Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 34: He was a Samaritan… (Luke 17:11-19) 30 Mar 09

Ten lepers pleaded Jesus to heal them, and Jesus did. Only one leper returned to thank Jesus and praise God, and he was a Samaritan. What does this imply? It implies that the other nine were not Samaritans, and probably Jews. I can’t help but to stop and think and ponder and ask: why?

Why when the ten lepers were suffering, they cried out to Jesus in unison: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”? But when they were healed, one the foreigner returned, and the other nine locals disappeared into the thin air? I am puzzled by this. I am disappointed with those nine Jewish lepers who were also healed. I am disappointed with myself who has been greatly blessed and gifted by God, but yet reserve my praises and thanksgivings. I am disappointed, because I am not a Samaritan.

I want to echo the words of the lepers before they were healed: “Jesus, Master, have pity on me!” I need His pity, I need His grace, I need His forgiveness and I need Him. That’s me. How about you? Maybe you are better, smarter, more talented, more gifted and more fervent; but you still need Jesus. You still need Him to have pity on you. This is the truth.

Unless we realize how sinful we are, we will not realize we need Jesus. Unless we realize how sick we are, we will not have the urgency to come to the Great Physician. Yesterday, Alethea was having a fever. It was only about 37.5 degrees Celsius. I was so calm and insisted only sponging and gave her plenty of fluid to cool her down, refused to administrate Panadol. When her temperature went up to 38 degrees Celsius, I panicked and gave her Panadol, but refused to bring her to a doctor yet. But if the fever persisted, I will bring her to see a doctor, because that might be dangerous, as sponging and Panadol can’t help to reduce her temperature. Similarly, unless we know that we are in danger and can’t help ourselves, we need someone else.

Jesus is there when we need Him; Jesus is there when we call out to Him to have pity on us, but where are we when He calls on us to acknowledge Him and praise His name? Are we like the Jewish lepers or the Samaritan leper?

I want to be a Samaritan leper.


Imitation… (Hebrews 6:9-12) 200309

The author of Hebrews begins this section by addressing his readers as ‘beloved’ (v9, NASB) or ‘dear friends’ (NIV). The NASB has a better translation here, because the original Greek word used here is agapetoi. This word gives us a sense of tender endearment and genuine love from the author to the readers. This is the only time such expression is used in the Hebrews, and Leon Morris comments the following:

For the only time in the epistle the writer here addresses the readers as "beloved" (agapetoi; NIV, "dear friends"). He has a tender concern for his correspondents, even though he has had to say some critical things about them.

In my opinion, the author’s sudden change of his tone has his purpose; and I think he wants his readers to take note of what he is about to say. In verse 10, he presents the justness of God, and encourages his readers to be diligent to realize the full assurance of hope in verse 11. How? By imitating those who have gone before them through faith and patience inherit the promises (v12).

To me, verse 12 is a very rich verse, but surprisingly, I don’t find much comment on this. There are a few words need to be unpacked with the help of the context. The promise in verse 12 will be discussed in the coming verses (v13-20). And those people who are to be imitated have to refer to later chapters. But nonetheless, verse 12 is an anchor point to switch the readers’ attention to what is needed to be done.

So, what is needed to be done? Imitation. In our modern society, this is a bad word. Imitation is the same as copying, it means the imitator has nothing original to offer, he is merely a follower. Imitation of branded products is illegal. But for Christian, imitation is the way to grow. We are to imitate those who have gone before us. The idea of imitation is prominent in the early days Christians. Paul urges his readers to imitate him as he imitates Christ. Therefore, Christ is our ultimate object of imitation.

Are you an imitator? Do you have someone to imitate after? You may think that imitation will cause you to lose your own unique identity. And this is the precise problem why imitation is so necessary in Christian growth: we are to lose ourselves so that we can gain more of Christ in us. As the saying goes: Christ increase and I decrease.

Actually, I am a great imitator! I imitate the way good preacher preaches, so that I can improve. I also imitate good authors, so that I can improve my writing. I am surely an imitator of Christ, but an incomplete one at this moment. But I am diligently imitating. How about you? Is there anyone whom you know is exhibiting good quality of Christ you want to imitate? It is alright to lose your own identity. After all, we are to die to self, so that Christ can live in us.

And again, I cannot help to reflect this in the context of this season of Lent. As we approach the Cross, we approach Christ. As we look at the Cross, we look at Christ. How can we be more Christ-like? How can we imitate Christ?

After all, we are an imitation of Christ.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 33: Cross love … (John 3:16, 1 John 4:19) 29 Mar 09

A couple of my small group gives birth to their second child at home this morning. I am thrilled and happy for them. And it reminds me the moment Alethea was born. She was such a beautiful baby with her face full of wrinkles because having soaked in water for so many months. Nonetheless, she is beautiful but so fragile. I am not too sure how I have kept her alive till today? It must be by the grace of God.

And today, another couple brought their one month old son to church for his first service. I can’t help but to recall those days when Alethea was still an infant, always in my arm. And again, I wonder how I have not squeezed the live out of her? It must be by the grace of God.

Now Alethea is going to 16 months old soon. And today she is having a fever. My heart just feels so sorry for her. I am not sure why she is having her fever, and by faith, my wife and I just sponge her and give her a Panadol and pray that God will bring comfort and healing onto her. Indeed, her temperature has gone down and she is able to sleep now.

I am only a father for 16 months and I can feel such pain when my daughter is sick; I can be sure that God feels really hurting when He sees His creation in sin, and His only begotten Son to go to the Cross for their sins. This is the grace of God.

By the grace of God, He creates lives, just like a beautiful new born Alethea then. By the grace of God, He preserves lives, just like how Alethea grows up without being squashed by me. And by the grace of God, He heals, just like what He is doing with Alethea.

This is love. This is the expression of love. Love creates, love preserves, and love heals. The Cross is the best expression of God’s love, because the Cross creates a way for us to walk in, so that we can be saved and become a new creation. It is also because the Cross preserves those who follow Christ, and it is also because the Cross heals my inner most sinful natural. This it power of the Cross, this is the power of love.

In this Lent season, when we keep talking about the Cross, we are also talking about the love of God, being expressed by the Cross. It’s a Cross love.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 32: Home at last… (Luke 15:11-32) 28 Mar 09

The journey can be long and tiring, but we have a goal, we have a home to go to at the end of our journey. This is the strength and comfort of many who have traveled the same road before us. I can imagine, it must have not been easy for them. I don’t find it easy myself.

One thing about journey is that we meet many people along the way and we play different role along the way. Today, I am reminded of the Pharisees and Scribes. They are the holier-than-thou people whom we read about today don’t like. They are merciless to the tax-collectors and sinners, just like we are merciless to them in our critics and sermons. This is a very strong reminder, that we are just like them at times; critical, judgmental, and self-righteous; but all in the name of Jesus.

I know very well that I am a hypocrite, as I don’t really show forth my inner most feelings and thoughts, in the name of having a good boundary. But the truth is that, I am simply not perfect and still in need of God’s grace to complete the journey to reach home.

Do you need any grace to carry on this journey? If you need, here is the good news: there are plenty and more than enough grace for you to go home. And I am sure that no matter how screw up I am today or yesterday or even tomorrow, there are enough grace for me to go home, at last.

Let’s press on to go home together, see you at home.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 31: Home… (Luke 15:18-20) 27 Mar 09

When I read today article, one of the national day songs comes to my mind; it is the song: Home. Home is a very interesting concept. It is not a merely a house, I can have a home without a house; and there are so many empty houses without a single home.

Home is a place of bonding, it is a place of love, it is also a place of acceptance, and it is surely a place whereby I can go back to whenever I need to. The younger son knows it; the elder son is in it but not realizing it. The younger son comes home after a long and fruitless journey out there; but the elder son who stays in the house has his heart far away from the owner it.

Are you at home or in a house? Are you building your home with your family or merely a house for your family? If you are not at home now, make your way home now. The journey to the Cross is long and difficult; I almost want to give up. But I know that my Father is waiting for me at the Cross with Jesus welcoming me home. I will press on, will you?

Let’s go home.


Tasted… (Hebrews 6:1-8) 27 Mar 09

I love to eat, though I don’t live just to eat. I enjoy good food, because it makes me happy. And God is a joyful God; He wants me to be happy. Therefore, the best proof of the existence of God is there is good food!

The author of Hebrews starts chapter 6 by continuing his agony about his readers’ immaturity for not able to take solid food, by exhorting them to ‘press on to maturity’ (v1). And to do so, they have to start from the foundation, but not laying it again. I think the author means that there is no need to re-confess Jesus as Lord again, which also means that the previous time they accepted the Lord, it is done and their salvation is still intact.

I think this gives me a great assurance of our reform faith as Presbyterian, for we believe the doctrine of Perseveration of the saints. But what is the author referring to when he says the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (v1)? George H. Guthrie suggests that the structure of verses 1 and 2 would imply the following:

the foundation of repentance and faith = instruction about
· baptisms
· laying on of hands
· resurrection
· eternal judgment

The “repentance from dead works” and “faith toward God” (NRSV) constitute a summing up of the initial step of Christian commitment. The former refers to the turning away from acts of immorality committed by those apart from God (cf. Rom. 6:21), and the latter the basic orientation for those who have turned to God in belief and obedience.

