Daddy blog

I started this blog when I was following the Life Journal Bible reading plan on YouVersion. (I've since completed that plan.) At that time, YouVersion didn't provide any way for people to respond to my notes, other than to "like" them. So this blog is here to remedy that problem. You may comment on my notes here in the comment section.
I also have a general blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Missing the whole point


S: 1 Corinthians 8

O: Most Western people don't bother much with this passage, because they are never offered food offered to idols to eat. However, it is very common for us Chinese Malaysian Christians who come from non-Christian families to be faced with this. The traditional Chinese New Year family meal is first offered to the ancestors, and you are expected as part of the family to participate in it.

Many Chinese Malaysians, when we first become Christians, are told that the Bible says that we should not eat food offered to idols. So we end up massively offending our families by refusing to eat the food at the family dinner, because it had first been offered to the ancestors. Many non-Christian family members have come to the conclusion that Christianity is anti-family as a result.

But let's look at what the passage really says. Read the entire chapter (or even, the entire letter of 1 Corinthians) to make sure I'm not taking these verses out of context.

"Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that no idol is anything in the world, and that there is no other God but one." (v4) "But food will not commend us to God. For neither, if we don’t eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better."

So what is the point of this passage? Verse 7 says, "However, that knowledge isn’t in all men. But some, with consciousness of the idol until now, eat as of a thing sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled."

And verses 10-13 say, "For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting in an idol’s temple, won’t his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? And through your knowledge, he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble."

So what was the point? That you don't eat the food? No! It's "don't cause others to stumble"!

A: So what must we do? We are to be discerning and think about our actions! We are to evaluate whether our actions will draw people to Christ or push them away from Christ. Will eating draw people to Christ, push them away from Christ, or be neutral? There is no blanket answer, so we must do the hard work of evaluating each situation and not just blindly follow some man-made rules.

We as the Malaysian church need to do a better job of teaching our new believers this principle instead of just giving them a list of do's and don'ts. Let's not needlessly offend our non-Christian friends and relatives.

P: Father, help us to be wise and think about our faith, and learn your principles, instead of just blindly following rules. I know that I myself fall short of this time and time again so I need Your help. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

May we be one


S: 1 Timothy 1:3-7 As I urged you when I was going into Macedonia, stay at Ephesus that you might command certain men not to teach a different doctrine, and not to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God’s stewardship, which is in faith— but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith; from which things some, having missed the mark, have turned aside to vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor about what they strongly affirm.

O: Over the years, like many people who are serious about studying the Bible and following Jesus, I have developed various opinions and views about different things which not all Christians agree on. For example, I personally think that it's quite possible for God to have created the various different lifeforms via evolution or over a long period of time; I strongly suspect that the Antichrist of Revelations was Nero and the Great Tribulation was the Neronic persecution; I think that it is right and correct to baptize infants; I have come to believe that Holy Communion/the Lord's Supper/the Eucharist is not purely symbolic but have some spiritual mystery happening behind the scenes; and think that the idea that things will get worse and worse until the Second Coming of Christ is probably erroneous.

However, I know many Christians who believe differently from me, and whose lives exhibit evidence of a living faith in Jesus. Many of these people are members of my same local church. I could spend endless hours arguing and debating with these people, to the detriment of serving Christ together.

I used to hold various views dogmatically and consider those who disagree with me as somehow "less" Christian. Ironically, most of those views I listed above are different from the ones I used to hold -- my earlier self may well have considered my present beliefs heretical.

I had a wonderful experience while studying for my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I was part of what was then known as the Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and that fellowship blew me away with the fact that there were Christians from doctrinal backgrounds that in the 17th century were actually fighting wars and killing each other -- we had Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Catholics, Orthodox, etc. all united in serving Christ together on campus.

After our fellowship meetings, we often went to a coffee shop and discussed/debated our different beliefs -- but we did not let it hinder our working together for Christ on campus.

