New Year break from SBC. On one hand, it will be a good time for me to rest; but on the other hand, there are tonnes of spring cleaning to be done, and also some assignment to catch up. What should I do? To rest or to do? To idle or to be responsible?
I know that if I leave it to my desire, I will not do anything, continue to dwell in my pitiful state of depression. This is the nature of man. The Psalmist rightly pointed out that a fool says in his heart that there is no God and there is no one who does good (v1). Indeed, there is no one who does good.
Perhaps this is an overstatement, but if I am to be truthful to my heart, I am no good. I am not being self condemnation, but merely stating the reality of the fallen nature of humanity that God brings to my remembrance. Deep within my core (or maybe yours too), I am selfish, I am self-centered. I also lie and cheat. I have evil thoughts and lustful desires. I am lazy and greedy. I am easily anger and not very loving. My words can be hurtful to others and my deeds can be harmful to others too. There is no one who does good, not even one (v3).
With such depravity of humanity, I am without hope. But God is not passive, He actively looks down from heaven (v2), He provides the refuge for those who need (v6) and He will restore His people to Himself (v7). God is such a gracious God. He does all these not because of any good I have done and He does all these even though He knows that there is no one who does good, not even one. Such is my God, great and gracious God.
After reading this Psalm, I am grateful. I am grateful simply because God has never abandoned me. Yesterday, I suddenly felt very lost, I felt a sense of loneliness in midst of the crowd in the church, I can’t find a place where I can find rest, and that is where I began to feel drained off. Maybe I should just look to God for rest, and the most restful place should be my heart whereby God resides.
One day, I will be like Jacob and Israel: rejoice and be glad. Do you have such hope to rejoice and be glad? Do you have God residing in your heart?

Monday, January 19, 2009

But as for me… (Psalm 52) 190109

At the end of 2008, I organized a party to gather a group of old friends, whom some I have not met for the past 10 years or more. It was a wonderful time of catching up and rekindling of friendship. We were once idealistic youngsters, dreaming to make a name in the entertainment industry; but now, none of us are still in such pursue; rather we pursue the fulfillment of the reality of life.

There are some top financial planners in the midst, a couple of educators sitting in the Head of Department office, a couple of them in the ever growing and prospering Info Technology industry, another couple of engineers and a preacher (that is me). They are all very successful in their area of profession, earning high income, driving new cars every few years. Deep within me there is this sense of envy.

There are times, I will ask God, what if I continue teaching, I will be at least a Vice Principal by now. Most of my friends have chosen a life which they think it is fulfilling to them; but as for me, I have chosen a life which what God has intended for me. There is nothing wrong to pursue ones dream and life; but as for me, I pursue to be contented with God. It is practical for people to think for themselves and their families; but as for me, I want to trust that God is constantly thinking of me and my love ones and He will take care of them better than I can.
This psalm relates to an episode in David's life, when Doeg had betrayed and executed the priests of Nob who had helped David (1 Sam 22:17-23). Doeg serves as a symbol of all evildoers, who will meet their just deserts; whereas David represents the righteous, who will be exalted (taken from Expositor’s Bible Commentary).

As David was facing an overwhelmingly stronger enemy, he trusted God. David seems to be oblivious to the might (v1) and wealth (v7) of his enemy. He focused on and trusted in God’s unfailing love (v8). I particularly like the way NASB translates verse 8: But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; rather than other versions with only: But I am like…
The difference is that in NASB, it highlights the response of David to be very different from the evildoer, Doeg. “But as for me…” brings out the emphasis of a deliberate intention and desire to be different from the world on the part of David. And his desire was to be flourishing in the house of God, because of his trust in His unfailing love.
We are living in a world full of contradicting values with what God has for us as Christian. We are constantly in a battle of doing what is right before God against the easy way out of going with the flow of the world. You might have friends who go to the pub every weekends and get drunk in the name of de-stressing; but as for you, can you trust God will help you to deal with your stress? I am not suggesting that it is a sin to go to the pub, neither am I evading the reality of stress that we are experiencing in school and workplace; but where do you put your trust when dealing with stress?
You might have colleagues who suggest to you of one night stand affair while on an oversea assignment to eliminate your loneliness; but as for you, can you trust God to be your companion and your accountability partner? You might also have supervisors, who demand you to tell a white lie for the sake of convenience; but as for you, can you trust that God will honor the truth you stand up for? You might be in many other situations which will strongly direct you to submit to the standard of the world; but as for you, choose God and His values.
I have done a quick check, and found that the Hebrew word for “But as for me…” is similar to the word of Joshua, “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Jos 24:15).” And this is in the context of Joshua making a challenge to the people of God to choose intentionally to serve God just before he was about to finish he died. He pronounced a deliberate choice of his. I am also going to make this deliberate declaration.
Though the world around me is changing and drawing me away, but as for me, I will continue to trust in God and serve Him, because of His unfailing love.
How about you?


