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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Standing around praising God

30/12/11 Revelations 15-18

S: Revelation 15:2-4 I saw before me what seemed to be a glass sea mixed with fire. And on it stood all the people who had been victorious over the beast and his statue and the number representing his name. They were all holding harps that God had given them. And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvellous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous deeds have been revealed.”

O: A Muslim friend who was trying to convert me once challenged me, "Your Christian heaven is so boring! All you do is stand around praising God, whereas in our heaven, we get to eat all the nice food we want, drink all the wine we like, sleep with all the houris we like."

Meaning no disrespect to my Muslim friends, but honestly, some of the best time I have ever experienced is indeed "standing around praising God". There is nothing like the experience of being in the awesome manifest presence of God! I cannot describe it. I never experienced it before I was filled with the Holy Spirit. It doesn't happen every time I go to church, but it has happened to me many times.

Some other non-Christian friends have said to me, "Your god is so conceited. Always wanting people to praise him."

It is so hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. It's not so much that He needs my praise, but that I need to praise Him! One analogy I can think of is "Have you ever been in love?" How can you explain how wonderful it is to be in love? Our relationship with God is like that. It's like being in love with God!

A: Let's keep coming together to worship Him! Experience His wonderful presence, then be His hands and feet to show His love to the world!

P: Father, I thank You for Your love for me! I want to keep abiding in You and living in Your love and being a channel of Your love to the world. In Jesus' name, amen!
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

How to know God's will for your life

26/12/11 Psalm 117; Psalm 119:81-176; 2 John; 3 John

S: Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

O: In many of my previous entries in this journal, for example Having Peace and The Holy Spirit Guides Us, I have pointed out that much of the time, guidance from God is not so mystical as many Christians make it out to be, but rather, a matter of study and meditation of the already revealed Word of God.

This passage puts it explicitly. God's Word is a lamp to guide our feet and a light to our path.

A: It is so very important to fill our minds with what God has already openly revealed to us. That is how our minds can be transformed and brought in line with the good that God wants for us. (Romans 12:1-2)

P: Father, so often we become lazy and neglect reading and meditating upon Your Word. We so much need to do so! Please help us. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Holy Spirit guides us

23/12/2011 John 15-18

S: John 16:12-15 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’”

O: Jesus spent 3 years teaching His disciples, but there was more yet to learn, and the Holy Spirit would reveal it to them.

After the death, resurrection, and ascension, the Holy Spirit inspired the disciples of Christ to write the letters and books that now make up the New Testament.

Even today, He guides us believers as we walk in the Spirit. Sometimes God gives special revelation in the form of a Word of Knowledge or Prophecy. More commonly, it is in more subtle ways as the Spirit brings to mind passages from scripture that we have read.

Our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ also believe that the Holy Spirit prevents ecumenical councils of the church from deciding in error. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, in addition, believe that when the Pope teaches "Ex Cathedra", the Holy Spirit also preserves him from error.

A: We need to abide in Christ (John 15:4) and follow the Holy Spirit. God has provided us with the Bible -- His Written Word -- so we need to study it and transform our minds to the way of Christ (Romans 12:1-2).

P: Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. May we abide in You and avail ourselves to that guidance. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Good Works in Response to Grace

16/12/2011 1 Peter 1-5

S: 1 Peter 1:9-11 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

O: We are already a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. This is why we are to do good -- not to earn our salvation, but out of response to God's love for us.

A: It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith, and not of works, so no one can boast. However, it makes sense that we who have been thus saved and chosen should desire to do good works.

P: Father, thank You so much for Your grace and the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus! I want to live for You and by Your teachings. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Balance between being steadfast in truth and argument

11/12/10 2 Timothy 1-4

S: 2 Timothy 2:14,23-26 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. ... Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favourable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

O: Paul warned young pastor Timothy against becoming caught up in arguments over minutia, but in the same letter, reaffirmed the importance of correct teaching.

A: There are two extremes that one can become susceptible to with regards to right doctrine:
  1. Some people become so wishy-washy about doctrine that they end up diluting the Christian faith until it becomes meaningless and "just be nice to other people".
  2. Some people are so convinced of their doctrine that they become divisive and start excluding all sorts of other Christians just because this or that detail is different
We must learn to hold the balance between the two. We need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and remember that a gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1) Easier said than done! ☺ Yet, it is so important, it's worth the effort to learn.

P: Father, grow in us the ability to keep this balance. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

It starts in the mind

11/5/11 Romans 13-16

S: Romans 13:10-14 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfils the requirements of God’s law. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armour of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

O: We cannot earn our salvation by works, because we, having already sinned, cannot make ourselves perfect. That's why Jesus had to die for us.

Nonetheless, now that we are saved, we cannot continue to live in sin. Living by faith, living in the Spirit, and loving God include eschewing sin.

A: Many times when I'm tempted, I think about ways to indulge my evil desires. Paul tells us not to even go there (verse 14). Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:17-48, Jesus points out that sin begins inside us before we even take any action.

So we must not even indulge in thinking about ways to indulge in sin. It's a slippery slope into the abyss.

P: Father, keep my mind pure. Renew my mind and make it confirmed to You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Great Discipleship Commission

28/11/11 Matthew 28; 1 Thessalonians 1-3

S: Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

O: This is passage is usually called "The Great Commission" -- Jesus commissions His disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations.

Among Evangelical Christians, we usually use this verse to emphasise evangelism.

Evangelism is definitely part of the Great Commission, but if we look at the the verses again, we can see that Jesus is actually emphasising discipleship. It is not enough for people to "pray to receive Christ" -- we need to teach people to become disciples of Christ -- to obey and follow Christ.

Many people come forward during Gospel rallies and pray to receive Christ, but not all of them will actually become disciples of Christ and live for Him after that.

So we must follow through with what Jesus said, to teach the new disciples to obey all His commands.

A: Each of us must daily read the Word of God and apply it to our lives, and we are to teach those who come after us the same.

P: Father, help me to be faithful to Your Great Commission! In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Having Peace"

27/11/11 Psalm 125; Matthew 26-27

S: Matthew 26:36-39 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

O: People often say that if you're in the will of God, you will "have peace". Jesus was definitely very much well in the Will of God when this incident happened. This was the Purpose for which He was sent. Yet, Jesus definitely did not "have peace".