A: We need to agree to disagree agreeably on all these secondary issues. Part of the difficulty is what one person considers a "secondary issue" might be considered a "primary issue" by others.

But Jesus prayed for us to be united, just as He and the Father are united (John 17:21) and to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13:34)

P: Father, give us wisdom to realize when our disagreements have become endless arguments. Give us Your guidance when to agree to disagree agreeably. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Great Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!

S: 2 Chronicles 17:3-62, 2 Chronicles 20, 1 Kings 16:30-33, 2 Chronicles 18, 2 Chronicles 19:2-3, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37, 2 Chronicles 21-23

O: Israel and Judah had split after Solomon, and the northern kingdom of Israel had had one bad king after another. There was war between Israel and Judah from the time of Jeroboam till the time of Zimri. Now, a new dynasty had taken over Israel under Omri during the reign of good king Asa of Judah.

After Asa died, his son Jehoshaphat became king of Judah. He was a good king, and followed Yahweh. Therefore God blessed him and Judah became prosperous.

Seeing that prosperity, Moab, Ammon and Edom formed an alliance and invaded Judah. Jehoshaphat was terrified, but called for fasting and prayer. So God spoke through Jahaziel: He would rescue them. So the worship singers lead the army of Judah going into battle.

God caused Ammon and Moab to attack Edom instead, and then Ammon and Moab fought each other! So in the end, all Jehoshaphat and his army needed to do was to gather the plunder! It took them 3 days to do that, there was so much of it.

Ahab succeeded his father Omri to the throne of Israel, and he was steeped in evil. Yet, inexplicably, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with him, having his son Jehoram marry Ahab's daughter Athaliah. Perhaps he thought it was worthwhile to do this in order to end the years of war between Israel and Judah since the split in Rehoboam & Jeroboam's time. But in doing so, he essentially was having his son marry a follower of Baal. This was in spite of Jehoshapat's good experience with Yahweh saving him, and in spite of knowing that his ancestor Solomon's marrying pagan princesses caused him to stop being faithful to Yahweh, which resulted in the divided kingdom.

Some time later, Ahab decided to attack Ramoth Gilead, and asked Jehoshaphat to help him. Jehoshaphat agreed, but wanted to consult a prophet of Yahweh about it, even though Ahab's prophets of Baal had already predicted victory. So finally Ahab called the prophet Micaiah, but warned Jehoshaphat that Micaiah never predicts anything good for him.

Indeed, Micaiah predicts that Ahab would be killed in this battle. Nonetheless, Ahab persists and Jehoshaphat foolishly follows him. Ahab took the precaution of disguising himself so that the enemy wouldn't know it's him, so during the battle, the enemy attacked Jehoshaphat instead, thinking that he was Ahab. Nonetheless, the Word of Yahweh by Micaiah came true as a stray arrow killed Ahab.

Later, another prophet of Yahweh, Jehu ben Hanani, admonished Jehoshaphat for helping the wicked, those who hate Yahweh. God is upset with Jehoshaphat for his partnership with such people, yet also recognized that Jehoshaphat was faithful to God and never worshiped other gods.

In spite of this, Jehoshaphat entered another partnership with the wicked, this time with Ahab's son and successor Ahaziah, the new king of Israel. Perhaps he thought it was OK as this time it was a business partnership and not a military one. They made ships to go to make money trading to Tarshish, but the prophet Eliezer ben Dodavahu prophesied that Yahweh would destroy it because of his partnership with the evil Ahaziah. So the ships were broken and the business venture failed.

The consequences of these illicit partnerships Jehoshaphat made with the house of Omri were far-reaching and nearly snuffed out the line of David in Judah! Here is what happened as a consequence after Jehoshaphat died:

Due to his marriage to Athaliah bat Ahab, the next king, Jehoram, became an evil Baal-worshipper and led Judah astray spiritually.

Ahaziah ben Ahab fell from though his window lattice and was gravely injured, and sent emissaries to Beelzebub to ask if he would recover. Yahweh sent Elijah to admonish him for consulting Beelzebub instead of Yahweh, and told him he would die.