Friday, January 16, 2009

Spring Cleaning Time… (Psalm 51) 160109

My wife has arranged a part-time cleaner to help me to do some spring cleaning next week during one of my off days. It is not because we are rich and can afford a part-time cleaner; it is simply because I am too lazy to do cleaning. The truth is that, I don’t like to do cleaning up. Though I can justify myself by pushing the blame to my daughter and my work, it doesn’t change the fact that I am lazy.

If you ever step into my study room, you will know what I am writing here is nothing, but truth. My wife calls that study room: My Room. Because she doesn’t want to have anything to do with it; it is simply messy. Though I keep boasting that the study room is in an organized mess, but truly, I do agree with my wife description of that room: Messy.

I really don’t like to do cleaning up. When I was teaching as a teacher, my colleagues noticed that I will start to clean up my messy table whenever I am very stressed up. Similarly, when I start to clean up My Room, it is usually when I am under tremendous stress. I am either stressed by my work or by the gentle reminder of my wife (she has given up nagging). But the truth is that My Room needs some cleaning up, so are my heart and my life.

Whenever I read this psalm, I am reminded again of my sinfulness and my sins of the past. Though I know that God has completely forgiven me, and I am living in the abundance of His grace; it doesn’t change the fact that I was once a sinner and I am still a sinner; just that I am now a redeemed sinner.

Recently, my wife and I were doing our couple devotion using Gary Thomas’ book: Sacred Marriage (which I strongly recommend); we were reminded that we did not marry a saint, but a sinner, and we are to love each other just like how Jesus would love the sinners.

The psalmist, David, recognized his sinfulness (v5). He also realized that he needed to be cleansed. He needed a cleaning up! Just like My Room. He called out to God to purify him and wash him (v7) of his filthiness; he also asked God to do a renovation and complete makeover by create in him a clean heart (v10) and restore to him the joy of salvation (v12).

David had sinned against God big time! But God is still willing to call him a man after His own heart. What is the secret behind it? You want to know how David did it, because you too have sinned against God, some time. I am just being nice. We spot obvious sins like adultery, murder and lying easily and condemn them as big time sins; but we seem to be oblivious to sins like pride, unforgiveness and indifference. Take some time to look long and deep within your heart, and I am sure that you will find all sort of sinful thoughts and filthiness in it a waiting to be clean up (maybe I am the only one with a filthy heart which needs cleaning up).

David had a broken and contrite heart (v17). He realized his need for cleaning up. Unless we realize that we have the need to be cleansed, we will not have the desire for a clean heart and to experience the joy of salvation.

Spring cleaning can be even messier than the mess itself. Whenever I have to clean up My Room, I will first have to take out all the books and files and other stuffs in My Room, and then one by one arrange them back to order. Going through those books and files and other stuffs, I have to make hard decision; to keep them or to throw them away. When God shows me different areas of my life which need to be cleansed, I have to decide whether to let God throws it away or to keep it for later reference.

Is God speaking to you that you need some cleaning up with your life? Will you let God clean up your life?