"Having peace" is not a guarantee that you're in the will of God. "Not having peace" doesn't mean you're out of the will of God. The Word of God is the only sure guide to whether you're in the will of God or not.

A: We have to apply the brain that God has given us to learning the Word of God and applying it. Feelings of "peace" are no substitute.

P: Father, we trust Your Word. Help us to learn Your Word well so that we will know how to distinguish between feelings and Your Will. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Illustration About The Workers Paid The Same

25/11/11 Matthew 20-22

S: Matthew 20:1-16

O: This illustration, I think, shows the balance between grace and works. Each worker did have to respond to the vineyard owner's call to work. Each worker did have to work. However, the owner's own generosity meant that even those who worked less got the full wage.

In a similar way, those of us who faithfully follow Christ from childhood as well as those of us who come to Christ late in life, we all get rewarded with the full wage -- eternal life.

Now, it is also true that if we come to Christ early, we do reap the benefits in this life of having lived according to God's ways longer. But that's not the point Jesus was making in this illustration -- he was talking, I think, about salvation.

A: Whatever point we are at in our life, at whatever age, "now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation!" (2 Corinthians 6:2)

P: Father, thank You for such a great salvation! In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain

21/11/11 Matthew 8-10

S: Matthew 10:28-31 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

O: Because we live in this world, we tend to think like the people in this world. We get worried about many things, and we get afraid of death.

However, Jesus points out to us that they can kill our body, but only God has power over our eternal soul. So, even at a purely rational level, it makes sense to follow God in the face of physical danger.

A: I have said for a long time now, dying for Christ is no problem... it's living for Christ that is harder. Of course, now that I'm a married man with dependants, there is that consideration. But ultimately, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

P: Father, remind me of this truth, especially when I struggle with temptation. In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Momentary light affliction

16/11/11 2 Corinthians 3-6

S: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defence. We serve God whether people honour us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.

O: Jesus told us “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) When we seek to follow Christ in a world which is opposed to Him, it is not surprising that we will encounter opposition and problems.

A: We can be steadfast in Christ in spite of tribulation, because "This world is not my home, I'm just a-passin' thru... my treasures are laid up away beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven's open door, and I can't feel at home in this world anymore!"

P: Father, give me courage to live according to Your Truth. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gifts v.s. Fruit

13/11/11 Job 39-40; 1 Corinthians 13-14

S: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1,4-7,13 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ... Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. ... Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

O: It's good and useful to have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but possessing great gifts from God is quite different from having the fruit of the Holy Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Sometimes we find people who have been blessed with flashy supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit like prophecy, healing, etc. becoming Christian superstars. Some of these people also manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit to some lesser or greater extent, but we must not confuse the two. Back in the first few centuries of church history, there were already splits among the believers because of this.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit can come instantaneously, but fruit takes time to grow. This passage shows how the fruit is much more important than the gifts. The gifts are only for the purpose of helping the church here on earth, but the fruit will last for eternity.

A: We need to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus, to daily abide in Him. The fruit will grow as we cultivate it.

P: Father, I commit to abiding in You. I acknowledge that I do it imperfectly, and thank You for Your forgiveness when I fail. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tongue-tied Cookie-cutter Charismata

12/11/11 Job 37-38; 1 Corinthians 12

S: 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 Are we all apostles? Are we all prophets? Are we all teachers? Do we all have the power to do miracles? Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not!

O: God gives different people different gifts. The whole chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 points out that we are all different members of the Body of Christ, and we don't all have the same gifts, and that's all part of God's design.

I was led to Christ by non-Charismatic Evangelical Christians, and later, I fell under the influence of anti-Charismatic dispensationalist Christians who believed that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer possible today. They mistakenly applied 1 Corinthians 13:9 "But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless" to mean that the "perfection" that comes is the Bible and so once the Bible is complete, the supernatural gifts would cease. (They never explained why the other gifts don't cease, in spite of all those gifts being all listed together.) (Note, however, that these dispensationalist Christians were very committed to following Jesus as best they understood, and while I now disagree with their theological stand with regards to miracles, I affirm that they are dear and sincere brothers and sisters in Christ.)

But over the years of serving Christ in mixed denominational environments, I came to realise that one could not dismiss all the supernatural as "delusions of the Charismatics". Miracles can, and do, still occur (though perhaps more rarely than some Charismatics would like you to think) and God still does give supernatural gifts.

However, there is a very strong meme among Charismatics that "everyone who is really a Christian filled with the Holy Spirit must speak in tongues." This meme is strongly contradicted by 1 Corinthians 12, and in particular, this verse.

Some people try to explain this away by referencing Romans 8:26, "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." However, this is referring to groanings which cannot be expressed, not tongues. Some claim that there's private tongues and public tongues, but I don't see any evidence that these are different gifts -- only the same gift used in different contexts.

I observe that of all the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, tongues are the easiest to fake. All you have to do is to babble some nonsense. With the immense pressure on people to speak in tongues that I have found in some Charismatic circles, I would not be surprised if the majority of people speaking in tongues could actually be just babbling nonsense. I have personally been asked by one church elder in a church I used to attend, "Repeat after me: amanadmaborblaballdla..."! 1

On the other hand, one should not go to the other extreme and claim that all speaking in tongues is mere babbling. The Bible is clear that there are genuine tongues, and there have been (rare) instances in modern times where, like in Acts 2, people have heard the Gospel preached in a language they understand which the speaker did not know.

Human beings are not like cookies all cut out with the same cookie-cutter. God gifts each person individually according to His wisdom.

A: Let us encourage each other to exercise the gifts God has given each of us for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, and not try to force everyone to have the same gift.

P: Father, even as I vent my peeve about extremist Charismatics who try to force these things on other people, help me to see my own areas of error and become more conformed to Your Son. In Jesus' name, amen.
1. This incident (and other subsequent ones) scarred me so much that, even though, as it turned out, God did choose to give me the gift of tongues, I did not speak in tongues until many years later. When I finally did speak in tongues, it was in the middle of a wonderful time of worship and communion with God, where there was absolutely no pressure from anyone for me to pretend to speak in tongues.

