Daddy blog

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eternal principles, cultural applications


S: 1 Chronicles 11:17-19 David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But David refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord. “God forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.

O: The Three mentioned in this passage are a special group of mighty warriors loyal to David — Ishbaal ha Hacmoni (a.k.a. Yosheb Basshebeth or Yashobeam), Eleazar ben Dodai, and Shammah ben Agee ha Harari.

When I first read this passage, my reaction was, "My goodness, if I were one of the Three, I would be so upset that I risked my life to get you this water and you poured it out on the ground?"

But this incident illustrates something which is obvious in many places in many contexts in the Bible — cultures are different, and the same thing can mean different things in different cultures. To the Three, this act showed great honour — because when David poured out the water as a libation unto God, it was offering it to God and not wasting it as I would have taken it in my own cultural context. So the Three would have been honoured by David's sacrifice.

The principles in the Bible are eternal, but the application has to be in the context of the current culture. So there are many specific actions which are condoned in scripture which might not be appropriate in our own cultural context.

A: Evangelical Christians often look down on "liberals" for "not taking the Bible literally". But what does "taking the Bible literally" mean? Certainly, we need to take God's Word seriously. But we need to think and evaluate when applying Biblical principles to our current context. It may or may not be applied in exactly the same way as what the people in the Bible did — because their context was different. For example, we cannot apply Leviticus 25:44 literally today to say that it would be right to enslave people from a neighbouring country.

P: Father, give us wisdom in applying Your eternal principles to our lives. And when it is clear that something is wrong, give me the strength not to give in to temptation. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Your unfaithfulness affect other people


S: 1 Chronicles 10:1-3, 6, 13-14 Now the Philistines fought against Israel. The Israelites fled before the Philistines and many of them fell dead on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines stayed right on the heels of Saul and his sons. They struck down Saul’s sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malki-Shua. The battle was thick around Saul; the archers spotted him and wounded him. ... So Saul and his three sons died; his whole household died together ... So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord and did not obey the Lord’s instructions; he even tried to conjure up underworld spirits. He did not seek the Lord’s guidance, so the Lord killed him and transferred the kingdom to David son of Jesse.

O: From what we know, Jonathan, and presumably Abinadab and Malki-Shua, did not abandon the Lord -- only Saul did. But they all died as a result of Saul's sins. They probably went to heaven; it's unclear about Saul's eternal destiny.

Our sins can affect the people around us. Although God doesn't hold it against the children, a bad father's sins can affect their children negatively via their consequences. Saul's unfaithfulness ended up physically harming his children, though because his children remained faithful, their eternal destinies were still intact.

A: Two weeks ago, we saw how God was still willing to forgive Manasseh in spite of his horrible sins. Last week, we saw how in spite of Manasseh's repentance, the consequences of his sins remained. This week, we see how Saul's sins affected his children.

It's a dangerous thing to be unfaithful. Although God will always forgive and accept you back when you repent, there are consequences not only for yourself, but also for the people you love. I need to remember this every time I'm tempted.

P: Father, help me to remember this when I'm tempted. May I stay faithful to You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Better to repent now rather than later


S: 2 Kings 24:2-3 The Lord sent against him Babylonian, Syrian, Moabite, and Ammonite raiding bands; he sent them to destroy Judah, as he had warned he would do through his servants the prophets. Just as the Lord had announced, he rejected Judah because of all the sins which Manasseh had committed.

O: Last week, my life journal was about how Manasseh, the most horrible and wicked king of Judah ever, repented and the Lord forgave him.

But this week, we see that even though Manasseh himself personally repented and God forgave him, the influence of his evil years persisted until the Lord had to destroy Judah before they would repent under the Babylonian exile.

The fact is that, God may forgive us of our sins when we repent, but the effects of our sins persist.

A: Therefore, do not say, "I'll keep sinning for now, and repent later; after all, God will forgive me." The consequences of your sins will persist.

Manasseh's evil leadership in those years before he repented had already set things in motion. Too many people were already used to the evil ways, and persisted in them even after Manasseh's repentance. So this eventually led to the fall of Judah in spite of Manasseh's repentance.

Dr. W. A. Criswell, in a sermon from 1962, explained this process in much greater detail. Read his sermon here.

So: don't keep sinning, thinking you can repent later. Yes, it is true, God forgave Manasseh even after so many years of evil. But the consequences remained. Repent now!