I need to go and clean up my office table too.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

A sacrifice of thanksgiving… (Psalm 50) 150109

“Where, where, where? Where is the cat? The cat, the cat, the cat is under a hat.” This is the words repeated almost every day, ever since my daughter gets hold of a book which teaches children about animals, preposition and pronunciation of words. She loves being asked, “where, where, where?” And she will automatically make a hand sign to indicate the question and start to look around, as if she is finding something.
Of course, she is merely learning to associate words with its meaning, she still is not exactly looking for anything. But God is looking for something. What is God looking for? He is the Mighty One (v1), He is the One who can summon the earth and heavens (v1 and 3), and He owns every beast of the forest, cattle of a thousand hills, every bird of the mountains and everything that moves in the field (v10 and 11). What does God need? What is He looking for?
This psalm is concerned with primarily true loyalty to God. And loyalty is antithetical to formalism and hypocrisy, as the Lord requires a heart of gratitude. This psalm also has prophetic characteristic. It encompasses features of theophany or declaration of God’s righteousness (v1-6), accusation or a case presented against His people (v7-15), warning or judgment (v16-21), and an invitation to repent (v22-23). We can find this kind of structure in many of the prophets (eg. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, etc…).
The case God has against His people in this psalm is their assumed godliness. It is clear that these people were very religious, for they offered sacrifices and burnt offerings continually before God (v8). God is not against their acts of religiosity, but rather their idea of God can be appeased by their bribery offerings. They had forgotten God owns the world and all it contains (v12). We have also forgotten that.
We offer to God our services, thinking that and hoping that God will bless us with double portions. We pray for an extra hour, trying to impress God of our spiritually; and we pray louder to impress our neighbor of our command of prayer language. But we have forgotten that God already knows our needs. We fast for forty days hoping that God will take pity on us and change His mind to accommodate our desires. We give credit to ourselves when God answering our prayers because we have prayed persistently, but we have forgotten that whatever happens is all in the sovereign will of God.
God is not looking for religiosity or fake spiritually or puff up godliness. He is looking for something deep. He is looking for grateful heart. He is looking people who remember God for who He is, and not what He can give to them. Surely God can give us in abundance, and He will give us in abundance because of His love for us. But He is looking for people who offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving (v14), because it honors Him (v23).
I have just gotten my driving license two days ago. I know I can pretend to be spiritual and submit the result to God and willing to accept any result giving to me; while deep within me is so anxious and hoping I can twist God’s arm to give me my driving license. But When I was waiting for my result after the test, I began to give thanks to God. I even imagine the test coming to me and tell me that I have failed. I imagine that I thank God for wanting me to polish up my driving skills before giving me the license. I think I was so silly. But I really thank God for giving me a chance and determination to learn driving. I have learned driving for so many times and I gave up half way every time. I began to thank God and sing a song of thanksgiving in my heart.
I passed my driving, not because I have fasted and prayed hard; it is because I have learned from someone to acknowledge that God is my Tester. And my Tester will know if it is His time to give me that license.
God is looking for a grateful heart. That is why Paul also said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Phil 4:6, NASB).”


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What do you trust??? (Psalm 49) 140109

In life, we need to put our trust in something. There are people who put their trust in their wealth (v6), while others put their trust in their achievement in career, academic, fame and so on. But the question remains: why do we have to place our trust in something?
Today’s psalm gives me a clue. People are looking for ways to be redeemed (v7, 8 and 15). And I think this is the reason why the psalmist composed this instructional psalm or proverbial psalm. He is giving instruction to all the peoples: both high and low in the society, politic, religious status and even intellectual; and also to the rich and poor (v2). This way of mentioning two extremes, is a common Hebrew poetic way f including the extremes and everything in between. In other words, no one is spared from the reality of the need of redemption; it is because we will one day face death. The wise will die (v10), the fool will perish (v10), and the rich couldn’t afford to redeem himself or his brother (v7). For the redemption of his soul is costly (v8).
I know that I can never pay for my redemption, and I have learn to cease trying, just like the psalmist suggested (v8). I allow Jesus to pay it for me and accept this grace in humility. This is the understanding I need, not honor (v20) in order for me to realize I need the grace of Christ.
Many people still think they can earn their salvation, they think their good works and charities will save them, but they miss out knowing the One who gives salvation. They lack the understanding. Even Christians also sometime fall into such lack of understanding, forgotten that we need not continue to strive to earn our salvation.
Where do you put your trust? Maybe you are in the midst of making a decision which might affect your financial income, or working hours, or family time, or even personal time with God. Where do you go from here? Will you simply make a decision and ask God to bless, or trusting God will lead you to a decision which He has intended for you? Maybe you are going through some difficult situation at work or at school or even at home. Where do you turn to? Will you simply go with the popular way of resolving the issue by avoiding conflicts or heading on crashing into a conflict, or seeking God for counsel and trusting Him to give you a resolution to your situation?
I have no idea what you are going through out there in the world, and I am not going to pretend to have all the answers to all the problems. Because I do have my own set of problems and have no solution. But I have learned to trust in the Lord, I have learned to put my life in the hand of the Mighty God, and I have learn to major on the major; that is to treasure my relationship with Christ. And I have resolute to take time to spend with Him in order to know Him and trust Him more and more each day.
How can you trust a person? Unless you know him. How can you know a person? Unless you have spend time with him. How can you spend time with a person in such a busy world you are in? Unless you ruthlessly intentionally make time for him. The question is: will you?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Psalm Hope… (Psalm 48) 130109