Another related type of thing is "anointed" people who push you down to be "slain in the Spirit". If the Holy Spirit truly "slays" you, then there is no need for the preacher to push you!
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)


11/11/11 Psalm 122; 1 Corinthians 9-11

S: 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

O: There is an appropriate time and place to stand up for one's rights. However, we should not be motivated primarily by protecting our rights, but rather, by what is best for the furtherance of the Gospel.

As believers, we certainly have the right to eat pork or whatever, but Paul was willing to give up that right when he was with Jews so as to not put unnecessary stumbling blocks before them to the Gospel.

A: As we meet people who are different from us, we need to present the Gospel in a culturally-sensitive manner.

P: Father, help us to discern what is really the Gospel and what is just our own cultural baggage, and when we need to give up our rights in order to help others see Jesus. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Balance between knowledge and love

10/11/11 Job 35-36; 1 Corinthians 7-8

S: 1 Corinthians 8
Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognises. So, what about eating meat that has been offered to idols? Well, we all know that an idol is not really a god and that there is only one God. There may be so-called gods both in heaven and on earth, and some people actually worship many gods and many lords. But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life. However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real, so when they eat food that has been offered to idols, they think of it as the worship of real gods, and their weak consciences are violated. It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do. But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble. For if others see you—with your “superior knowledge”—eating in the temple of an idol, won’t they be encouraged to violate their conscience by eating food that has been offered to an idol? So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. And when you sin against other believers by encouraging them to do something they believe is wrong, you are sinning against Christ. So if what I eat causes another believer to sin, I will never eat meat again as long as I live—for I don’t want to cause another believer to stumble.

O: There is nothing intrinsically wrong with eating food offered to idols. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with many things, but depending on the context, some things we can do in our freedom in Christ can stumble others.

You often find churches making rules like "You must not eat food offered to idols" or "You must not go dancing" or "You must not drink alcohol" or "Women must not wear spaghetti straps." These rules have in their origin good intentions -- not to cause someone to stumble.

But contexts change, and if you rigidly follow those rules instead of understanding the spirit behind it, you end up with legalism.

On the other hand, if we abuse our freedom in Christ to do all sorts of things, and cause someone else to stumble as a result, that is also contrary to the way of Christ.

So, a balance must be held. The principle of being sensitive to avoid causing people to stumble v.s. legalism means that we have to do a lot more thinking in context and learn to apply God's principles to each situation, rather than having just memorising and regurgitating rules.

It means that we need to go higher in our spiritual education -- not just to remember what God said, but to also learn to understand, apply, analyse, and evaluate, to create Biblical solutions that fit the context that you find yourself in.

I have personally seen much harm come from people just following the rules laid down by their church legalistically instead of doing that. One example is a family which rejected Christ because one daughter took a rule, "You must not hold joss sticks" and blindly applied it to her father's Taoist funeral. Everyone thought she was being horribly unfilial, and came to the conclusion, "Christianity teaches children not to honour their parents," in direct contradiction to the Biblical commandment! So, by legalistically applying the rule her church came up with, it caused the opposite effect of the spirit behind that rule -- "Do not cause someone to stumble." It stumbled the entire family and to this day, the majority of that family continues to reject Christ.

A: The Bible calls us to balance between knowledge and love. Our knowledge of our freedom in Christ must be balanced by our position as ambassadors for Christ. When an ambassador goes to represent his country in another country, he must be cognisant of the cultural context of that country, while holding on to the principles of his country that he represents.

In a similar way, we are to be sensitive not to put additional stumbling blocks in front of people beyond the offense of the Gospel. We have to do the hard work of thinking about how God's principles apply to our current context, and not just be blindly legalistic.

P: Father, give us wisdom how to do that. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grace & Works redux

9/11/11 Job 34; 1 Corinthians 4-6
Note: I still have the Coxsackievirus infection, but am well enough to resume these Life Journal posts. For updates on my situation, see this Facebook wall picture's comments.
1 Corinthians 6:12,18-20 You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. ... Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realise that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body.

O: About 2 weeks ago, I tackled this problem from the other side -- see the 29th October entry, Grace & Works.

Today's passage seems to make it clear that "let go and let God" aside, we are still supposed to run from sin.

Back during that earlier discussion on Facebook, someone said,
There's a way not to sin. I almost take it that Paul spent so much time telling us that the way not to sin is NOT through law but by learning your identity and letting Him work in you to will and do, that by the time he's writing to the new churches he assumes we'll remember that the WAY not to sin as he encourages us, is through grace.

I like to put these verses together to answer this question.
[insert any verse encouraging not to sin]
"But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" Galatians 4:9

And then I hear Paul saying, "yes I encouraged you not to sin, but what is this? Why are you going about that by law? Don't you remember all I said about the law being the power of sin, and grace teaching us not to? I did - and do - encourage you not to sin, but please remember *the way* not to sin, which I have told you."
However, in context, Galatians 4:9 seems to be talking about trying to earn your salvation by following the Mosaic Law: But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. (Galatians 4:8-10)

So, what do I do about sins I continue to struggle with? "Let go and let God" doesn't seem to be a workable option at all. We are continually exhorted not to sin, and this passage seems to make it clear that we are indeed active participants in not sinning -- to "run" from it.

At the same time, what someone pointed out in the Facebook discussion still seems true:
But if all your "trying" to do these things over the years hasn't brought about the changes that you desire, then perhaps there is a different way to see things, and I think the beginning part of this conversation presented some thoughts on how this looks.
This Facebook discussion is on the "fan" website of Andrew Farley, the Christian author (who happens also to be an old friend of mine from when I was working on my Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign) and he said,
I would consider doing the exact opposite of what you've been doing-- totally relax, focus on the love of God for you even in the midst of doing it, reflect on your total forgiveness and the total acceptance you have. And just relax about it completely, and even thank Jesus for the struggle.