P: Father, may I quickly repent as soon as I'm aware of my sin, and not allow myself to think that I'll repent later. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Repentance is possible


S: 2 Kings 21:6-16 [Manasseh] passed his son through the fire and practiced divination and omen reading. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits, and appointed magicians to supervise it. He did a great amount of evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. He put an idol of Asherah he had made in the temple, about which the Lord had said to David and to his son Solomon, “This temple in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will be my permanent home. I will not make Israel again leave the land I gave to their ancestors, provided that they carefully obey all I commanded them, the whole law my servant Moses ordered them to obey.” But they did not obey, and Manasseh misled them so that they sinned more than the nations whom the Lord had destroyed from before the Israelites.

So the Lord announced through his servants the prophets: “King Manasseh of Judah has committed horrible sins. He has sinned more than the Amorites before him and has encouraged Judah to sin by worshiping his disgusting idols. So this is what the Lord God of Israel says, ‘I am about to bring disaster on Jerusalem and Judah. The news will reverberate in the ears of those who hear about it. I will destroy Jerusalem the same way I did Samaria and the dynasty of Ahab. I will wipe Jerusalem clean, just as one wipes a plate on both sides. I will abandon this last remaining tribe among my people and hand them over to their enemies; they will be plundered and robbed by all their enemies, because they have done evil in my sight and have angered me from the time their ancestors left Egypt right up to this very day!’”

Furthermore Manasseh killed so many innocent people, he stained Jerusalem with their blood from end to end, in addition to encouraging Judah to sin by doing evil in the sight of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 33:10-13 The Lord confronted Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the Lord brought against them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria. They seized Manasseh, put hooks in his nose, bound him with bronze chains, and carried him away to Babylon. In his pain Manasseh asked the Lord his God for mercy and truly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. When he prayed to the Lord, the Lord responded to him and answered favorably his cry for mercy. The Lord brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh realized that the Lord is the true God.

O: Manasseh was one of the worst ever kings of Judah, in spite of having such a good father, Hezekiah. He even committed human sacrifice on his son and murdered many people -- and the way that 2 Kings 21:6 puts it, it implies that these were godly people who supported Hezekiah's reforms.

Yet when he was captured by the Babylonians, he repented, and God forgave him. There is a "Prayer of Manasseh" in the Septuagint, which some think is the prayer he prayed in his repentance.

A: No matter how bad your sin is, when you realize it, repent! God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked! He would rather you turn to Him. God says, "Come, let us reason together -- Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool."

P: Father, thank You that You sent Your only begotten Son, so that we do not have to perish, but have everlasting life. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Choose wisely whom you marry


S: 2 Kings 8:16-17 Jehoram son of King Jehoshaphat of Judah began to rule over Judah in the fifth year of the reign of Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. But Jehoram followed the example of the kings of Israel and was as wicked as King Ahab, for he had married one of Ahab’s daughters. So Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.

O: Jehoshaphat was a king who was serious about following God, and God had given him a great victory over an invading army, as dramatized in this cool song by Don Francisco and told in 2 Chronicles 20.

However, he was friends with Ahab and allowed his son to marry one of Ahab's daughters. She in turn influenced Jehoshaphat's son Jehoram to stop following the Lord and become evil.

A: There are many other passages in scripture showing examples of people who married people who did not follow God and hence were led astray. Another famous example was Solomon, whose marriage to a princess of Egypt and other women who did not follow God led him astray as well. That's why it is a principle in scripture that you should only marry those who share your faith.

And it's not just men: 1 Corinthians 7:39 mentions that "the woman is free to marry any man she wants, but he should belong to the Lord." (The context is a widow whose husband has died, but I don't see any reason this shouldn't apply to a woman who has never been married before, either.)

Yes, there are some cases where someone did marry a nonbeliever who later became a believer (I personally know two) but the vast majority it is the other way around that happens -- the believer's faith cools and the family makes most of their decisions without reference to God's principles.

P: Father, I thank You for the wonderful wife you have given me. I thank You that she follows You and encourages me to follow You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Slave Girl Evangelist


S: 2 Kings 5:1-3 Now Naaman, the commander of the king of Syria’s army, was esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the Lord had given Syria military victories. But this great warrior had a skin disease. Raiding parties went out from Syria and took captive from the land of Israel a young girl, who became a servant to Naaman’s wife. She told her mistress, “If only my master were in the presence of the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his skin disease.”