Early in the morning, I went for driving practice, because my driving test is in the afternoon. This is not my first time learning driving and taking test. Almost 10 years ago, I had failed three times and today they considered me a first timer. Though I have been riding a motorbike on the road for past three years, and should have sufficient road experience; I am still nervous. Anyway, what else can I do now? Just entrust my test to the Lord, for Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise (v1).
This psalm presents a very strong, what most of the theologians will call it: Zion Theology; which means the significant of the city of God (v1, 2 and 8) being secured at Zion implies the presence and guidance and the rule of God. Though, I am not into the idea that there is certain place or thing being more holy than others; the idea that our God is the Great King (v1-3) and the Great King is our Shepherd (v12-14), simply wraps this psalm beautifully. This teaches us the importance to acknowledge God’s rule as King in our life as the fundamental and expect His guidance and providence as His grace.
Today, I am going to praise God and commit to Him my driving test. No matter I pass or fail, I will praise Him. I want to trust God for His timing to give me the license to drive. I want to follow His leading and receive His promise of grace. Well, it is easy to say all these things. It reality, I am still nervous. I think I should shorten today’s devotion and go to have a good rest before the test. I should let God the handle my stress and anxiousness rather than bearing them all by myself.
There are tests in our everyday life. We are going through them without even knowing it. We are tested at work to see if we are ability to fulfill the job requirement. We are tested at home to see if we have the patience to withstand the screaming and crying and unreasonable demands of our children. We are tested in the marriage and relationship to see if we can communicate the simplest message across to the other party. We are tested if we will praise God even when things don’t turn out well.
Formula for success? There isn’t. At least, not in the way we view success. But there is a formula to keep standing up after failure: that is to commit our life to God and let Him be our King and to receive His grace of providence even in the midst of failure. This is what we call: hope.
I have hope that I will pass my driving today. Do you have hope too?