Just an idea- do the polar opposite of trying everything to stop. We can just let it totally be God's problem to solve, not ours. And in the meantime, just keep soaking in His love. Maybe sometimes what we believe and how we think in the midst of a struggle can have a greater impact than anything we try to "do" about it.
I think this is related to what Jesus said in John 15:4-8
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
However, Jesus goes on to say in verses 9-17:
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.
So, abiding is not separable from obedience. But perhaps the key is that there is a relationship in the obedience. But I have always known that, but am still faced with the struggle.

A: It is of utmost importance to maintain and grow my relationship with Christ, to abide in Him. There are many facets of this -- meditating on the Word, worship, service. But it is not a pure "obligation" and "fear of punishment" thing -- it is a living relationship. Meanwhile, when I sin, I still repent and get back up.

P: Father, please lead and guide me as I grow in my relationship with You. In Jesus name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


No posts these few days as my daughter and I have a Coxsackievirus infection. For updates on my situation, see this Facebook wall picture's comments.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Like the angels in heaven

2/11/11 Job 23-24; Mark 11-12

S: Mark 12:25 For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

O: There is a resurrection, but marriage as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman ends at death.

A friend of mine was upset about this fact, because of the thought that she would be separated from her husband in eternity. But I think the opposite is true -- in heaven, we will have full communion with God and with the saints. The intimacy that we can only have with one person here on earth will be extended to all in heaven. So instead of having less relationship in heaven than we have here on earth, I suspect the truth is that we'll actually have more.

Another thought this brings up is the American/European myth that people become angels when they die. This is not what the Bible teaches -- the Bible clearly shows angels as separate creations of God. I suspect this myth may have gotten its origin in this verse -- but it says we will be like the angels in heaven, not that we will be angels in heaven.

A: Heaven will be better than earth! So we can trust God and follow Him while we are here, with our eternal reward to come. In this world we will have tribulation, but take courage! Jesus has overcome the world! (John 16:33)

P: Thank You, Father, for the relationship we have with You -- that you have adopted us as Your children. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


1/11/11 Psalm 121; Mark 9-10

S: Mark 10:6-9 “But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

O: In the Old Testament, God permitted the Jews to divorce, but Jesus explains that this was only as a concession to their hard hearts. Divorce is never ideal.

The traditional Christian wedding vows say, "to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part." This is a commitment. This kind of commitment is what is often lacking in marriages today, let alone "live together" situations.

Marriage is hard, but so is everything that is worthwhile. No pain, no gain. You have to work on it.

I am a firm believer in continuing to date your spouse after marriage. Too many couples settle in to the daily routine of life and lose that connection.

Another relevant passage is Ephesians 5:33: the husband must love his wife and the wife must respect her husband. While men and women both need love and respect, men need respect more and women need love more. Separate research by Emerson Eggerichs and Shaunti Feldhan affirm this.

A: Husbands and wives must be committed to each other. Never consider divorce an option. As long as you hold it out to be an option, you will be tempted to take the "easy way out". Research shows that couples in trouble who "tough it out" are on average better off later than those who "throw in the towel" and get divorced. In a "study by the Institute for American Values chaired by sociologist Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, researchers asked, “Does divorce make people happy?” They found that those who ended their troubled marriage in divorce weren’t any happier than those who remained married. In fact, two-thirds of those who stayed married reported happy marriages five years later." [reference]

My wife and I have a good marriage, but that is partly due to the fact that we work on it. We have regular date nights. I listen to programmes like Focus on the Family, Family Talk, and Marriage & Family Life and Juliane reads books that help build up our marriage. (As you might guess, I'm more of an auditory learner while she's more of a visual learner.☺) We endeavour not to let the sun go down on our wrath. (Ephesians 4:26)

Yes, we still have our arguments and "not so good days". But we don't let them last. We seek and give forgiveness. We assume the best of each other.

P: Thank You, Father, for my wonderful wife. At the same time, "If you think you are strong, be careful lest you fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12) So I continue to ask for Your guidance and leading in our marriage. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, October 31, 2011

What comes out

30/10/11 Job 21; Mark 5-6
31/10/11 Job 22; Mark 7-8

S: Mark 7:14-23 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.” Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used. “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

O: The Pharisees were very concerned about ceremonial cleanliness -- eating only kosher (halal) food, and a lot of other rituals. Just a little before this, they had complained about Jesus and His disciples not doing the ceremonial washing (ablutions/wudud) before eating, and Jesus had given an example where they used their tradition/interpretation to go against the spirit of the Law.

God is concerned about our heart far more than our adherence to religious rituals. Religious rituals are there to help us focus on God, or to remind us of the truths of God, but when they become a distraction and excuse to cover up a sinful heart, they are no longer serving that good purpose.

The rules of kosher helped give Jews a distinct identity from the pagan nations around them (and also were generally healthier) but when they became the focus apart from goodness and godliness, they are no longer helpful.

A: Our sinful hearts need the cleansing power and forgiveness of Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross. We must repent of our sins, even those sins in our hearts, and receive His forgiveness.

P: Father, thank You that You have provided salvation through Jesus' sacrifice for us. Conform us more and more into the image of Your Son. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grace & Works

29/10/11 Job 20; Mark 3, 4

S: Mark 4:34-35 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

O: Some people are bothered by this passage as it appears as if Jesus is being rude to his mother and siblings. But I don't think so. Jesus was merely taking the opportunity of his relatives coming to visit him to teach about the family of God. Everyone who does God's will is in the family of God.

He probably then went to greet his relatives after making this spiritual point. If I remember right, the Jesus Film portrays it this way -- he got up to go see them right after saying this.

A: I have been having a discussion online with a bunch of people who emphasise grace lately. They were making the point that we spend too much time obsessing over sin, instead of focussing on Jesus. There is some truth to that. But we also cannot go too far -- in this passage and many others in the Bible, God has made it clear that obeying Him is a very important part of the believer's life.

While we recognise that our salvation is by grace through faith and not of works, it is also indisputable that works is evidence that someone is in the family of God. A life characterised by sin is evidence of not being truly saved by grace through faith.

The part that I haven't quite figure out is, what about habitual sin that I continue to struggle with? Some of those Christians in the discussion online that I referenced above said, essentially, that my struggle to stop that sin proves that I don't believe in grace and am trying to get out of sin by the flesh. "Let go and let God" is one way I've heard it put. But what does that mean in real practical day to day living? Some of the discussion has verged close to basically saying to go ahead and sin and just trust that Jesus will eventually solve it. But scripture is clear in instructing us not to sin. So this is still an unsolved issue for me.