Although the “baptisms” has been understood by many commentators to refer to specifically Christian baptism, the plural makes this interpretation problematic. It may be that the word refers instead to the internal spiritual cleansing from sins found in the new covenant, which was associated with the outward rite of baptism. Or the author may be referring to repeated ceremonial washings as found in expressions of first-century Judaism.

The “laying on of hands” was also a practice associated with the beginning of Christian commitment, specifically having to do with the coming of the Holy Spirit or anointing for ministry.

If these two “instructions” have to do with the beginning stages of Christian commitment, “resurrection of the dead” and “eternal judgment” provide theological cornerstones related to the end of the age.

Having this backdrop in mind, we can then understand verses 4 to 6. The author reminds his readers of what they have ‘tasted’ in the past: heavenly gift (v4) and the good word of God (v5). Of course, they are also the partakers of the Holy Spirit (v4) which is an expression of tasting the heavenly gift, and the powers of the age to come (v5) through the tasting of the good word of God. And he makes it very clear that, if anyone tasted all these and fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and pit Him to open shame (v6).

This has great implication. Does it mean that if we fall away from God after experiencing and tasting the goodness of God such as heavenly gift and good word of God, we will be doomed? Is there no more hope for us? Is there no way for us to repent and go back to God? Is there an unforgivable sin?

I believe such questions bother you as they bother me for years. But the good news is that God is so gracious. The idea about the impossibility to renew is an impossibility to renounce the work of Christ on the Cross. There is no need to re-crucify Christ. His work on the Cross is complete. No matter what we do, we cannot get Him to be crucified again for us, because what Christ did on the Cross is sufficient. This is it. Go ahead and taste the goodness of God, and do not worry that we may fall away and then impossible to come back. There is no such thing. We do not need to live in fear and worry and refrain ourselves to experience God and His grace and taste His goodness.

As the church has opened up to the work of the Holy Spirit, do not restrict ourselves to certain understanding and experience. Let us not be weary and fearful to taste God’s goodness. There will be always sufficient grace following out from the Cross for you and for me.

Let’s go, taste and see that God is good.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 30: Coming out… (Luke 15:20-24; 29-32) 26 Mar 09

Today I go back to Singapore Bible College for class, and I take opportunity to attend its combined chapel. I have always enjoyed the combined chapel. It is a heavenly experience to me, whereby people of different nations and different languages and also different cultural backgrounds come together to worship God together in one voice. The message today is good, and I guess it sums up my personal experience before I graduate and enter into ministry work.

My season of darkness allows me to really slow down, and in fact, comes to a complete stop to reflect and ponder about my life, my calling, my ministry, and most important, my relationship with God. As a person, my life is rotten, if I am to face it honestly; I will not even dare to approach the Holy God, but He comes out to me. To my calling, I have failed and denied it with spiritualized excuses; I am only but a slaves waiting to be called upon by God, but He comes out for me. For my ministry, I think I am merely a employee and God is my boss; I will simply avoid more jobs and hoping for better salary from the gracious God, but He comes out through me. And for my relationship with God, we are friend when I feel like it and He is my strength only when I am weak; it is a I and Him relationship, but He comes out in me.

My Father in heaven comes out to reach out to me and for me, He also reaches deep within me so that He can reach others through me. I know I don’t deserve all these, but He comes out in me. Why? Is it because I am theologically sharp and having good grades in Bible College? No. Is it because I am zealous and gifted in ministry? No. It is simply because I am His child. He is proud of me because I am His child. He comes out to me because I am His child. Just like I will go all out to Alethea, because she is my child, and I am proud of her.

I am coming out (or rather going out) of my study to her.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 29: How old are you??? (Luke 15:25-32) 25 Mar 09

There are two brothers in this parable, Jesus intended it this way. It is because His Jewish audiences were very familiar with story of two siblings. There will be a good one, and a bad one; a wise one, and a foolish one; an accepted one, and a rejected one. Actually, I am not too sure why Jesus makes the older brother looks bad, foolish and rejected.

The older brother is bad because he is jealous of his younger brother. The older brother is foolish because he doesn’t know how to enjoy himself in the presence of his father’s house. The older brother is rejected because he has rejected the love and grace of his father. But why the older brother? Will the parable be the same if the older brother is the prodigal and the younger brother is the one who stays home and treats himself like a slave to his father? I think you might have an answer in your heart. So do I.

We expect that the older we are, the better we become; the older we are, the wiser we become; and the older we are, the more acceptable we become. But sadly, in this parable the older brother did exactly the opposite. As I ponder upon this, I have a question for myself: as I grow ‘older’ in the Lord, have I become better, wiser and acceptable before God?

I may be more skillful in ministry, but do I really know God better? I may be very knowledgeable about the Word of God and theology, but do I really have the wisdom of God? I may be well liked by many church members because of my preaching and teaching and other ministry performances, but have I accepted my ‘self’ as God has accepted me? You may have the answer too in your heart.

As we grow older, let us carefully examine our hearts. By the way, how old are you?


Hey Babe… (Hebrews 5:11-14) 250309

I went into the room with trembling and fear. I was about to conduct a class for three small groups which has indicated that they are ready to move on from a Basic Accountability Group (BAG) to become an Ongoing Accountability Group (OAG). In our church, small groups are formed according to their spiritual maturity phase. As the name of BAG suggests, it is for Christians who need to develop and cultivate their basic spiritual disciplines and habits. And OAG will be for those who already have the basic in place and desire to dig deep into the Word of God to develop Christ-like character traits and qualities. So, members of an OAG need to know how to study the Word of God for themselves. That is why, I am teaching such a class on Sunday.

The reason I entered the room with trembling and fear was because these members whom I was teaching were almost all older than me, not only in term of age, but also in term of their years as a Christian. I humbly come before them just to offer a model of Inductive Bible Study which I compiled from various sources. I was surprised by their humility too, a heart of willingness to learn.

Today, as I read Hebrews 5:11-14, I can’t help, but to think of them. Many of them ought to be teachers, but still need again someone to teach them (v12). Of course they are not learning elementary stuffs, they are ready for real solid food as the author of Hebrews describes. The question I have, and the feedback I have received, is that our church has been neglecting this area of ministry for many years. Well, I wouldn’t say we have neglected the ministry of Christian Education; it is just that there has been no one anchoring such ministry to equip our members. Therefore, some turn elsewhere for such feeding.

I like the illustration of “milk” and “solid food” (v12-14). Leon Morris defines “milk” and “solid food” as follow:

“Milk” stands for elementary instruction in the Christian way. “Solid food” is, of course, more advanced instruction, the kind of teaching beginners cannot make much of but which is invaluable to those who have made some progress. What is appropriate at the early stages of the Christian life may cease to be suitable as time goes on.

It is not a differentiation of the word of God as “milk” or “solid food”. I am a firm believer that the Word of God is the same whether it is the form of “milk” or “solid food”. But it is the maturity of the listeners or Christians in this case which makes the difference.

I am a father of a 15 months old girl. I have witness how she grew from an infant who totally dependent on feeding of the caregivers to eating semi-solid food like cereal and porridge, and now she will ask for food, solid food, when she sees us eating. She loves to eat. She has an appetite for food. She wants to grow.

I hope that we are no longer a babe, but a hungry adult who desires to grow. If you desire to grow, you need to eat good and solid food. You need to constantly meditate on the Word of God and also study the Word of God. Maybe you long to study and understand the Word of God, but not knowing how to, go and ask someone who know.

Don’t let people call you babe, you can handle solid food. You have to grow. I was preaching in the Chinese ministry on Sunday, and I ended my sermon with this illustration to help the congregation to realize the need to grow:

My daughter is very cute. She sucks her finger; that’s cute. She blabbers her words; that’s funny. She tumbles and stumbles as she walks; that’s cute and funny. She is only 15 months old. But when she is 15 years old and still sucks her finger; that’s not cute. If she still blabbers her words when she speaks; that’s not funny. And if she continues to tumble and stumble as she walks; that’s dangerous! To stretch our imagination further; when she is 35 years old and still sucking her finger, blabbing her words and tumbling and stumbling as she walks; that’s horrifying! A person who is not growing is horrifying.

Hey Babe! Grow up!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 28: Prodigal… (Luke 15:11-19) 24 Mar 09

My daughter is disturbing me when I am writing this. She comes into my messy study room and trying to get my attention. I think she is not trying to get my attention; it is me being drawn to look at what she is doing in my room. I am afraid that she might pull a book off a table stack with books, unpack, and fall on her. I am concerned for her safety. I am also afraid that she might trip over some books or other stuff and fall to the ground (and she did). I have to pick her up and get her to go to her mother.

She is not a prodigal, yet I look out for her; because she is my precious child. I was a prodigal, and yet God looks out for me; because I am His precious child too. Now I understand the heart of the Father, a little bit. Now I know how much God loves me and concerns for me.