Monday, January 12, 2009

Its AwePsalm… (Psalm 47) 120109

My daughter is very playful, she is at the stage whereby she will mimic the words we say and the things we do. Of course, as her father, I have to be very careful in the words I say and the things I do in front of her. But the thing about a thirteen months old baby, she likes to repeat whatever she has just learn and do it over and over and over and over and over and over again! (I am not exaggerating, those who are parents will know). And she enjoys doing it again and again; and it is me, the father, who sometimes find it boring and kind of lame to play the same peek-a-poo or sleepy-Alethea or gong-xi-gong-xi (Chinese New Year is near). But surely, it is still a joy to see my baby girl learning and growing with joy in her.
I believe God also wants His people to have joy too. I believe God has given us the reason to rejoice and praise Him, because He is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth (v2), He has ascended just as Christ (v5), for God is the King of all the earth (v7) and He reigns over all nations, seated on His holy throne (v8). Wow! What an awesome God we have (v2); that is why the Psalmist praises God again and again. At the centre of this psalm, which should be rightly verse 6, the Psalmist declares “sing praises” 4 times!
The Psalmist can sing praises over and over again because he knows what God can do and will do for His people. The Psalmist knows that he is securely loved by the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the King who rules all the earth and the Lord of Most High. This is not a figurative language. This is a reality that the Psalmist understands. It is like how my daughter knows that she is deeply and securely loved by her parents, she just wants to be happy and rejoice every moment of her life with us. To her, she has no fear when she knows that her parents are around her to watch her.
Do you know that God is watching you? The greatest challenge for modern day Christians is that we have too many other things to watch and being watched. We watch TV programs, YouTubes, Internet series, Movies and so on. We are being watched over our Facebooks, MSN, CCTV and more. But do we know that we are watched by God and we can watch out for what God is doing in our lives?
God enjoys us doing the same thing that pleases Him over and over and over again. He enjoys to meet with us at our quiet time again and again and again every morning or night or whatever timing. He never gets bored at that, He delights in meeting us. God enjoys blessing us again and again and again even though we don’t deserve, and though we don’t even notice or acknowledge Him. God loves to see us praying again and again, He never gets tired of our prayers. And God is greatly exalted (v9) when we sing praises to Him again and again and again and again, 4 times or more; because He is simply worthy of all praises.
Have you been going to God again and again? Do you have any sins that you are committing again and again, wondering will God forgive you again and again? Yes, He will as long as we confess them again and again. Do not give up, God hears you and He will deliver you and also lift you up at the right time! Sing praises to God over and over again. For God deserves it, He is awesome.
I am going to the AwePsalm God now, how about you?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Still a Psalm… (Psalm 46) 090109

Ministry work is like a battle field. There is a need for being high alert at all times. There is a need to keep a lookout and being proactive. There is also a need to watch out and take care of the hurting ones and injured ones. There is surely a need to beware of internal conflicts within the same camp. All these can drain a person to bone dry. All these can cause a healthy person to become sick. And all these can drive a God-fearing man to a fearful man. This is ministry work.

Psalm 46 is also known as the battle hymn of Luther, the father of reformation. I am not too sure, under what circumstance; Luther was identifying the Psalm with the battling situation he was in. A commentator, Stanley L. Jaki, suggested that Luther was confronting or being confronted by the dilemma that a prince of German, who was one of his firm supporter, was practicing bigamy (having 2 wives). I guess Luther won’t know what to do and this psalm would probably brought him great comfort and assurance, as he had to face the battle of such confrontation head on.

This psalm is a very beautiful psalm and structurally it has three parts which speaks of the Presence of God: 1) in Cosmic Troubles (vv.1-3), 2) in Judgment (vv.4-7), and 3) on Earth (vv.8-11).

The most quoted verse of this psalm which many people loves is v10a: Be still and know that I am God. This verse has been my key verse back in 2005, which was a prelude and preparatory year before I entered into a season of darkness. During this season, I could see nothing and do nothing and could only be still and acknowledge the mighty presence of God in my life. It was a season whereby I grew deeper in God.

This psalm declares three times about who God is: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help n trouble (v1), and the God of Jacob is our stronghold/fortress (v7, 11). Yes, God is our backing, not back up. It is important to realize that we have a BIG GOD! And unless we realize that our God is really BIG, we will live our live in fear, in hopelessness, in defeat and in despair.

I remember sharing this real encounter I had with a tiny-winy-little boy, who has the ability to chase away a group of tall and growing teenagers at the playground in my preaching. It is because that tiny-winy-little boy has a Arnold-Schwarzenegger-look-alike father, he has a big father as his backing; that is why he is so fearless against those teenagers who are all bigger in size than him, but he also knows that all of them are nothing in comparison with his Arnold-Schwarzenegger-look-alike father. He knows he has a big father; we also need to know that we have a BIG Father, who is our God. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; He is our stronghold!

Be still and know that He is God. Do you know that you have a BIG GOD? Maybe you are facing some challenges in your marriage and relationship; run to your Father and be still before Him, and let Him speaks the word into your life for He is able to help you. Maybe you are facing some difficulties in your finances, and your job is at risk; go to your Father and be still before Him, and let Him leads you and guides you to a greener pasture, for He is a good Shepherd and Provider. Maybe you are anxious about your O level or A level results, and also uncertain about your future; take a walk with Him and be still before Him, and let Him comforts and assures your heart that He will be with you no matter what, and trust in His plan for you.