P: Father, I am committed to follow You. I know I can confess my sins and receive your forgiveness, and I do so when I do sin. Bring me into Your perfection, even as I am muddling along here on earth. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Respectable" people?

28/10/11 Job 19; Mark 1-2

S: Mark 2:17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

O: The religious leaders of Jesus' time and other "respectable" people looked askance at his hanging out with disreputable people. However, Jesus pointed out that these people are indeed those who need Him most.

A: We who are serious about following Christ's teachings are often "respectable" people, and even more so we middle-classed Malaysian Christians. However, Jesus calls us to be doctors to sin-sick, disreputable people as well. And even decent people who are "lower classed", which we can tend to look down upon even though they might not be disreputable.

Father, help me to look at all people the way You do, and to treat all with respect. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Be ready out of season

27/10/11 Job 18; Psalm 114; Acts 27-28

S: Acts 28:17-23 Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders. He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.” They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.” So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening. Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe.

O: Paul had just survived a harrowing voyage and shipwreck (see this map) and now finally arrived safely in Rome.

Even though he was under arrest and the meeting with the Jewish leaders of Rome was to state his legal case and defence, Paul still took the opportunity to share the Gospel, so some were saved as a result.

A: We need to be ready "in season and out of season" to share the Gospel. (2 Timothy 4:2) I must admit I'm not always ready. Yesterday, I too my children to Cyberjaya Lake Park and a friend had brought her daughter and also brought her friend from China there. To my surprise, my friend told me to share the Gospel with her friend from China! So I had to very quickly gear up from "daddy bringing kids to the park" mode to "share the Gospel" mode! The friend from China was very open and I managed to go through a basic Gospel presentation as well as my personal testimony before it started raining and the children came into the gazebo. (The young lady from China rode home with my friend so hopefully she could finish the job and lead her to Christ.)

P: Father, thank You for the opportunity yesterday to share the hope which is in me. (1 Peter 3 :15) May I be always alert to Your divine appointments. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

God is Greater than our Goofs

24/10/11 Job 15; Acts 19-20
25/10/11 Job 16; Acts 21-23
26/10/11 Job 17; Acts 24-26

S: Acts 20:22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit (the translator noted: or "my spirit" or "an inner compulsion" -- the original Greek just says "the spirit" which can be interpreted all 3 ways) to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.

Acts 21:4 We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:10-11 Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’”

Acts 21:21-24 (James, the brother of Jesus and the other leaders of the church in Jerusalem, advised Paul) “But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come. Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumours are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws.”

Acts 21:26-29 So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them. The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him, yelling, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws. He speaks against the Temple—and even defiles this holy place by bringing in Gentiles.” (For earlier that day they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus,t and they assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple.)

Acts 25:25 (Governor Festus said:) But in my opinion he has done nothing deserving death. However, since he appealed his case to the emperor, I have decided to send him to Rome.

Acts 26:31-32 As they went out, they talked it over and agreed, “This man hasn’t done anything to deserve death or imprisonment.” And Agrippa said to Festus, “He could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.”

O: Many Christians interpret Acts 20:22 to mean that the Holy Spirit had compelled Paul to go to Jerusalem, but as the translator's note points out, the same Greek words could be interpreted as "my spirit" or "inner compulsion". In fact, what is clear is that the Holy Spirit warned Paul that he would be jailed if he went to Jerusalem.

Then in city after city, God sent prophets to warn Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul, strong-willed as ever, ignored the Holy Spirit's warnings and went anyway.

James, the brother of Jesus, who by this time had become the Bishop of Jerusalem, tried to "rescue" Paul by suggesting a way to reassure the Jewish Christians of Paul's continued commitment to the Mosaic law, but the whole thing backfired with the Asian Jews saw Paul in the Temple and assumed that he had brought Trophimus in with him, so Paul was indeed arrested and jailed.

Paul languished in jail for 2 years because Governor Felix, who was familiar with both Judaism and Christianity, wanted a bribe and so didn't let Paul go free in spite of knowing that there was no case against him.

Then when Felix was replaced with Festus, Paul apparently goofed again by appealing to Rome, so now he couldn't be set free but instead had to be sent to Rome.

However, if we read the rest of Acts, and the epistles of Paul sent from prison, we can see that in spite of Paul's many goofs (and James' well-meaning advice which backfired), God did not abandon him. In fact, God use Paul to bring many to Christ, both on the journey to Rome as well as while he was in house arrest in Rome.

A: Good Christian can make mistakes. However, as we continue to be faithful to Christ, God can still use our mistakes to further His Kingdom.

So do not despair just because you have goofed up. God is still with you, and you can still be used mightily by God. Even someone so filled with the Holy Spirit like Paul goofed up numerous times. And God still used him. And God can still use you.

P: Father, thank You that You are still in control in spite of all our goofs! In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be my vindicator, Lord

23/10/11 Job 13-14; Acts 17-18

S: Job 13:15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.

O: Job is saying this to his friends who had accused him. They said that the reason he was in trouble now was because he must have sinned against God in some way. Job maintains his innocence. On the one hand, he is still trusting in God. On the other hand, he's wanting to justify himself before his friends' accusations, which he feels are unjustified. This is Job's opinion, not Gospel truth.

A: I don't know if this is really a justification to be defensive, as much as it is pointing out that to be defensive, especially when you feel unjustly accused, is normal. I certainly struggle with this myself. I can also identify with trusting God even though it costs my life, though. (Ok, at least, in theory, since I'm still alive :-)

P: Father, teach me to trust in You completely and to rely on you to be my vindicator even though I naturally want to defend myself.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

God uses us even when we make mistakes

22/10/11 Job 11-12; Acts 15-16

S: Acts 15:36-39 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus.

O: God is into giving us second chances, and Joseph, whose nickname Barnabas means "The Son of Encouragement" knew that, and so was willing to give John Mark a second chance although he had chickened out early on during their first missionary journey.