You and I was a prodigal before, far away from God, roaming around, squandering everything. But by the grace of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we have made our way back to the Father. Jesus was never a prodigal, but yet He had to make His way back to the Father, through the Cross.

Today, we can go straight back to the Father is because of what Jesus has done on the Cross. He has led the way, all we have to do is the follow Him. Prodigal makes his way to far away and comes back to the Father following the sign of the Cross. Which journey are you on?

Look to the Cross, and go back to the Father; for this is the right way to go.



Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 27: Grumbler… (Luke 15:1-2) 23 Mar 09

So called sinners were there to listen to Jesus, but the holier-than-thou Pharisees were there to grumble. I have checked out the word ‘grumble’, it can be traced all the way back to the exodus event, whereby the Israelites grumbled about God in the wilderness. And God caused them to wander around in the wilderness for forty years, so that they might learn to listen to God.

As a Singaporean, we like to complain. It is not much different from grumbling. We complain about almost everything. We complain about the ERP, we complain about the traffic jam, we complain about the church air condition too cold, we complain about the worship music too loud, we complain about no fellowship and we also complain about too much fellowship. Sometimes, I am also confused about what we really want. I think God is also confused! Or maybe He is concerned.

He is concerned about our grumbling, which is in the form of complain. He is concerned that we don’t know what we what. He is concerned that we do not take time to listen to Him to tell us what we really need. Maybe He has to bring us through a season of wilderness before we start to listen. I think this season of Lent can give us an opportunity to be in a wilderness, wandering towards the Cross and learn to listen.

Be a listener, not a grumbler.

Stop saying or making any comment which is negative. Instead, quiet down your heart and mind to listen to what God is say about those situations. It can be refrained from complaining to God about your spouse of his or her bad habits, listen to what God is saying about your love and patience. It can also be refraining from complaining to your colleague about your seemingly unreasonable boss who gives you extra work, listen to what God is saying about your self-control and graciousness.

Stop being a grumbler or complainer, be a listener.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 26: Lost and Found… (Luke 15) 22 Mar 09

Today is the Lord’s Day of rest, but as a pastor, today is a day of work; I preached at the Chinese Ministry, and I conducted training for three small groups for them to get ready for their next phase of small group journey. I discovered that I have lost my voice at the end of the day.
I remember there was once I lost my voice and could not speak for a few days, but God spoke to me and I began the journey with Him till today. I lost my voice, but God found me.

When I read today’s passage, Luke 15, there are three stories of lost and found. I realize that it is not a bad thing to be lost at times. Unless we lost ourselves, we might never been found. And unless we realize that we are lost, we will not start to find our ways back to where we should go.

The journey to the Cross during this season of Lent is a long one, and I will not be surprised if some of us are lost along the way. And perhaps we are already lost at the beginning of the journey. As you meditate on Luke 15, which areas of your life are lost? Is God speaking to you about those areas? I think God has found you, have you found God?

If you are lost in this economic crisis, find your security in Christ. If you are lost in a relationship, find your identity and worth in Christ. If you are lost in your journey with God, find the direction of the Cross and look to it and start taking a small step toward the Cross. It is never too late to start your journey; Christ has already found you while you are still far away from the Cross.

I am found, a lost soul.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 25: People matters… (Psalm 121) 20 Mar 09

I am not too sure how the author of On The Cross Road links Psalm 121 and his Day 22 article. But I guess his central message is that we need to be like Jesus, actively contemplating about God. Jesus is constantly in communication with God. He is always take time to retreat and spend it with God. It is not that He does not hear from God as He is busy ministering to people, He is just demonstrating to His disciples the need of spending time with God; letting Him to tell us how much He loves us.

Jesus also demonstrates His love for people. He always has time for people. He is busy but never hurried. He walks around to meet the needs of people, He never runs. He not only sits among the people to listen to them, He takes time to eat with them. He not only sympathizes with people’s suffering by seeing and living among them, He actually goes all the way to the Cross to experience it. He even goes beyond he Cross to the grave and then to the throne.

This is the extent of Jesus’ love for me, also for you. He is always with us, whether or not we know or acknowledge it. He listens to all my complaints, He bears with all my nonsense, and He forgives all my sins. You can also love other people like Jesus does. Just be there to listen to your spouse when he or she is talking, refrain from talking back if he or she says anything negative about you. You can just give your children a hug and tell them you love them. You can also lend your listening ears to a complaining colleague. Don’t hurry off to finish your dishes or your work or your lunch, give people around you some of your time. People matter to Jesus, as you are.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 24: Space… (Luke 10:42) 20 Mar 09

I am a bit spaced out when I am writing this. It is closed to midnight, and I still have to go to office tomorrow. I am not complaining, but I am just tired. Pastoral ministry can be very draining; I can spend the entire day immersing myself in preparing this Sunday sermon, and then listen to some other people problem. These are energy zappers. I am not complaining, but this is the reality of a pastor.

I don’t know how other pastors always seem to be so full of energy without recharging, they just tell me that they are on fire for God and can keep going. They also tell me that I have overcome my desire to rest because that is not from God; God’s servant cannot be lazy! Sometimes I really feel guilty when I am in the midst of those very efficient pastors. That is why I don’t particularly like to go for pastor conference or networking, talking to those pastors there makes me feels like I am a lazy bum! And networking means more work!

I need space. I need silence and solitude so that I can have space within myself to let God occupy me. Though I am tired and sleepy now, I am glad that I spend sometimes in silence and giving God space in my heart to let Him fill me. I think I am happier like this than going for another meeting.

I think I will have a sweet dream, because I have created some space for God to be there in my dream tonight. Do you have space for God too? Maybe this is the one thing Jesus wants Martha to have. Maybe it is also for you.

Let’s spaced out.


Higher Priest… (Hebrews 5:5-10) 200309

Jesus is our High Priest. He fulfills the qualifications and requirements to be our High Priest. He is surely divinely appointed by God (v5-6). He is also able to empathize and sympathize with us as He has gone through sufferings and even death (v7-8). Furthermore, Jesus has been made perfect through His suffering, as in completed the work on the Cross and becomes the source of eternal salvation (v9). Jesus is more than a high priest, He is our Higher Priest.

The idea that Jesus was sent by God to earth to walk the path of suffering, it is unthinkable. Knowing that Jesus is our Higher or even the Highest Priest is comforting, but His journey to the Cross is also something worthwhile pondering upon. As I read this passage, technically I can write a paper on how come Jesus qualifies as our High Priest, but the point is not about Jesus role as our High Priest. This is a fact; this is predestined before the foundation of the world. The more personal question will be: what does it mean for me that Jesus has to go through sufferings and death on the Cross, just to be my High Priest?

I am especially amazed and amused as I am walking with Jesus on this journey in this season of Lent. As a pastor, I love my members and I try to empathize and sympathize with them. To a certain extent, I suffer for them, but I do not have to die for them. Even I have to die for them; I don’t need to die on the Cross. Jesus does not only qualify Himself to be our High Priest, He even goes an extra mile to the Cross and beyond, so that we can have a Higher Priest.

When I think of Jesus having to go through sufferings and death on the Cross, I am grateful. I am also remorseful for the things I have done and hopeful that my sins are forgiven because of His work on the Cross. How about you?

Today is Friday, and the weekends will be a good time for us to once again to slow down and meditate on the Cross, especially we are in the season of Lent. You may be busy with ministry service or with your family, and even your work; but I hope you will craft some time out to simply reflect on Jesus as being our Higher Priest. He is no longer on that Cross, He has gone beyond that Cross. What does that mean to you?

TGIF: Thank God It’s Friday.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 23: A loud silence… (Luke 10:38-42) 19 Mar 09

I realize that many who are in the pastoral ministry are a changed person. Many of them whom I know are formally an introvert. Most of them are quiet, shy, preferred to be alone; but because of what the nature of pastoral ministry, they have become more extrovert and outgoing.

I also have changed. My wife says that I used to be very rowdy, loud and outgoing; but I have become more and more introvert lately. I have become more and more contemplative. I rather stay away from people than be with people. I have grown to become very comfortable being alone with God. I have mellowed. I have become silence.

I think my wife assessment of me is true. I don’t hate meeting people, but I treasure my time meditating the Word of God and dwelling in His Presence. I prefer reading than running program. I prefer waiting than walking around and look for things to do. I prefer practice solitude than praying louder and louder. I see value in my quietness and silence. I hear a loud ‘Amen’ in my silence prayer.

I am not against praying out loud, I pray out loud too. I am not against being sensitive to the needs of others and get things done; I am sensing the needs of others too. I am also not against programs, for I am running some programs to help people too. But I see the power of silence which cannot be found in doing things. I found that silence can be very loud. I found that I can drown in silence.

What do you do when you are silence? Maybe the next time you drive, turn off your radio or player, and listen to the silence, what do you hear? I have written a lot, let me go and be silence.