Be still.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Marriage Psalm… (Psalm 45) 080109

In recent times, I have been involved in the lives of a number of couples who are getting married. And I have also been reflecting and evaluating upon my own marriage lately; there are ups and downs, there are gives and takes, and there are tears and flowers. Marriage is a mystery, people getting into it thinking they know everything about it, only to find out later that they know nothing about it. I am very blessed by Gary Thomas’ book: Scared Marriage, which helps me to give my marriage reality check and most importantly drawing me back to a God-Centered perspective of marriage.
Today’s Psalm is about a wedding. It is about the wedding of the son of David, composed by some Levitical priests in celebration of their king’s son wedding. It is like a wedding song of those days. This song is also a reflection of Christ, being the Son of the Most High King and the church being the bride. It is Psalm of inference to God and His majesty and splendor (v3). This is a Messianic Psalm, a Psalm that points Jews to a Messiah who will be like the son of David. This is a Psalm of hope, because when the Jews were in exile; this Psalm reminded them of the Messiah and the hope of glory and deliverance God had promised. This is their vision.
Indeed, Christ came, not only as a warrior and deliverer, but also as a Lover and Groom. In His second coming, He will receive His people, the church as His bride, and this Psalm can be sung again with its fullest of meaning.
This Psalm in its literal structure tells us that it is addressing two groups of people: The king (v2-5) about the glory of the bridegroom (v6-9) and the bride (v10-12) about the glory of her (v13-15).
We are the bride; we need to be reminded of the glory of the bride which God has installed for us. We are marrying to the Son of the King. Though we might be once from the foreign land (v12), but we are being included into His Kingdom by His grace of accepting us for who we are. Such marriage, we are undeserving; but God in His grace receives us with love and clothes us with all the glory and splendor. This is also true to our earthly marriage.
In a marriage or in any relationship; we often attempt to change the other party to the person whom we want him or her to become. But God want us to love the other party the way He has made Him to be. In marriage counseling, I often come across the following issues between couples: unmet expectation, disappointment, and anger. These three are definitely related and the list can go on and on. We can re-adjust our expectation and learn to manage our disappointment and deal with our anger; but the bottom-line is to have God-centered marriage according to Gary Thomas.
In a marriage, we tend to be either self-centered or spouse-centered. We either expect the other party to fulfill his or her duty and responsibility to satisfy our needs, or we idolize our spouse so much that we cannot recognize the person in the mirror when we look into it in the morning. A God-centered marriage focuses on God and accepting His will and plan for us. And also this will lead us to be able to claim a marriage which is describe in today’s Psalm; glorious.
I know I am too young to talk about marriage, and my marriage is still far from being glorious; but I want to claim upon this promise and this hope. I want to embrace the glorious future for my marriage, by not being self-centered or spouse-centered; but being God-centered.
Your marriage may be good and you are enjoying every moment of it now, or you are facing some roadblocks in your marriage and relationship. I invite you to do some reality check, and claim this Psalm into your marriage and relationship. Christ is the perfect groom and the future church will be the perfect bride. Let us claim and work towards such beautiful picture of marriage. I will pray with you and journey along with you as long as you willing to allow me to.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What a joke?!? (Psalm 44) 070109

This is a national lament psalm, reflecting defeat in battle. The entire psalm is so gloomy and full of frustration and disappointment. I can imagine how this psalmist had felt, a sense of betray by God, the One Whom he and his people had trusted in. Many commentators will believe that this psalm is likely to be the work of a king as the singular first person used in verse 4, 6 and 15 in conjunction with the plural first person used to represent the nation of Israel elsewhere in the psalm. This is an indication that the psalmist is a clear representation of Israel too, and only the king can be rightly said to have that status.
The psalmist lamented that God had allowed suffering and disgrace. And this is clearly the central theme of the psalm as it is in the centre of the psalm structurally:
A. God's Past Acts of Deliverance (vv.1-3)
B. Confidence in God (vv.4-8)
C. Suffering and Disgrace (vv.9-16)
D. Claim of Innocence (vv.17-22)
E. Prayer for Deliverance (vv.23-26)

The psalmist seems to say: God made us believe in Him, and this belief of ours is the cause of all our troubles.