Paul, on the other hand, was a lot less forgiving. Paul would later learn the error of his judgement and in fact see him as a person who could help him in ministry (2 Timothy 4:11), and of course, John Mark goes on to write down the Gospel according to Mark as taught to him by Simon Peter.

In spite of Paul's error of judgement here, God still uses him mightily in his second missionary journey.

A: Even when we make mistakes, God can still use us, especially if we are committed to him and remain teachable.

P: Father, thank You for giving us second chances! In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Whether with or without miracles

21/10/11 Job 9-10; Acts 13-14

S: Acts 13:6-12 Afterward they travelled from town to town across the entire island until finally they reached Paphos, where they met a Jewish sorcerer, a false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He had attached himself to the governor, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul to visit him, for he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer (as his name means in Greek), interfered and urged the governor to pay no attention to what Barnabas and Saul said. He was trying to keep the governor from believing. Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye.10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

O: Wouldn't it be cool if every time we are faced with opposition to the Gospel, God strikes our opponents blind like that? ☺

However, as we can see in the very next town, God doesn't do that every time, even for Paul. God sometimes delivers us in a miraculous way. At other times, He allows the opposition to proceed: Acts 13:50 Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. And in the town after that: Acts 14:5-6 Then a mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. When the apostles learned of it, they fled to the region of Lycaonia—to the towns of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area. And in the next town, it got even worse: Acts 14:19-20 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Note to my Jewish friends: please don't bristle at the fact that in each of these cases, the "bad guys" are Jews. Note that the "good guys" (Paul & Barnabas) are also Jews.

By the way, here are some interesting thoughts regarding this incident. Not sure how accurate it is, but it seems plausible.

A: We have to persevere in showing the love of Christ to the world, even if we face opposition. Sometimes, God may perform a miracle, but we cannot count on that. No matter what, we cannot stop proclaiming the Truth about Jesus Christ. We can and should do so in as winsome and tactful a manner as possible, but we must not give in to intimidation, threats, and persecution.

S: Father, may I be faithful to Your Message no matter what. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Judge not, but rather, comfort

20/10/11 Job 6-8; Acts 12

S: Job 8:1-7 Then Bildad the Shuhite replied to Job: “How long will you go on like this? You sound like a blustering wind. Does God twist justice? Does the Almighty twist what is right? Your children must have sinned against him, so their punishment was well deserved. But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise up and restore your happy home. And though you started with little, you will end with much.”

O: Isn't what Bildad said in verses 1-3 true? Indeed. So how did he go wrong?

The problem is that we don't see the big picture like God does. Only He can see the hearts of men and what's going on. Sometimes it is indeed the case that disaster comes because of a person's sin. But other times it may be for some hidden purpose we are not privy to. So just because someone is in trouble, we cannot conclude that the person has sinned.

A: We need to comfort the hurting rather than judge them.

I personally struggle with this, especially in relation to the opposite problem of becoming an enabler. So I need God's wisdom to see which situation it is.

P: Father, give us the wisdom and compassion to comfort the hurting. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Prosperity not guaranteed

19/10/11 Job 5; Psalm 108; Acts 10-11

S: Job 5:8-9,17-18 (Eliphaz said to Job) “If I were you, I would go to God and present my case to him. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles. ... But consider the joy of those corrected by God! Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin. For though he wounds, he also bandages. He strikes, but his hands also heal.”

O: What I find striking about the whole speech by Eliphaz is that he actually says a lot of true things -- things in line with what you might read in prescriptive parts of scripture. Yet, Eliphaz is dead wrong in his response to Job!

The problem is that Eliphaz assumes that since Job was experiencing trouble, it must be because he has sinned and God is punishing him. One of the points of the book of Job is that this is not necessarily the case. A person could be experiencing trials and tribulations for other reasons. Sometimes trials and tribulations are part of God's plan for a godly person's life, for some transcendental aim that is not readily apparent in the here and now.

Jesus also affirmed this when he healed the man born blind in John 9. As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”

A: While it is sometimes true that God sends tribulation to chastise us for sin, prosperity in this life is not guaranteed for the godly. Let us not be quick to judge. Let's not fall into the error of the prosperity gospel.

P: Father, we do thank You that You do look out for us, but we also acknowledge that sometimes it is Your will to take us through trials and tribulations for a higher purpose. Help us to stay faithful when that happens. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


18/10/11 Job 3-4; Acts 8-9

S: Acts 8:18-23 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given when the apostles laid their hands on people, he offered them money to buy this power. “Let me have this power, too,” he exclaimed, “so that when I lay my hands on people, they will receive the Holy Spirit!” But Peter replied, “May your money be destroyed with you for thinking God’s gift can be bought! You can have no part in this, for your heart is not right with God. Repent of your wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive your evil thoughts, for I can see that you are full of bitter jealousy and are held captive by sin.”

O: While I was working on my Ph.D., I met several Catholics in the Graduate InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (GradIV) who helped overcome my prejudices against Catholics. Getting to know these people, I realised that they were totally committed to following Jesus Christ, so how could I claim that they were not real Christians?

One of these Catholic friends told me that the Catholic Church calls what Simon Magus did "simony" -- attempting to use money to purchase the things of God. He also told me that indeed, many people in positions of authority in the Catholic Church during Martin Luther's time, including the pope himself, were indeed practising simony to an extreme level with regards to indulgences -- which led to some of the grievances that led to Martin Luther's rebellion against the Catholic church. (A good Catholic admitting that the pope during Luther's time committed a great sin? Sure: the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility doesn't mean that popes can't sin -- it only means that when the pope teaches in an official capacity, he cannot teach erroneous doctrine.)

But lest non-Catholics get too smug, there is an insidious heresy creeping through Protestants, Evangelicals and Charismatics today -- the Prosperity Gospel. "Give to the church and God will bless you!" Doesn't that sound like the simony of indulgences as well?

A: Let us serve God out of a pure heart! Let us give generously out of love for God and people, rather than seeking our own material gain. We cannot bribe God!

P: Father, keep us from the sin of simony and give us a generous heart. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Comforting the grieving

17/10/11 Job 1-2; Acts 6-7

S: Job 2:11-13 When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him. Their names were Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. When they saw Job from a distance, they scarcely recognized him. Wailing loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.