High Priest… (Hebrews 5:1-4) 190309

I am so glad that the qualification and job description of a high priest stipulated in the Scripture includes personal weaknesses (v2). F. F. Bruce suggests that there are only two qualifications, namely: a) able to sympathize with those whom he represents, and b) divinely appointed to his office. Whereas George H. Guthrie proposes that the author of Hebrews outlines four main principles related to the office of high priest as described in the Old Testament:

  1. The high priest originates from among people (v1).
  2. The role of the high priest is to represent people in matters related to God, especially through offering gifts and sacrifices (v1–2).
  3. The high priest’s weakness enables him to deal gently with people, and he is required to offer sacrifices for himself as well as for the people (v2-3).
  4. God is the One who confers the office of high priest by appointment (v1, 4).

Whatever it is, high priest is God ordained, and he comes from among the people of God. A high priest is no different from any other people; he is also succumbed to temptation and sin. And a pastor in modern day context has the role of a high priest too. I am so glad that I am not expected to be superhuman, but at the same time, God has ordained me and will help me to fulfill the role and responsibilities He has entrusted me.

Of course, we Christians are also called to the royal priesthood according to Peter in 1 Pet. 2:9. Therefore, in some sense we have a divine calling and yet having the human tendency to sin. But at the same time, God has also given us the assurance that He will be with us to help us as we are called by Him. And because when we understand that we are also a sinner (redeemed one), we can empathize with others.

There is a Greek word in verse 2 that interests me. It is metriopathein which generally translates as ‘deal gently’. Even commentator like Leon Morris thinks that:

It is not easy to translate metriopathein (NIV, "to deal gently with"). It refers to taking the middle course between apathy and anger. A true high priest is not indifferent to moral lapses; neither is he harsh. He "is able" to take this position only because he himself shares in the same "weakness" as the sinners on whom he has compassion. The word may denote physical or moral frailty, and the following words show that in the case of the usual run of high priests the latter is included. The earthly high priest is at one with his people in their need for atonement and forgiveness.

But this word gives me a sense of comfort. As a pastor, I don’t have to be perfect. I will never be perfect, and I don’t have to pretend to be perfect. I don’t need to be even better than others. All I need, and very importantly, is to know that I am no different from others and others are no different from me.

If I have struggles with pornography and lust in the past, my members will also struggle. I am called to pray for them and help them. If I have the problem of pride, even now, I am sure that my members are prideful too. I am called to remind them and myself to be humble. If I have difficulty managing my anger at times, I believe that my members’ outburst and rudeness are understandable. I have to direct their anger to the Lord rather to anything or anyone else. If I have been dishonest in the past and not willing to be opened to share my thoughts and feeling, I am sure that the walls which my members have must have their reasons. I have to help them to bring down the bricks of the wall one by one, rather than merely crush down the entire wall at once, leaving them expose and vulnerable.

My point is: be understanding. Be in the shoes of others. But first, take off our own shoes, for we are high priest before the holy God.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 22: Martha, Martha… (Luke 10:38-42) 18 Mar 09

Jesus called Martha twice. There is endearment. Jesus wants Martha’s attention. Today, Jesus is calling your name twice too. He wants your attention. Are you giving Him your attention? Are you willing to put aside what you are doing and just listen to Him?

I am supposed to write my sermon for this Sunday, Chinese Ministry. But when I read this, I stop. I pack and go. I come home and wait for Jesus to speak to me. I don’t know what is He trying to say, but I am sure it is never wrong to listen to God. It is never a waste of time to wait upon the Lord.

Sometime, I feel that I am too busy with doing things, but forgotten to slow down and even pause to reflect if what I am doing is what God wants me to do. I can be busy writing devotions, but is it what God wants me to do? Are there any people out there reading? I can be busy organizing Adult Bible Fellowship groups, but is it what God wants me to do? Do our people really need this kind of fellowship? I can be busy running the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades matter, but is it what God wants me to do? How many of these children actually benefitted through our programs?

Sometime, all these ministries, activities and programs can drive me weary and dry. I know these are good things to be done. I know my blog has encouraged some, I know there are people who want to have fellowship, and I know that there are children being blessed. But I also need to be at where Mary is, at the feet of Jesus.

Between Martha and Mary is not an either or, it is both. I need to be like Martha, serve with joy and out of my giftedness. But when Jesus calls me with endearment, I need to response and be there to listen. I also need to be like Mary, drawing close to Jesus and simply be in His presence. But when Jesus calls me to give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, I need to response and go out to the thirsty with a cup of cold water.

Today, Jesus is calling you and I again. He is calling your name twice. Listen to Him. Wait as He speaks.


Yet without sin… (Hebrews 4:14-16) 180309

This passage is loaded with theological terms, highly religious. As George H. Guthrie writes in “Bridging Contexts” in The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, he points out the following:

With Hebrews 4:14 – 16 we move into a section of the book highly dependent on religious language from the Old Testament. For modern readers — especially those whose association with church and church culture is limited — the concepts of high priesthood, faith, temptation, sin, the throne of grace, and mercy may seem obscure at best. One can imagine a secular, hard-edged businesswoman sitting in on a church service in which this passage is being preached. She might stare ahead glassy-eyed as the minister delights in the intricacies of old covenant worship; she might be awed at his obvious education or cringe at her own stark ignorance; and she might not come back — if he does not help her see the phenomenal relevance of this text for her life, work, and relationships.

But at the same time, for me who has been a Christian for many years, this passage speaks of the divine reaching down to earth. The high priest here refers to Jesus, the Son of God. He is not a selected human agent who is given the honor to represent humanity as a high priest, but He is the One who ought to receive the sin offerings from human high priest, comes down to be that high priest. This blows the mind of many, including mine.

Jesus did not come as an invincible or know-it-all being. He came as a son of a carpenter in a Jewish family. He came and was tempted to sin in every way, but yet without sin (v15). In the Gospel accounts, we read only three temptations issued by the devil, but all scholars will agree that Jesus was tempted in every way during the forty days in the wilderness. Leon Morris writes in The Expositor's Bible Commentary that:

The main point is that, though Jesus did not sin, we must not infer that life was easy for him. His sinlessness was, at least in part, an earned sinlessness as he gained victory after victory in the constant battle with temptation that life in this world entails. Many have pointed out that the Sinless One knows the force of temptation in a way that we who sin do not. We give in before the temptation has fully spent itself; only he who does not yield knows its full force.

Whenever I read this passage, I know that I have failed my Lord Jesus. I have circum to temptation and fall into sins way too many times. The only comfort I have is that I know Jesus really understand and can sympathize with my weaknesses (v15). It is like one drug addict seeking help from an ex-drug addict, having the confident and comfort that he has been there, done that, and fully understands his struggles.

And by the grace of God, there is hope. I can always draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace (v16). It is like a criminal coming before the judge, pleading guilty and the sentence is acquitted because I am the son of the judge. But the story doesn’t end like this, the judge who pronounces me not guilty, has to bear the sentence of my crime. This is the story of the Cross.

The season of Lent is the season of the Cross. Drawing near to the throne of grace is drawing near to the Cross. It is because what Jesus has done on the Cross; there is the throne of grace.

Are you feeling guilty today? Is there any temptation you are facing right now? A colleague who has been flirting with you, a click away from entering a pornography site, a cheque to your account which you do not deserve, a cheat in exam to get you a grade higher, or a clever idea to win at the expense of another person. Temptation is everywhere. Temptation is here. Jesus is tempted too, but yet without sin.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 21: Practical discipleship… (Luke 10:38-42) 17 Mar 09

Being contemplative is being quiet. Being devoted is being attentive. Being hospitable is being warm and busy. Being a disciple is being servant. Can I be a disciple and yet be a listener? Can I be a disciple and yet silence? Can I be disciple and be hospitable? Can I be a disciple who is practical and yet spiritual?

Recently, my denomination is having its Annual General Meeting. It is to sort out some issues and have agreement and consensus so that we can go about another year of our business. The meeting, which I have attended before as an observer, is like a business meeting. But we are a religious body and the things we discuss are spiritual! But how can spiritual things be business like? How can a disciple be practical?

The account of Martha and Mary is a battle of many Christians of today: being practical like Martha, preparing and serving to honor Jesus the Lord; and being a disciple like Mary, sitting and meditating at the feet of Jesus. I don’t think it is a battle, neither is it a tight rope for us to walk on. It is possible to practice practical discipleship.

How? I don’t know. But we have to. We are living in a real world; we are also living in a spiritual world. We are called to be the light of the world, and salt of the earth; not light to the sun, salt to the sea. We are to be useful and practical, but at the same time retain our identity by being with our Creator.

This journey to the Cross came to a house; a house with a hospitable Martha and contemplative Mary. They are not enemies, they are sisters. They both love the Lord Jesus. They both want to give their best to Jesus. Martha gives of her service and Mary gives of her devotion. Both are equally important, and Jesus is not in favor of one over another. It is not Mary’s devotion that Jesus is commenting over Martha’s distraction. It is Mary’s humility of accepting who she is in Christ and not trying to be someone else or asking someone else to be liked her.

In church, when we see other not serving, we will think that this person is not as spiritual as us. Or when we see other not participating in prayer meetings, we will think that this person doesn’t pray as much as you. We often think that our form of spiritual discipline in the only form.