Then his brother Joram became king of Israel, but by this time Yahweh had given up on the house of Omri and had the prophet Elisha anoint Jehu to replace the house of Omri in Israel.

While Joram was recuperating from battle injuries, his nephew Ahaziah ben Jehoram (son of his sister Athaliah), who is now king of Judah, came to visit his uncle, and Jehu fell upon them both and killed them, as well as other relatives from Judah who came later to visit, not realizing that a coup had occurred. Jehu then started a new dynasty in Israel.

Meanwhile Athaliah in Judah saw her chance and killed all the descendants of the House of David and grabbed power for herself! She then began a reign of terror, suppressing the worship of Yahweh in Judah and promoting Baal.

Fortunately, Ahaziah's sister Jehosheba managed to hide away baby Joash with the high priest Jehoida in the Temple. 6 years later, they managed a counter-coup and killed Athailah and restored the House of David to the throne of Judah.

A: Our choices have consequences. 2 Corinthians 6:14 warns, "Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?"

When we are seeking partners — whether in business or in marriage — we must be careful whom we choose.

The Bible doesn't make it black-and-white what it means by "yoking with unbelievers", but many Christians think that it means making a partnership. For example, the Bible has many examples of believers working for non-believers without condemnation, for example Daniel and Joseph both served pagan kings. But marrying non-believers seems to be almost completely negative (the only exception I can think of is the special case of Hosea and Gomer.)

P: Father, thank You for the example of Jehoshaphat, both good and bad. When we are making our choices, help us to remember and give us the wisdom to make godly choices. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jeroboam's Folly


S: 1 Kings 11:29-39, 12:26-30, 13:33-14:13

O: In spite of the wisdom God gave Solomon, he did not stay true to the Lord but worshipped other gods. So God decided to remove 10 tribes from his kingdom. So God sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam (11:29-39) and promised him, “It shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” (11:38)

So afterwards, the 10 northern tribes rebelled from Rehoboam son of Solomon, and Jeroboam became their king. When Rehoboam was about to muster the troops to reconquer Israel, God told the prophet Shemaiah to warn,  ‘Yahweh says, “You shall not go up or fight against your brothers, the children of Israel. Everyone return to his house; for this thing is from me.”’ Thus, Rehoboam had to leave Jeroboam alone and Jeroboam’s kingdom was established.

But then later, Jeroboam stopped trusting God. (12:26-34) Instead of trusting Yahweh to establish his kingdom securely, he worried about the people continuing to go to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh there. ‘So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look and behold your gods, Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’ (12:28)

As a result, God condemned Jeroboam and his family who all abandoned Yahweh. The only one who stayed true to Yahweh in Jeroboam’s family was his little son. So God allowed this son to die before disaster strikes Jeroboam’s family, “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him; for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward Yahweh, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.” (14:13)

A: So many children are named David these days, because David was a “man after God’s own heart”. This is in spite of David’s many sins — because he repented and turned back to God after he sinned.

But nobody is named Jeroboam. Instead, we read in later passages of the Bible, whenever a king is bad, he is compared to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Jeroboam could have been like David. God gave him the promise, if only he stayed true to Yahweh. But he didn’t, so now his name is mud.

We need to trust God, and repent when we sin, like David did. We must not allow human reasoning to draw us away from God, and to draw people we influence away from God.

P: Father, thank You that You are sent Jesus to pay for our sins. Thank You that You forgive us when we repent. May we not repeat Jeroboam's folly, and always repent and never abandon You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Imperfect heroes


S: 1 Samuel 25:32-33 David said to Abigail, “Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel, who sent you today to meet me! Blessed is your discretion, and blessed are you, who have kept me today from blood guiltiness, and from avenging myself with my own hand.

O: We look up to David as a great hero of the Bible, but we also know that he was an imperfect man. Usually, we think of the adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah when thinking about this, but he had numerous lesser flaws.

