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.

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.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Give Thanks

4/10/11 Esther 1-2; Psalm 150; Luke 17

S: Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.12 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”t And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

O: Lack of thankfulness is an ancient problem. The American Pilgrims recognised this and instituted the Thanksgiving festival.

A: Most of our prayers are supplication -- asking God to do something for us. But we must not forget to thank God for what He has given us as well.

The following song by Andreas Wijaya does a good job of expressing the many reasons to be thankful to the Lord:
(See my English translation at the bottom of the page if you don't understand Bahasa Indonesia.)

P: Thank You for the many blessings You have given me and continue to give me. Most of all, I think You for Your saving grace. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Di saat ini
Kubuka hati
Untuk bertemu denganMu Allahku
I now open my heart to meet with You my God

Begitu banyak ungkapan syukur bagiMu
S'bab Kau Bapaku yang sangat baik
Father, I thank You in so many ways because of Your great goodness.

Disaat aku
Jauh dariMu
Tak pernah Kau tinggalkan diriku
Even when I'm far from You, You never leave me.

Kau tetap menjagaku s'lalu
walau kujatuh dalam dosa
Kau angkatku kembali ke sisi-Mu
You keep looking after me; even when I fall into sin, You lift me back up to Your side."

Terima kasih Tuhan
atas kasihMu padaku
yang t'lah kurasakan di sepanjang hidupku
Lord, thank You for Your love for me, which I experience all of my life.

Ku tak mampu sendiri tanpa kekuatanMu
Berilahku hati seperti hatiMu
Without Your strength, I can do nothing. Give me a heart like Yours.

Terima kasih Tuhan
atas sgala pengampunanMu
dan kemurahan hati yang t'lah kuterima
Lord, thank You for the forgiveness and grace You have lavished upon me.

Ku ingin lebih lagi hidup dalam nama-Mu
Kar'na Engkaulah sumber hidupku
I live the abundant life in Your name because You are the source of my life.

Note: my command of Bahasa Indonesia is imperfect; if you are fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, please feel free to suggest corrections.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Use money for eternal benefit

3/10/11 Ezra 5,6; Psalm 138; Luke 16

S: Luke 16:9-13 Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

O: Just before this passage, Jesus told the perplexing Parable of the Dishonest/Shrewd Steward. Here is Anne Robertson's take on it, here is Ross Rhodes' take on it, and here is Jack Kelly's take on it.

Jesus then makes the point that we should use temporal money for eternal benefit. After all, we can't take it with us. So we might as well use it to further the Kingdom of God.

A: We are to serve God and not money. Too often, we make money our master -- modifying our actions to gather more of it. Instead, we should view money as a tool -- a tool for encouraging more and more people to be closer to God.

I am by nature a very stingy person, so I have had to set aside in my budget ahead of time money that can be used for God's purposes. That way, when a need arises, I can feel free to give that money set aside -- because in my mind it's already not my money. Other people are more generous naturally, and they can just give freely out of their general pool of money.

P: Father, help me to become more generous, and bring me into conformity with Christ's image. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sinners welcome!

2/10/11 Zechariah 13,14; Psalm 147; Luke 15

S: Luke 15:1-7,27-32 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

O: We Christians who are concerned about following Christ are often "respectable people" because in obeying God's principles, we often look pretty good to the "decent people" of the world.

But the danger of that is that we might feel too "respectable" to associate with the "disrespectable people". Jesus faced that problem with the Pharisees and other religious people of His time. The "older brother's attitude" is a danger we must watch out for.

While we have to be wise as there are conmen who would like to just take advantage of the charity of the church, I've met people who were cheats, ex-convicts, etc. whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Jesus is in the business of redemption!

A: The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for the rich and respectable. We in our nice middle-classed churches must not be too wary of welcoming the ruffians of this world. We have to follow Jesus' example.

P: Father, help us to welcome sinners and lose the big brother's attitude. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Worth the Cost

1/10/11 Zechariah 10-12; Psalm 128; Luke 14

S: Luke 14:16-19, 24, 26-33 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’18 But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ ... For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

O: Being a disciple of Christ is a great blessing, as well as carries a great cost. Consider the cost! But it's worth the cost. No pain, no gain. God has invited the whole world, but not everyone will come.

A: Consider the cost, then follow Him!

P: Father, thank You for the invitation. Strengthen me that I may be able to steadfast when the going gets tough. In Jesus' name, amen.

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