Practical discipleship is to accept that we are all practicing spiritual discipline differently as the Lord has gifted us. And each of our unique way of practicing spiritual discipline neatly forms the complete picture of practical discipleship. Are you one of them?


Naked Truth… (Hebrews 4:12-13) 170309

This is not going to be an article with adult content, and it doesn’t require parental guidance to read. But I still have to issue a warning to the readers: you might find yourselves naked and vulnerable, if you are honest with yourself.

Verse 12 of Hebrews chapter 4 is a very rich verse. There are many truths and theological views we can glean from it. Firstly, the word of God is living and active. This informs the readers that the word of God is more than words; neither is it a magical book with some mystical power. It is living as in alive, and not death. It is active rather than passive. The word of God is at work even when we don’t see it at work. It has life, just like you and I as the word of God is God-breathed or inspired (2 Tim. 3:16), similar language used in Genesis 2:7.

Secondly, the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. The word of God is not a defensive shield, but an offensive sword. The armor imagery illustrated by Paul in Ephesians 6: 14-17, tells us that it is a weapon of the Spirit. The word of God is more than logos, but also rhema, the kairos or timely word of God. The sharpness of the Sword cannot be compared with any other sword. This reminds me of those martial arts movies I have watched in the past, whereby those swordmen go all the way out to seek for the most powerful and sharpest sword. And the word of God is that kind of sword, I have one, do you have one?

Thirdly, the word of God divides the soul and spirit. This points us to the theology of human makeup: Dichotomy (only two parts) or Trichotomy (three parts). Dichotomism views that the soul and spirit are one in human being, and the Trichotomism views that the body, spirit and soul are different. The Dichotomist will say that this verse supports their view because the soul and spirit are so enmeshed that it needs the supernatural mean of God’s word to divide them. But the Trichotomist will also say that this verse clearly shows that spirit and soul are two separate-able entities. What do I say? I view that the spirit and soul are distinct but enmeshed and only the word of God can differentiate them.

And fourthly, the word of God judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart. The word of God convicts the sins of our hearts. It knows the thoughts of our minds and the intentions of our hearts so that it can actively reveal to us as we read and convicts us to transform. This is the power of the word of God. That is why the author of Hebrews concludes in verse 13 that no creatures hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him. In other words, we lay naked before the word of God. We stand naked before the truth.

If the word of God is living and active, if the word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, if the word of God can divide the soul and spirit, and if the word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart; how else can we escape from the sight of God? Have you ever try hiding away from God? I did. Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8). But with no avail. There is no way we can hide, at least I can’t hide. The word of God keeps exposing me.

Maybe God is calling you to serve in some areas but you are not willing and try to evade the issue. But you find yourself reading the Bible telling you to serve, listening to the sermon telling you to serve, studying the Bible which the conclusion is that you are to serve. You can run, but you cannot hide.

When you open the word of God today, be prepared to be naked, as you face the naked truth. I am naked now, in truth.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 20: No Hurry… (Luke 10:38-42) 16 Mar 09

Yesterday, the Oikos (Young families with young children) fellowship was learning from John Ortberg about the spiritual discipline of slowing down and celebration. He has a very interesting way of diagnosing the problem of our modern society and gives very creative suggestions to help us to cultivate these spiritual disciplines. And today, as I read the article by Ser Choon; I can’t help but to acknowledge that God is speaking to me about a sickness I have (maybe you also have it): the hurried sickness.

I hurried my wife to shop, when I was supposed to spend an undisturbed and uninterrupted date with her today. But we remind each other of what we learnt yesterday and decide to slow down. We stroll along Orchard Road. We eat the food that we like, though we discover that those were really unhealthy food at the evening, we ate them anyway. We buy the things we like, because we want to be happy today without rush. No hurry when come to being happy, else it will go off very soon.

We really enjoy our date. We do house chores together in the morning (I think I did more), we eat oily prata together (which my wife really enjoys), we watch an Oscar movie (Slumdog Millionaire) with popcorns and chilly aircons, we shop (my wife favorite), we eat KFC for lunch (that’s my favorite), and we shop again till we go home to play with our daughter. It is an enjoyable date, with no hurry.

I think God also want us to enjoy Him with no hurry. We can have very different styles of getting intimate with God, but the goal is to enjoy God with no hurry. If you can enjoy God by serving others, by all means take your time to serve with the best you know of with no hurry. If you can enjoy God by read His word, by all means read it slowly and enjoy the articulation of every words from your lip with no hurry. If you can enjoy God by being alone with Him, by all means be alone and have no hurry to return. And if you can enjoy God by doing a lot of things, by all means just do it with no hurry.

Maybe you can try actually chewing the food you eat slowly and enjoy God’s providence, especially with a plate of good fried kway teow. Maybe you can also try queuing behind the longest checkout counter when you next visit the supermarket and enjoy the grace of God.

If you don’t do it today or yesterday, don’t worry, there is no hurry. Try it again tomorrow.

As a father, I learn that I have to enjoy every moment of my daughter growing up. She might be a nuisance when she didn’t know how to walk and needed me to carry her everywhere she went; now she doesn’t want me to carry her because she has learnt how to walk. Now she is learning how to talk and expressing herself, I want to enjoy her frustration and expressing her feeling so directly, because one day she may not want to talk to me anymore. There is really no hurry, enjoy the moment of life now.

I am going off now to enjoy the rest of my night. You should go and enjoy yours too, with no hurry.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 19: Three Persons… (Luke 10:21-22) 15 Mar 09

The doctrine of Trinity is a complex one. No one can fully understand it or clearly explain it. I am not going to attempt the impossible. But I accept the incomprehensible. I am reminded today when I conduct the baptism class, when we cannot understand certain things or when it is difficult to be explained or understand; it does not mean that it is not true. It only shows the greatness of God’s wisdom which is beyond our mental and intellectual capacity.

When this passage brings out the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God the Father, I bet the first century readers will be lost. I don’t think even Apostle Paul has a full understanding. But nonetheless, we can clearly see that he too have the concept of Trinity permeating through his epistles.

But why does God bother to reveal Himself in three Persons? Won’t it be easier and cleaner to be One? I don’t know. Will it really be easier? Will we have a better relationship with God if He only reveals Himself as God, the only God? I really don’t know.

I have been thinking of how the Muslims fear God and are so fervent for God. Because in their monotheist faith. God is God. And we Christians have one True God, but three Persons; and we can’t figure out how to worship God. We either over-honor one or neglect the other.

As we approach the Cross this season, let us be sure that God the Father has planned all these before the foundation of the world, and Jesus the Son takes one step at time to approach and fulfill the plan of God, which is the Cross. And the Holy Spirit simply weaves Himself in and through the entire plan and demonstrates the plan even beyond the Cross.

How do you understand God today? Are you praying to God the Father more or to Jesus the Son more or to the Holy Spirit more? Unless we really know them well, we will have bias and slant towards one against another.

Be fair, to the three Persons.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 18: Name… (Luke 10:17-20) 14 Mar 09

My name is Abel. In Hebrews, it means shortness, brief like a vapor, or vanity (used in Ecclesiastes). The Biblical Abel lived short life, killed by his brother Cain. That is the name I chose for myself when I was baptized, not knowing the full meaning of this name. All I want is a Christian name to start with ‘A’. But it is also my name which I confirm my calling as a pastor; Abel is probably the first shepherd or keeper of flocks (Gen. 4:2); and I know that God has placed in me a holy discontent to shepherd His people.

So much about my name; but my name is meaningless with the Name: Jesus. Jesus is a very common name among the Jewish community at His time. This is the intention of God: Jesus is as common as He can be so that we can trust that He understands our common struggles and pains. But the name of Jesus is being lifted up high with authority which can summon the power of God, is because of what Jesus has done on the Cross. It is because of His simple obedience. It is not an easy one; it is a painful and cruel one. But Jesus goes through it, step by step moving towards the Cross, because He loves those names which He has written in His hands.

I know my name is in His hand. I am secured, I am saved. Are you?

My name has no value at all if it is not written in Jesus’ hand. My name has no meaning if I do not live in the name of Jesus. My life is powerless and hopeless without Jesus’ name. We know it and we even teach it our children. When we say grace or a prayer, we end with: In Jesus’ Name, Amen! Why? Jesus never teaches such formula to His disciples, but His disciples know that whatever they do in Jesus’ name, there is power follows; but if they do it not in the name of Jesus, powerless. Even non-followers of Jesus using Jesus’ name has power.

Do you want to have power in your life? Power here does not refer to supernatural power only, but it has more to do with authority. Your authority to live a life which is pleasing to God lies in the name of Jesus. You authority to love other people like God would do so also lies in the name of Jesus. If living a life pleasing to God and loving other people is what you want, know the name of Jesus.

The name of Jesus is more than a sign off phrase for prayer. It is a marker of my identity in God. Acknowledgement of the name of Jesus is acknowledging His work on the Cross. If Jesus never goes to the Cross, I am hopeless. Jesus’ work on the Cross is the bridge for me to be the child of God, and my identity is a child of God because of Jesus’ name being established on the Cross. Therefore, my name has meaning and value. Therefore, even my name is Abel, it is for eternity.