O: We often think of Job's friends in a negative light because of what they did subsequent to this demonstration of love by sitting shiva. What they did here was the right thing to do -- it was only after this that they made their mistake.

A: When someone is bereaved, we often don't know what to say or do. We sometimes make things worse by mouthing platitudes -- he's in a better place, God loved her so much He wanted her in heaven, etc.

We need to learn to sit and mourn together with them. Offer them practical help like helping them do the daily tasks that they might not be up to doing due to their grief.

P: Father, please give us Your wisdom to be true comfort when a friend is grieving. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, October 17, 2011


16/10/11 Malachi 3-4; Psalm 148; Acts 5

S: Acts 5:1-5 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified.

O: Barnabas had received much praise because he sold a piece of land he owned and gave all the money to the church for the welfare of others.

Ananias and Saphira wanted to receive the same kind of praise, but were not willing to sacrifice all the money they made. So they lied about it. Peter made it clear that the issue wasn't the money, it was the lying and hypocrisy.

A: Elsewhere, Jesus taught us that we are not to boast about our charitable giving. It's a good thing this teaching is there, because when i do a good deed, it is so tempting to boast about it.

Let us do our good deeds out of a pure motive, and not hypocritically to get praised!

P: Father, help me to resist the temptation to boast and to do my good deeds out of a pure motive. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Missionary Dating: A Dangerous Proposal

15/10/11 Nehemiah 13; Malachi 1-2; Acts 4

S: Nehemiah 13:25-27 So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair. I made them swear in the name of God that they would not let their children intermarry with the pagan people of the land. “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives. How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?”

O: At first glance, especially earlier in Nehemiah, it seems as if the prohibition on foreign wives was racism. However, this passage makes it clear that it's actually spiritual concern that is behind the prohibition on foreign wives.

There would not have been any problems with the foreign wives if the non-Jewish women were genuine converts and worshipped the LORD. Nehemiah pointed out that even someone as wise and great as Solomon was led astray from the faith by his unbeliever wives.

Time and time again, I have seen Christians make this mistake, allowing themselves to fall in love with and marry a non-believer. They often excuse this by claiming it to be "missionary dating" -- that the non-believer would come to receive Christ by their influence. However, time and time again, instead of the unbelieving spouse being led to Christ, the believer's faith becomes cold as a result instead.

Even in cases where the believer stays faithful, they cannot share the most important thing in their lives with the person they have become one with. Marriage is hard work as it is, and the different ultimate aim in their lives creates an added tension in the marriage.

Add to that the heartache of knowing that the person you love the most in this world will not be spending eternity with you.

A: It is far easier to not allow yourself to fall in love with a non-believer in the first place, than to have to deal with it after you have fallen in love. For this reason, the two times when I found mutual attraction with a non-believer, I made sure to stop it before things got too far.

If you are already married to an unbeliever, however, scripture says not to seek a divorce -- but if the non-believer wants out, then the believer is not wrong to let them go. However, the best outcome in such a situation is if the unbelieving spouse comes to know Christ and the family can be united in Christ (1 Corinthians 7:12-17).

God isn't making these rules to thwart us from finding marital bliss -- on the contrary, He is wanting to give us the best chance for it!

P: Father, may we follow Your leading. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Always watered

14/10/11 Nehemiah 11-12; Psalm 1; Acts 3

S: Psalm 1:1-3 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do

O: In an arid land, trees not having a steady water source will easily wither during the dry season from lack of water. Not so a tree planted by the riverbank -- for the roots will always be fed by the water from the river seeping through the ground nearby.

A: In the same manner, if we live by the Word of God, our spirits will be fed by the Living Water, and even when trials and tribulations come, we'll stand firm and steadfast.

P: Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit. Keep me in Your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

God's Commune

13/10/11 Nehemiah 9-10; Acts 2

S: Acts 2:42-47 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Suppert), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

O: The first congregation of Christians lived as a commune. Later in Acts, we see how this system broke down as the community got too large.

A: The principle remains, however, that we should care for one another and share with one another like a family. "Love one another as I have loved you," Jesus told us.

While it's impractical as the body of Christ got bigger to live in a commune like this, we should still be the people known by our love.

P: Father, help me love as You have loved us. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mourning into dancing

12/10/11 Nehemiah 7-8; Acts 1

S: Nehemiah 8:9-10 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the LORD your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”

O: The people presumably wept because they realised how much they and their ancestors had not been following the Law of God. But this wasn't the time for weeping, but rather of joy at the restoration.

A: There is a time to weep in repentance, but there is also a time to rejoice that we are now committed to following the LORD. We do need to repent of our sins when we realise what we are doing is wrong, but we also can rejoice in the strength of the LORD when we do start following Him again.

P: Father, thank You that you have turned our mourning into dancing. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

We've read the end of the book

11/10/11 Nehemiah 5-6; Psalm 146; Luke 24

S: Luke 24:25-27 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

O: As we saw already several times in our Old Testament readings, Jesus the Messiah was predicted many times in the Old Testament. As the two disciples walked to Emmaus, they got a personal lesson in that.

A: Just as the Old Testament believers' trust in the scriptural predictions of Jesus the Messiah was reliable, we can trust that the New Testament promises for the eventual victory of the Kingdom of God are reliable.

Have you ever read a suspenseful novel more than once, or seen a suspenseful movie a second time? The second time through, even though we may be caught up in the suspense of the moment, we know how it turns out in the end.

So, let us not lose heart, even when sometimes it seems like evil is winning in this world. We've read the end of the book! God wins! So let us be on the Lord's side and stay true to Him until the end.

P: Father, when we feel discouraged, remind us what's at the end of the book! In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pray and Do!

10/10/11 Nehemiah 3-4; Luke 23

S: Nehemiah 4:8-9,20 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. ... When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”

O: Sometimes some Christians get so heavenly-minded, they're no earthly good. Some advocate that one must only pray for healing and not consult a physician. Some "trust God" to bring them a wife but do nothing to get to know good Christian women. Etc.

Nehemiah and his followers saw the threat from Sanballat and his people and so they prayed for God's protection, but they also took action for defence.