What a joke? The very thing we believe in is the very thing that brings us troubles. I think the psalmist is not alone; we are doing the same today. We can easily hear people saying these: it is God who leads me into such financial debt, so that He might teach me the Biblical principal on finance; it is God who opens the door to my current job and has me suffered from all sort of humiliation, so that I can learn humility. What a joke? We become a joke because of God.
The psalmist claims innocence, but in reality, he misses the point. He may be innocent at the point of time he lamented, but his has negated the past evil and negligent that led the nation to such a disgrace. And this psalm is the best proof of God’s grace, whereby He still allowed His people to pray for deliverance. I have no time to study further to find out whether God did answer the psalmist prayer or not; but I have the same confident as the Psalmist in God (v4-8). I just have to wait patiently.
One night, my wife and I were having a sharing and discussion after our devotion reading. We were sharing about how have our marriage has been lately, and we began to realize that as we get to know each other more and more through these years, we find each other shortcomings more. We tend to focus and magnify at each other mistake and overlook each other love and care. And I think this is the same when we come to God; we tend to point out how God has made us a joke rather that how God has made us in His image.
You might be a joke at your work place because you have to go off early every Friday for your small group meeting; you might be a joke among your friends because you refuse to go clubbing with them on Saturday night; you might be a joke among your pre-believing relatives because you rather tithe 10 percent of your salary than using that among to buy a car.
Though we might not say it out loud, but deep within our heart, we might be like the psalmist; blaming God for making us a joke. On one hand, we say we trust God for His deliverance; but on the other hand, we secretly (at least the psalmist is honest and open) lament our suffering is for God and by God. What a joke?!
I am not spared, as I am a joke too. I pray that I will continue to be honest and open to God like the psalmist in dealing with my immature understanding of Him. May you be honest and open to God too, don’t be a joke!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Light… (Psalm 43) 060109

Obviously, Psalm 43 and Psalm 42 are written by the same author and perhaps they were originally one Psalm. Evident? They both have a common refrain:

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him… (Ps 42:5; Ps 42:11 and Ps 43:5).
Besides this, there are others similarity in the style of the language used and of course the themes of these two Psalms are also similar. But there is a progression; Psalm 42 seems to be focusing on the Psalmist’s weariness within himself while Psalm 43 highlighted God’s worthiness to be worship and lead. There is a sense of victim-mentally in Psalm 42; but in Psalm 43, there is a sense of enough-is-enough-and-calling-for-vindication-attitude.
Yes, life is full of rejection and oppression (v2). We might even feel that God Himself has rejected us, like the Psalmist. At least I had felt that way before. When things around you seems to be falling apart; when things are out of your control; when the economic tsunami simply sweep under and over you and causes you to lose everything; you will shout to God: Why hast Thou rejected me? (v2) It will be worst if the very thing you put your trust in for years turn against you. It could be your confidence in your academic successes; it could be your excellent prospect career which you have built for years; it could be your marriage or a relationship; it could even be the church you have dearly loved. All these were once your pillar of strength; all these were once your motivation to press on when times are bad; all these were once your hope to a dream. But when they suddenly failed to meet your expectation, what do you do?
I have had placed my life in church, and serving the church. The first half of my Christian life, I labored with hope and love to serve my former church, and thinking that will be my only church which I will give my life to. But when the day of “excommunication” due to an “unfortunate” incident, my heart died; my soul died. My life crashed. Out of a sudden, I have no more friends, I have no more ministries to serve, I have no more church and I have no more God! Like the Psalmist, I cried out: Vindicate me (v1)! Give me justice! Return to me all that I have given up for that church! Sadly, I have been worshipping the church all these while rather that God of the church. But God did vindicate me and give me back all I have lost and even more in my current church.
More than a year ago, when crisis after crisis came into my family, I couldn’t handle. God seems to have rejected my request for help. God seems to be absent and hidden from me. My cries only echoed into a valley of vast emptiness and darkness. There was no reply, there was no help, there seemed to be no God. Like the Psalmist, there will be times in life where there seems to be no God, when all the situations around us asked: Where is your God (Ps 42:3, 10)?
It is perfectly alright to be honest about our doubt, it is alright to ask: where are you, God? We will be lying if we can’t sense or see or hear God but pretending to go around our business as if we have a sense of God around us. We see this in church: people who go to pub and got drunk the night before they come to church to part of the worship leading; people who have a quarrel with their spouse in the morning before stepping onto the pulpit to preach or serve the communion (that’s me); and people who have not touch the Bible through the week but leading a Bible study (this is not me).