What is your name?


Day 17: Give up… (Luke 9:57-62) 13 Mar 09

I almost want to give up and skip this devotion. So I will keep it really short. If I give up, I will be breaking a promise to myself, I will feel that I am useless and cannot even keep up to what I have committed to do. If I give up; I will be seen as not as ‘spiritual’ as I should be, not able to keep up with my own devotion. Then how to lead others?
But as I take a little time to meditate and reflect my motive of wanting to write, it is not because I have a reputation to live for, or an expectation to live up to. In the first place, no one knows expect me to write, the church does pay me to write. I am also not a well-know writer whereby people are looking forward to read my devotions, not many people actually read. Am I writing out of a sense of legalistic spirit or a sense of joy because God is speaking to me in my writing? I think the answer is the later one: I do have a sense of joy as I write because God speaks to me as I write.
God impresses in my heart and through my fingers, He reveals to me my deep desires and also His timely word for me. I really want to give up tonight. But I am glad I write, because God has revealed to me my motive of writing. Then when the day comes whereby God demands me to giving up writing, I will have to face the challenge of choosing between God and what God has given me.
Just like my family which God has given me, it will be very painful for me to give up on them or rather for them to leave me. But ultimately I have to choose God over them. It is easier to say than done. I only pray that I will keep remembering that all I have is given by God, I am merely a steward, I am to give them up and back to God anything as He wants them back for good.
Are you ready to give up too? I am very sleepy now. I have to stop. I give up.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Diligent rest… (Hebrews 4:6-11) 130309

This is the third time the author of Hebrews quotes: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (3:7b-8a; 3:15; 4:7). I think this is it! The message is so clear! There must be people among the original audience of Hebrews are either not listening to God’s voice or hardening their hearts even if they hear it.

As I survey through the book of Hebrews up till this point, I can sense that people in those days are making almost the same mistake of their forefathers. And the author of Hebrews is issuing a set of warnings and reminders to them. He reminds them of the finished work of Christ which can enable them to enter rest. May it be Sabbath rest, or soteriological rest, or eschatological rest; Christ death on the Cross demands us to rest. And the warning for me will be: Today if I hear His voice, do not harden my heart! How can I miss such warning if it is repeated three times?

Therefore, the question will remain: what have I heard from the Lord which I need to listen and not harden my heart?

Diligent rest.
When I read this phrase: Let us therefore be diligent to enter rest (v11), I think that it is an oxymoron. How can one be diligent while resting? And how can a restful person engage in diligent work? Most scholars will argue that the ‘rest’ here most like is referring to eschatological rest, which is in line with Paul’s idea of working out our salvation with fear and trembling in Philippians 2:12. But I will view the ‘rest’ also includes the soteriological rest and hope and assurance in Christ that one does not require to perform to please God.
As I meditate, I begin to realize what the author of Hebrews is trying to say. In the entire context of Hebrews up till this point, he is warning and reminding his readers for their lack of faith in Christ completed work on the Cross, not believing the rest which is promised by God. The author wants his readers to be diligent in listening to the voice of God, which is why he repeats this three times. And remember to rest.
As a pastor, this is the most difficult thing to do. There are so many needs out there; people need counseling, patients need to be visited at hospital, preaching and teaching need to be prepared, events and programs need to be organized, and family members need to be taken care of. What is left for a pastor? No time to rest. I already experienced burnout even before I come back to ministry last year, I have told myself and I will have to ruthlessly eliminate all obstacles for me to have time to rest.
I plan my rest day. I plan my day alone with God. I diligently guard it and not to receive any phone calls or ministry related assignment. I don’t even read theological book or prepare my sermons and teaching. I only do things which I enjoy and have extended time to soak in God’s presence. And it is not easy to do so. I have to diligently find rest.
I discover that only when I have enough rest, I can be more diligent in what God has for me to do. Have you been resting lately? Or you are resting late? Diligently find time to rest. Ruthlessly rest. Diligent rest.
I will be very busy this week end, in fact after I finish this devotion; I will be running around. I will be checking out Sungei Buloh, and then meeting an young adult for lunch, and then visit a Boys’ Brigade Company, and then prepare for small group Bible Study tonight, and then run Boys’ Brigade program tomorrow, and then teach Baptism class on Sunday morning, and then coordinate Adult Bible Fellowship in the afternoon, and then family dinner. But I will be having my Day Alone with God on Monday and off day on Tuesday. So, let me rest.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 16: Touching Persons… (Luke 9:51-56) 12 Mar 09

I remember the song I like to sing when I was leading youth ministry: Touching Heaven, Changing Earth. It is a song of inspiration, a song that motivates. It is catchy and upbeat. It is about the power of God which able to touch the heaven and change the earth. I hope that my youth ministry will be able to move in God’s power to touch the heaven and change the earth. But today, I am reminded, Jesus primary task for me is to touch persons; one at the time; person after person.

Jesus has touched my life, and I am to touch other people life. Today, I have a conversation with a friend and I was challenging him to put aside the management and organization, but to really love the people he is serving and people who are serving alongside with him. Yes, ministry is about people, it is not about program, it is also not about power being demonstrated. It is about how God by His grace touch another person’s life through you and me.

Have you tell someone that God care and love? Maybe you can tell it to your spouse by giving him or her a kiss and a hug. Maybe you can tell your children or siblings about it by giving them your listening ear. Maybe you can also tell it to your boss and colleague by writing them a thank you card for being gracious to you and pray a prayer of blessing for them. Maybe you can tell anyone on the street by giving them your broad sunny smile.

You never know how much your hug and kiss can mean to your spouse, and warm up his or her heart which has been cold for days or perhaps months. You never know how valuable your time to listen to your children or siblings means, and how it opens up the closed can of hurts and bitterness to exchange for God’s forgiveness and grace. You never know how appreciative your boss and your colleagues will be, knowing that there is someone who still cares and values them in this competitive and harsh society. You also never know how your smile can be the only sign of hope they have in such a gloomy economic atmosphere.

Go and touch persons. Smile. :)

Rest… (Hebrews 4:3-5) 120309

Are you very busy when you are reading this? Are you trying to think of where are you going to have your lunch while reading this? Are you trying to figure out what will be your boss announcing to you after lunch in this time of economic downturn while reading this? Are you trying to plan your study schedule and at the same time squeezing some time for your love one while reading this? Take a break; you can even stop reading this. You can simply go to window (if you manage to find one) and take a deep breath and be silence and rest.

Today’s text has a lot to talk about ‘rest’. Many different scholars had many different views of what is this ‘rest’ here refers to. Some says that it is referring to an eschatological rest of the future when Christ final kingdom comes (P. E. Hughes), and some says that this rest refers to God’s rest on the seventh day (G. Theissen). Whether this ‘rest’ has a future orientation or a present and now reality; we are not to take rest lightly.

As my personal style in biblical interpretation, I will hold on both suggestions. I believe that the author of Hebrews has an eschatological view of a rest which is permanent at the end of days as he contrasts it with the foundation of the world (v3). On the other hand, when the author quotes an Old Testament Scripture to substantiate his argument, he also brings in the idea of a rest on a particular day, just as God rested on the seventh day from all His works (v4). The text also repeats the phrase: They shall not enter My rest, in verse 3 and 5. To me, this has great implication: the rest can also mean soteriological rest. This is a the kind of rest whereby we enter in now by faith in Christ and continue the process until we enter the eschatological rest when Christ comes again. Harold Attridge articulates this position well:

Thus the imagery of rest is best understood as a complex symbol for the whole soteriological process that Hebrews never fully articulates, but which involves both personal and corporate dimensions. It is the process of entry into God’s presence, the heavenly homeland (11:16), the unshakeable kingdom (12:28), begun at baptism (10:22) and consummated as a whole eschatologically.

So, my question will be: which part of rest you are in? Have you enter the soteriological rest already? Have you put your faith in Christ for such rest? Are you aware of the need to rest now as God is at work while you rest? Do you have any time of your day or day in a month to really rest in the presence of God, to enjoy Him at work? Do you look forward for the eschatological rest whereby you and I will be completely perfected in Christ because of what He has done for us on the Cross?

What does rest mean to us as we are traveling together to the Cross on this journey of Lent? Do you have an assurance of eternal rest? Do you have periodical rest to reflect and re-orientate and refresh as you continue the journey? Do you look forward to the final rest in Christ?

So, start learning to rest.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 15: In His Name… (Luke 9:47-50) 11 Mar 09

My wife and I have been teaching my daughter to pray and give thanks. Whenever we feed her, we will ask her to pray, and she will put her two little hands together. After we have finished giving thanks, we will say: “In Jesus’ name…” then she will finish for us by saying: “Ah… Meh”!

I am grateful that God is placing in the little heart of this little child a sense of knowledge of Him. Even as a pastor, I do not know how I can be sure that she will grow up knowing God and live in His name. The point here is not about how clever my daughter is, or how spiritual I am to teach her to say grace and pray; it is about the name of Jesus. It is about the grace of Jesus that my daughter can be saved even at this young age.