Today's passage tells about one of those. David had kept good relations with Nabal's men, never raiding them and treating them well, but Nabal foolishly rebuffed David's men and insulted David when they asked for provisions. So David was about to exact revenge (which would then entail also killing every man in Nabal's household, not just Nabal) but Abigail's wisdom and quick action forestalled that.

David acknowledged that in the above two verses -- that Yahweh had stopped him from blood guiltiness by sending Abigail.

A: There are ultimately no human heroes. Humans can be good or bad role models, and even the same human, like this example of David, can be a good example in some ways and a bad example in other ways.

So, we cannot idolize anyone. Worship God alone.

P: Father, thank You that, although all have sinned and fallen short of You glory, You have sent Your Son to save us. In Jesus' name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Transcendent yet approachable


S: Isaiah 55:6-9

6Seek Yahweh while he may be found.
Call on him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
Let him return to Yahweh, and he will have mercy on him;
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh.
9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

O: It is possible to teach chimpanzees, orangutans, and other higher apes to talk to us using sign language. It might be possible for us even to teach them simple arithmetic, perhaps — 1+1=2, 2+2=4, etc. But it would be impossible to teach them calculus and differential equations.

This is not because calculus and differential equations are illogical or false — it is because these apes lack the intellectual capacity to understand them. The fact that apes are not able to understand this doesn’t prevent their truth from working as human engineers use them to build bridges, aeroplanes, etc.

God is way beyond human intellect, far more than humans are above chimpanzees. Therefore it is not surprising that some of God’s thoughts and ways could be incomprehensible to us. Trinity, free will v.s. predestination, works & grace, etc. — all these seeming contradictions can be perplexing, but the fact that we have difficulty grasping them doesn’t mean they are false.

Yet, in spite of all this, God wants to have a relationship with us — “Seek Yahweh while he may be found. Call on him while he is near.” The passage before this in Isaiah 52:13-54:17 prophesy the coming of Jesus Christ who was pierced for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), who was the sacrifice upon whom Yahweh laid our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6). That makes it possible for us to be saved, and to have a relationship with Yahweh God eternally.

A: While there may be things that are puzzling to us about God, it could well be a case of “calculus to chimpanzees”, so we should not let that prevent us from drawing near to Him and to have an intimate relationship with Him.

P: Father, thank You that You love us and adopted us as Your children, in spite of being transcendent above us. Thank You for sending Your Messiah to save us. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Don’t cause others to stumble


S: 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 But food will not commend us to God. For neither, if we don’t eat, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better. But be careful that by no means does this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to the weak. For if a man sees you who have knowledge sitting in an idol’s temple, won’t his conscience, if he is weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrificed to idols? And through your knowledge, he who is weak perishes, the brother for whose sake Christ died. Thus, sinning against the brothers, and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore if food causes my brother to stumble, I will eat no meat forever more, that I don’t cause my brother to stumble.

1 Corinthians 10:27-33 But if one of those who don’t believe invites you to a meal, and you are inclined to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for the sake of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” Conscience, I say, not your own, but the other’s conscience. For why is my liberty judged by another conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced for that for which I give thanks? Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no occasion for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God; even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.

Mathew 18:4-7 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!

O: We have a tendency to make laws out of the principles God teaches us. Here, the principle is “don’t cause others to stumble” but many Malaysian Chinese Christians end up pushing family members further away from Christ by refusing to eat the family meal at the Chinese New Year reunion dinner because the food had been offered to the ancestors first. This sends the wrong message of “Now that I’m a Christian, I am no longer part of this family.”

Jesus, in the Matthew passage, points out that causing people to stumble is a great evil. Our role here on earth is to be ambassadors for Christ — to attract people to Christ, not to repel them by our rigidity.

A: We must therefore take the trouble to think through and evaluate each situation instead of using canned answers. Our situation may be different from anther person's situation. We cannot just always take the solution that someone else has used before.

P: Father, please give us wisdom when faced with difficult situations and not use canned answers, but be wise in applying Biblical principles to the situation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)