Come before God with a honest heart. If there is anything you want God to give to you during your dark moments in life; ask for His light (v3). The Psalmist asked for His light, because that is the truth and that will lead and bring him to God’s dwelling place, into His presence (v3). Only when we are in His presence, then we can truly rejoice and praise Him for His goodness (v4).
When we are in darkness, we cannot see the goodness of God around us; we cannot see the protection and His hand in our lives; we cannot even find the right way towards Him. Ask for the light.
Are you going through some darkness in life? Ask for the light of God. May His light shine upon you and you will see His face and His glory.


Monday, January 5, 2009

A Deer Psalm… (Psalm 42) 050109

It has been a long while since I write my devotion. I have to confess that I have been lazy; and confession is good for the soul. Indeed, I have been busy (after all, I am a pastor, and getting busy at the end of the year is excusable). But, being busy does not give me the license to be lazy. Especially being lazy with what I have promised God that I will do, that is to keep writing devotion.

I write my devotion and post it on blog is not to show off anything. I have nothing to show off as I know that not many people are reading and there are full of grammatical errors and tenses mistake that makes many people tensed up. I want to write and post my devotion on blog is to hold myself accountable for my spiritual and Word life. It is so easy for me as a pastor to study the Bible for my congregation, but not reading the Word of God for myself. This devotional blog is a reminder for myself to keep reading and studying the Word for myself and hopefully be a blessing to others who happened to read them. I believe that unless I am completely soaked in the transforming Word of God, there will be nothing authentic and powerful overflowing from me.

I have completed the Book 1 Psalm (Ps 1 to Ps 41), and I will start again with the Book 2, beginning with Psalm 42.

Psalm 42 is a very beautiful and profound Psalm. The Psalmist begins with a very breath-capturing image of a deer panting for water (v1). Commentators say that the Psalmist was probably overseeing a brook while hiding out in some mountainous area from the presence of his enemies. The Psalmist was probably tired, hungry (v3), thirsty (v2), despair (v5), disturbed (v5), and doubtful of God (v3); he was down and out. Though there were moments of joy and gladness before, for some reasons, he was down and out when he composed this Psalm.
I have just preached some good sermons, and experience some breakthrough and enjoying my ministry, and my father’s health is improving greatly; when I start the new year, I can sense somewhat tired. The most obvious clue is that I can’t bring myself out of my bed this morning! And I know I need to reflect, I need to taking time with God and I remember my promise to God or rather God’s promises for me. Therefore, I write my devotion.

A scene of a deer drinking water for a brook can trigger such a tremendous reflection and honest dealing with ones soul; a Psalm in the Scripture can also trigger a tremendous transformation of a sincere reader. For this Psalm, I gather that it is alright to doubt, to be tired, to be thirsty and hungry and even despair; but I must be honest and deal with it. After all, there is nothing we can hide for God. He knows the deepest secret of my heart. Even a slip second of lustful thought or a slightest intention to get even with unforgiveness or a seemingly harmless desire to satisfy ones pride; God knows.

The theological technical term for this is called “Omniscience”. God is all-knowing. Yes, God is ALL-KNOWING! There is nothing He doesn’t know. So, don’t try to hide. Be honest and deal with issues that are not right. Deal with unforgiveness, deal with doubts, deal with our fatigue, deal our pride, and deal with ourselves.

Is there anything else I need to deal with as I reflect upon this Psalm? How about you, if you are reading? Be honest and let the Word of God transforms you and I.