I have no idea and cannot explain how this can happen, but it is the grace of God whereby my little girl is in the arm of a BIG God. That is what makes that little child in today’s text prominent. It is not because this little child has anything special, it is because he is to be received and welcomed in the name of Jesus (v48). And again, just like the guy who cast out demons in Jesus name whom the disciples tried to stop (v49). It is not what that guy did that Jesus commented; it is His name that Jesus was pointing to His disciples.

I have been ministering to people of obscurity lately. People who are not prominent in church, people who can disappear and no one will notice, and people who are out there in an obscure corner of our community. I don’t usually share about my ministering to others, this is exceptional. And you also don’t know who they are, because even if I tell you, you probably don’t know them too. Anyway, I do find it difficult and a struggle to do so. I want to be seen ‘working’, I want to be seen as effective and fruitful. But I know that this ministry of mine will be unnoticed and unrewarded. But this is the ministry of Jesus; this is the grace and power of His name.

When was the last time you proclaim the name of Jesus to the taxi driver who has complained to you the whole of your journey with him? Or to a hawker who overcharged you your plate of chicken rice? Or to the little children at the play ground when you bring your child to play? Or to the old folks who sit at your void deck starring at the ceiling?

The name of Jesus has power and grace.



Promise of Rest… (Hebrews 4:1-2) 110309

I agree with George H. Guthrie, that the author of Hebrews is a master of effective transitions. He begins chapter 4 by weaving his concern that the hearers not “fall short” (the emphasis in his commentary on Ps. 95 in Heb. 3) with an introduction to the promised rest that still exists for God’s people. Hebrews 4:1 offers an exhortation to spiritual caution, and 4:2 provides a basis for this exhortation: Hearing God’s word is not enough; it must be combined with faith. These two verses, therefore, serve as a transition and summarize the content of both 3:7 – 19 and 4:3 – 13, by which they are sandwiched. Further, 4:1 – 2 exhorts the hearers to take action on the basis of the author’s discussion. (Taken from The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.)

Yes, hearing the word of God is insufficient to have salvation. The word of God has to be combined and acted upon by faith so that we can experience the rest God has promised. Similarly, faith alone without the word of God, will not give us the full assurance of the rest God has promised. Word and faith goes hand in hand. And F. F. Bruce states that ‘it is not the hearing of the gospel by itself that brings final salvation, but its appropriation by faith; and if that faith is a genuine faith, it will be a persistent faith.

The word salvation is implied by the word ‘rest’ in today’s text. The promise of such rest is something that we all looking forward to. I have been meeting up some young working adults lately and also my financial planner who is trying to convince my wife to join him in his business. They all have something in common, and I believe you too also find this familiar. They are all very busy. They have the perception that unless they work really hard, making themselves busy and effective, they are not going to enter ‘rest’ in the future.

I have nothing against being hardworking and planning for the future. We are all looking forward for some kind of ‘rest’ in the future. For my financial planner friend, he believes that unless he has sufficient amount of money, he will not be able to enjoy the ‘rest’ of his life. But he already has a lot of money! Some young working adults whom I know, they want to give their best shot in their career now and bury themselves in work, and hopefully that their bosses will recognize their effort and promote them accordingly. But in doing so, they have neglected what they also believe as important: the time of ‘rest’ with God.

I am in a life stage whereby I am really stretched all direction. My parents need my care as I am the only child living in Singapore with them (both my sisters are overseas), my family will need my love and attention as my daughter is only fifteen months old and my wife is a working mom, and my ministry is new to me and I have plenty to learn. I can be very busy if I allow myself to be busy. But I have also learnt from my personal experience that I will not last long if I don’t find my rest in God regularly. In fact, I often find strength and encouragement from the promise of rest.

When I rest, God is at work. When I rest, God is taking care of my parents and my siblings. When I rest, God is lovingly caring and attending to my wife and my daughter. When I rest, God is ministering to the people better than me, and refreshing my spirit, soul, mind and body to serve Him and His people in my ministry. When I rest, God is at work.

Are you tired today? Are you weary of pursuing your career by sacrificing your time with God and also your family? Are you tired of spending hours on studies and preparing for your examination but neglect 10 to 20 minutes of time of rest with God? Are you weary of serving and being asked to serve more when you don’t even have time to rest and listen to what God have to say about you? Take a break, take a rest.

There is a promise of rest. You have to rest to know what is that promise. You have to do it by faith, not by merely hearing the word of God. Today you read about the promise of rest in the word of God, by faith, take some time to rest. Especially when we are in this season of Lent, as our desire is to hear what God has to speak to us and response to Him, we need to rest by faith.

I am done for this devotion. I am going to rest now.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 14: Spiritual De-formation… (Luke 9:46) 100309

I have learnt a term called textual deconstruction in Bible College. What some scholars will do is to try to tear the entire text (usually the Gospels) apart and examine its historicity and authenticity. And then piece them all back together with some theories in mind.

Today, as I look at spiritual formation; I realize that there is a need to first to do a spiritual de-formation. I come into this season of Lent with many presuppositions and past experiences. I have to learn to leave all these things behind and seek to listen to what God have to speak to me today.

I also have to de-form my ‘self’, so that Christ can be formed in me. I have to de-form my ego, so that the Cross can be formed within me. I have to de-form my mind and my thinking, so that the Spirit can form His thoughts and words in my life.

Is there anything that you have to de-form, so that God can reform? Maybe you have to de-form the way you serve; being busy may not what God wants. Maybe you have to de-form the amount of time you spend to make more money; store up your treasure in heaven. Maybe you have to de-form your mentality of church; being like other churches may not be fulfilling God’s purpose.

Be humble to listen to God. There is no ‘I’ in humble, but it is in the middle of pride. It is really not about me. It is about God and His word for the life He wants me to live for Him. I cannot live such live unless I listen to Him. And most often, I will not ask God how He wants me to live, because I know that I will get the answer I do not want. I dare not to ask, but I have to ask. Even I dare to ask, I must dare to live it out.

It’s the season of Lent; it’s a season of spiritual de-formation and reformation.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Day 13: Anticlimax… (Luke 9:43-45) 09 Mar 09

I don’t take my off day on Monday; reason being I could be experiencing spiritual high on Sunday, and a sudden break or stop of the momentum may lead me into an uneasy quietness and even temptation to contemplate on my ‘spiritual highness’ rather than a day to contemplate on God. Well this is only my personal preference, I have no intention to mean that other pastoral staffs are contemplating on their ‘spiritual highness’ rather than God.

I do not want to be caught off guard with an anticlimax. I may not be able to handle it well. I may fall into my own trap of wanting more ‘spiritual highness’, this is greed; spiritual greed. I may fall into my sense of being ‘spiritually higher’ than others, this is pride; spiritual pride. I think I need to get back to reality of going back to the office to get down to work, to be humble to learn from others through listening to a sermon or reading a book.

I still need time to digest what the Lord has spoken to me the day before and process it and let my spirit embraces it. If not, it will be merely head knowledge, without my heart in it. Yesterday, the Lord was dealing with my prejudice and today the Lord reconfirms it with a message on forgiveness. It is not about being forgiven, but to forgive those who have offended me. And I remember suddenly; yesterday, this issue was also being brought up, but I may have unintentionally ignored it. I am thankful that the Lord doesn’t stop speaking after Sunday, He continues to speak until I hear it and process it and obey it.

Actually, I understand why God is speaking to me about forgiveness; but my challenge will be to go and apologize and forgive those who may not even know they have offended me. My question will be: why now? I really don’t understand fully. It is just a small thing, there is no hurry about it, and it is not hurting anyone. I have even confessed it to God, for Him to forgive me about it; do I still need to forgive others even they may not be aware?

I can’t understand, maybe I choose or pretend not able to understand. But deep within me, I know; God want this root of bitterness to be out of my life, so that I can live freely and serve without being tied to the ground. It is not going to be easy for me; I will have to deal with my pride. I pray that God will give me enough grace to obey Him.

I know it is an anticlimax, but necessary for me to carry on the journey to the Cross. I cannot carry my pride and bitterness to the Cross. What about you?


Until the end… (Hebrews 3:14-19) 090309

Jack Neo joked about ITE being “It’s The End” in his movie I Not Stupid. The idea of being the end has a connotation of helplessness; there is nothing much one can do anymore if the end comes. The study of the end time, which is called eschatology, interests not only the Biblical scholars, but also the non-believers. Many movies have been made with the end days as their theme. We can more all less see the Biblical images of the end days in The Matrix (especially the last one), The Legend, Terminator, and more.

As a Christian, as a partaker of Christ, I also need to hold fast of my assurance firm until the end (v14). And today’s passage reminds me that Christian faith is really a journey; it is not a point event, or a standalone experience that will change the entire destiny of a person forever. There is no living happily ever after. Christian life is not a fairy tale. It is a journey; a journey for me to travel on, but not alone.

Again the author of Hebrews advocates Scripture, saying: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me (v15). This is the anchoring verse before the author presents his stylistic rhetorical questions from verse 16 to 19. When I read verse 15, I was immediately drawn to the phrase until the end in verse 14. The end begins with today! What is important for today is to hear the voice of God.