I attended the church service at the Logos Hope yesterday. The Logos Hope is the largest floating bookstore in the world and travels around the world and is currently at the Glen Cruise dock, Port Klang, Malaysia. The worship was wonderful and the sermon by OM Ships CEO Peter Nicoll was inspiring.

When Peter was younger, he made many telephone calls from payphones for free by using a trick coin. After he became a follower of Jesus, he sent a cheque for the estimate cost of the phone calls he had stolen, along with an explanatory letter, to the post office (which ran the telephone system in South Africa.) A lady from the post office wrote back saying that his letter and cheque caused quite a sensation and they didn't really know what to do with it, but that the lady was a believer as well and the cheque and letter gave her many opportunities to share her faith with her colleagues.

Many years later, Peter was tasked with setting up a new office for Youth for Christ, and was warned that it might take perhaps 6 months for the telephone to be installed, so he'd better get started on applying for it quickly. The ministry would be hampered without a telephone, but that was the way things worked those days in South Africa, so he did the necessary procedures. even as he and his team lifted the matter to the Lord in prayer.

Well, very soon after that, he was contacted by an official from the post office. The man asked if he was the Peter Nicoll who had sent that cheque so many years previously. When he found out that indeed, it was the same person, he told him that any ministry such a man was doing deserved all the support he could get, and the telephone was installed within a few days!

Peter Nicoll had to take the physical steps to apply for the phone, but God did a miracle as well by directing the letter to this man who remembered that incident from so many years before!

A: Let us both pray and do!

P: Father, we thank You that You do listen to our prayers, even as you also require us to use the minds and bodies you have given us to take the necessary logical and physical steps to accomplish things. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Leaders who Serve

9/10/11 Nehemiah 1-2; Psalm 133; Luke 22

S: Luke 22:24-26 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.”

O: Throughout history, religious and political leaders have almost always lorded it over the people they were in charge of. For my entertainment reading lately, I've been reading the science fiction novel 1633, set during the terrible Thirty Years War. One of the characters in it was Cardinal Richelieu. While one can dispute whether the characterisation of him in the novel was historically accurate or not, certainly he and other religious leaders did indeed lord it over the French peasantry.

But Jesus calls us to a different kind of leadership.

A: At various times in our lives, we may find ourselves in positions of authority over others. I have authority over my students, for example. But I must be motivated by service rather than usage of power.

P: Father, please keep me humble and lead the people under my authority in a Christ-like manner. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Trust God with Everything!

8/10/11 Ezra 9-10; Psalm 131; Luke 21

S: Luke 21:1-4 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

O: God doesn't look at the amount we give, but at our heart -- the woman showed her trust in God by giving all that she has.

A: This is another of those things in the Bible that is easy to understand but hard to do! Giving is not a matter of seeing if you paid your 10%. We are not called to tithe as New Testament believers, but rather to give sacrificially!

That said, I personally know that I am not a generous person by nature, so I deliberately set aside a certain amount every month for giving. This helps me psychologically, because if I do not do that, my stingy nature would mean that I would tend not to give. My wife, on the other hand, is generous in nature, and she doesn't need my coping mechanism.

Let's take whatever steps are necessary to be cheerful sacrificial givers!

P: Father, thank You that you have blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Help us to give sacrificially without being legalistic about 10%, and be able to be generous. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Artaxerxes' support of the worship of Yahweh

7/10/11 Ezra 7,8; Luke 20

Ezra 7:12,13,23,26 “From Artaxerxes, the king of kings, to Ezra the priest, the teacher of the law of the God of heaven. Greetings. “I decree that any of the people of Israel in my kingdom, including the priests and Levites, may volunteer to return to Jerusalem with you. ... Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons? ... Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.”

Ezra 8:21-22 And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we travelled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.”

This is not really a SOAP, as i can't think of an application, but just an observation: isn't it wonderful how God can sometimes us non-believers to extend His purpose?

The identity of Ahasuerus which we just read a few days ago in Esther is unclear. Normally, Ahasuerus refers to Xerxes, and Xerxes I was the father of Artaxerxes I. So it may be that Artaxerxes was favourably predisposed towards the God of Israel because of his stepmother Esther.

But there is also evidence that the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther was actually Artaxerxes himself, in which case it makes even more sense that he supported the Jews, being so much taken by Esther (especially, see the Septuagint version of Esther, which is even more dramatic -- almost romance-novel-like -- in describing the relationship between the king and Esther. The Septuagint version of Esther also explicitly calls the king Artaxerxes.)

However, the attitude that Yahweh is a real god among the many gods and it's always good to have another god on your side is quite common in pagan cultures -- though, the Persians were not pagans, but rather, Zoroastrians, so that assumption might not hold.

In any case, I find it cool how God engineered a non-believer to give so much support to believers -- just as He did with Cyrus earlier.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Parable of the 10 Minas

6/10/11 Esther 9-10; Luke 19

Luke 19:11-27 The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver,t saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’ After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’ ‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’ The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’ ‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’ “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’ ‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’ ‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’”

O: Jesus told various variations of this parable, but what's interesting about this particular version of it is that it places the parable in a historical context -- history tells us that the king in question is Archelaus son of Herod the Great.

A: The moral of the story in all the versions of this parable is that we must make use of the assets God has given us and not waste them. We are to use them for the King -- in our case, the King of Kings. Whatever talents, assets, skills, etc. that God has bestowed upon us, let's not waste them, but put them into God's service.

P: Father, may I be faithful to use the things you've gifted me with for the furtherance of Your Kingdom. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

God's plans will not be thwarted, but we can choose to be part of His plans

5/10/11 Esther 3-8

S: Esther 4:13-15 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:16 “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”

O: Even if we don't do what we know we should do, God's plans will not be thwarted. God gives us free will, but God is also sovereign.

A: If we do follow God, we can be assured that He is with us -- even if we walk through the shadow of death, we do not need to fear any evil, for He is with us -- His rod and His staff will comfort us. He prepares a table before us in the presence of our Enemy, the devil. Ultimately, our cup of blessing overflows and we will live with God forever. (Psalm 23)

P: Father, when push comes to shove, may I steadfastly obey You. In Jesus' name, amen.

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