There are many things we can start doing today; we can read the newspaper and feel depressed about the economic situation, we can plan to work hard and save wisely for our future retirement with nothing to do but waiting to die, we can also simply happy-go-lucky and leave the worries at the end of our life which maybe tomorrow, and we can seek some sort of religious experiences or modern day pop psychologies to tell us nothing at the end of the days. Today text reminds me that the most important things to do for today is to hear the voice of God, and obey.
Yes, obey! Do not harden my heart, but to obey. The author goes on by giving the example of Israel coming out for Egypt into the wilderness in verses 16-19. Commentator, George H. Guthrie, writes the following:

In 3:16 – 19 the author follows a stylistic pattern of asking a question and then providing an answer. The questions at the beginning of each verse are taken directly from the quote of Psalm 95:7c – 11. The answers provided, however, derive from other Old Testament passages that have to do with the desert wanderings. That those who came out of Egypt with Moses were the same as those who rebelled against the Lord (Heb. 3:16) may be concluded from Deuteronomy 9; Numbers 14:1 – 38; or Psalm 106. That “those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert,” were the same as those with whom God was upset (Heb. 3:17) also derives from either Numbers 14:1 – 38 or Psalm 106. The concept of the disobedient ones as those to whom God swore they would not enter his rest (Heb. 3:18) finds expression in Deuteronomy 9:7, 24.

He concludes that unbelief and disobedience are closely linked! Therefore, today, listen to the voice of God and obey. Then we can endure until the end.

In this season of Lent, we are on the journey to the Cross with Jesus. When we meditate on the Cross, Jesus will speak to us. You will hear His voice, obey until the end.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Day 12: Grace triumph… (Luke 9:36) 08 Mar 09

I am so touched by today’s message. It is a simple one, but power message of the Cross. It is a message of grace. It is a message of Christ death on the Cross so that we can have the power to live. It is a message of grace triumph over all, including self and even the Law and Prophets.

I know I don’t deserve what Christ has done on the Cross. I may not be as bad as those bad guys you watch in the movies, but my pride and prejudice against people don’t deserve God’s grace; He gives it to me anyway. This is the power of the Cross that moves and touches me deeply this morning.

I preach about repentance and challenge people to have a lifestyle pleasing to God, just like the Prophets of the Old Testament. In the same way, I teach about the Word of God as the authority of our life, just as the Old Testament Law to the people. But I don’t often reach out to people with the grace Jesus has demonstrated on the Cross and given me. There are times I live in jealousy, in pride, and even in prejudice. But there are also times; I dwell in self pity, false humility, and even hypocrisy.

The message of the Cross is grace, and grace is triumphant over Laws and Prophets. Grace is greater that knowing the right interpretation of the Scripture, grace is larger than being a pastor and doing the so-called right things, and grace is more important than the right doctrine.

I cannot just simply remember that grace triumph, I have to allow it to live within me. Grace lives in me, so that I can have the triumph over legalism, pride, prejudice and self. Grace lives in me and I in grace just like Christ in me and I in Christ.

To have a victorious lifestyle is not about trying to live victoriously, it is to be completely surrendered to Christ and to grace, so that I can experience the fullness of the power of the Cross and hence live a triumphant life in grace.

Grace triumph.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Day 11: Listen and Obey… (Luke 9:35-36) 07 Mar 09

I consider myself to be a quite a good listener. As a counselor, I listen well; I attend to what is said and what is unsaid of my client. As a pastor, I also listen well; I observe the little things in life and sensitive to the need of my members. As a husband and father, I think I listen relatively well; I know the needs of my wife and the cue of my daughter’s routines. But the question remains: do I obey?

Do I follow through what I have heard? Do I help my client as a counselor to deal with his issue which I hear from the unspoken words? Do I minister to my members as a pastor after knowing the struggles through my observation and God-given sensitivity? Or do I meet the needs of my wife as a husband and response according to my daughter’s routines as a father? And most importantly, as I am trained theologically and able to exegete the Scriptures and give a rather author-intend interpretation of the Scripture; do I do what the Scripture is telling me? Do I obey the word of God which I hear?

Keeping silence is only the beginning of listening to God. Keeping silence about what God has spoken into my life is surely not what God wants. Listen and obey. Keeping silence helps to listen to what God has to say to me, but I need to obey and act upon what God is speaking about my life, then such listening is complete.

This is the beauty of Lectio. It is listening to God through reading His word and it demands us to meditate on what God is speaking to us in particular situation; this is called Meditatio. And knowing what God is saying requires us to pray back to God; this is called Oratio. And Lectio is not complete without a time of Contemplatio; a time to allow the spoken word of God to dwell and soak into our heart and life and response in living it out.

Do you hear what God is saying to you today? Listen and Obey.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 10: Arrest my attention… (Luke 9:34-35) 06 Mar 09

What would I do when I am in the Presence of God? Or what would the Presence of God do to me? I think I will be arrested; the Presence of God will arrest my attention. It is going to be captivating, I am going to be captive of the majesty and glory and awesomeness of His Presence. I will be at my attention; I will be in the posture of listening to the next word coming out from that Presence of God.

God’s Presence is everywhere, but as a busy Singaporean, I am nowhere near or in the Presence of God. Is it the same for you? That is why we need reminder; we need symbol that would draw our attention to God’s Presence. For the Scriptures, clouds are often used as a symbol of God’s Presence. For me, the sheer beauty of the nature and the Bible itself reminds me of God’s Presence. For you, what is it that will remind you of God’s Presence?

To be in the Presence of God is not sometime mystical. There is no need to go to the mountain or monastery to be alone to experience and encounter God’s Presence. But to be able to enjoy and be aware of His Presence, there is a need for us to make time and space for it. Isn’t it an irony that God makes time and we live in His time but not giving Him time to dwell in His Presence? Maybe it will be good for us to really set aside other agenda and intentionally take time to meditate on God and dwell in His Presence. He has words to speak to us. He has declaration about us. Can you hear it?

Unless we take time to be in His Presence and listen, we cannot hear anything. Be still and be at attention. Let His love and grace capture our heart. Let His Presence make us hold our breath. Let Him arrest our attention!


Today… (Hebrews 3:12-13) 060309

I know that Hebrews 3:12-19 is a complete unit, and most commentators will give their comments in consideration of the entire section. I am not a scholar, and I agree with the commentators, but when I meditate and ponder, I cannot get myself through verses 12 and 13. I have mentioned many times, that Bible reading is more than Bible study, and Spirit led reading of Scriptures is neither ignoring the Biblical scholarship and research and commentaries.

The author of Hebrews issues two in imperatives in verses 12 and 13: ‘take care’ (v12) and ‘encourage’ (v13). When someone gives an imperative advice in his letters or sermons, it is not to be taken lightly, and this can gives us a sense of the real issue the author is dealing with. In this case, the author is warning his readers to watch out for anyone to develop an evil, unbelieving heart, and falling away from the living God (v12); and encourage one another daily to guard against hardening of heart by deceitfulness of sin (v13).

When I read such warning issue in the Scripture, my heart is heavy. Yes, the author is trying to be positive about it by asking his readers to take care and encourage; but the fact of the actual reality is alarming to me. And when I actually reflect and search my heart with all honestly, this may be true to me.

Though I am not evil and unbelieving at all times, I do have evil thoughts passing through my mind and doubt about God. Though my heart is not completely hardened by deceitfulness of sins, I can be quite indifference at times, especially when I occasionally harbor some sins. Maybe, if you are honest with yourself, you are not much different from me, but I think you should be better. But the author points out that we are all the same and we need to ‘take care’ and encourage’ one another. We need each other, we need the community, and I need you just as you need me; to take care and to encourage.

My heart continues to be burdensome by these two verses. My spirit is stirred up to ask God to search and purify my heart. And I cannot wait till tomorrow; I have to do it today. The author makes it so clear and the Holy Spirit illuminates even clearer for me to realize that I have to seize the day. I have to do it today. I have to learn to ‘take care’ and ‘encourage’ today.

As a pastor, I have been hiding behind my books and laptop, and sometime the pulpit. I use my writings and preaching to take care and to encourage the members of the church; but today, the Holy Spirit stirred up in me to take care and encourage my members today, daily, day after day; in a personal way.

I can still write and preach, but God wants me to visit one another, eat with one another, walk with one another, and laugh and cry with one another. I have been hesitant to do so, but as my wife gives me the permission to own a motorbike, I know straight away that God wants me to move around, into the lives of others, to be with them: take care and encourage them.

Do you have someone or a small group of believer friends whom you are called to take care and encourage? Have you been taking care of them and encouraging them? Maybe your presence in a small group is an encouragement to the others. Maybe your SMS message to a brother or sister (or to me) is seen as a caring act. Take some time to scroll down the phone list in your mobile phone, give someone a call, a message or even a prayer; meet someone for lunch next week; buy someone a small gift; or take time to listen to someone. Don’t wait till tomorrow to do it; if you are reading this now, do it now, do it today.