2 Kings 5:15 He and his entire entourage returned to the prophet. Naaman came and stood before him. He said, “For sure I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel! Now, please accept a gift from your servant.”

O: Visualize this. A young girl, living with her loving family. Her parents taught her to love the LORD. One day, invaders come and kill her parents, rape her and her sisters, drag her and her brothers and sisters off to a foreign land, where she is separated from her brothers and sisters, never to see them again, and made into a slave for commander of the army that did this to her.

If you were her, would you have kept your faith in that kind of situation?

But this unnamed girl, whom I look forward to meeting one day in heaven, not only kept her faith but even shared the unconditional love of God with her captors and told him how he could be healed! As a result, the head of the army of Syria repented and became a follower of the One True God.

A: I have been blessed in my life. I was brought up by loving parents, like that little girl, but I was never snatched away. I got a decent education. I have a decent job. I have a loving wife and children.

Yet, sometimes I am so timid to share the love of God. I often find it hard to love those who annoy me, let alone my enemies.

P: Father, help me to love my enemies as Jesus taught us to. Help me to be bold in sharing the love of God. In Jesus' name, amen.
Back in 2011, I read this passage and did this Life Journal entry with a different emphasis.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lessons from Ahab's life


S: 1 Kings 21:17-29 But the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!’”

“So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah. “Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the Lord’s sight. So now the Lord says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’

“And regarding Jezebel, the Lord says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel.’ “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.”

(No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)

But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: 29“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.”

O: God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. (Ezekiel 33:11) He would prefer evil people to repent and be saved instead.

Ahab was the most wicked king of Israel, yet God gave him chance after chance to repent.

In 1 Kings 18-19, it seemed like he might actually repent after seeing the power of God demonstrated in the miracle of the fire from heaven, but in the end, he went back to his wicked ways, which eventually led to the framing and murder of Naboath for his vineyard, which was what led to Elijah's condemnation in 1 Kings 21 I quoted above. But even then, his partial repentance brought some relief, as we see above.

But in the end, (1 Kings 22) Ahab went ahead and kept on disregarding what God and His prophets said and so God arranged for him to be killed by the Arameans.

A: As we struggle against the evil that the anti-democratic Barisan Nasional government has done, we must remember that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. I find it so easy to hate Najib, Muhyddin, Mahathir, etc. but God loves them and would rather they repent and be saved that for them to die and go to hell.

Similarly, evil dictators around the world like Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Vladimir Putin of Russia, etc. are people with an eternal soul which God seeks to save.

God sent His Son to seek and to save the lost. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. It is so hard to do, but it is what our Lord has called us to. Who knows, Ibrahim Ali of Perkasa may even have a Paul-like experience?

And closer to home, how about that colleague who had back-stabbed us, that driver who cut us off in the road, that relative who always knows the most cutting thing to say?

P: Father, when hatred wells up in my heart, remind me that You so loved the world that You sent Your only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lessons from Jeroboam's life


S: 1 Kings 11-14. [See this blog post for a summary of these chapters.]

O: God had told Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah that He would take away 10 tribes of Israel and make him king over them because Solomon stopped following the Lord. God was only going to leave Judah -- and that was only because of David's faithfulness to God. God assured Jeroboam that if he were to follow God faithfully, God would establish Jeroboam's dynasty like He did David's.

However, Jeroboam did not trust God. Not only that, he led Israel into spiritual adultery because of his lack of trust that God would fulfil His promise to him that He would establish his dynasty like David's, if only he trusted in Him.

God gave him another chance to repent when he sent the Judean prophet to confront him at the consecration of that evil altar. Yet Jeroboam did not repent, and as a result, Jeroboam and his entire family was eventually wiped out. Only one person in the whole family was found to be innocent, the little boy that God, in His mercy, allowed to die young and in peace, buried and mourned by Israel. The rest of the family were not buried nor mourned, because of their evil.

Jeroboam's evil became such a byword from then on that subsequent evil kings were always compared to Jeroboam.

A sub-lesson is that of Jeroboam's good son. Sometimes the good die young, to spare them from the judgment of God that will befall others around them.

A: God promises us many blessings if we follow His Way. But we are tempted to do things the evil way of the world. It is difficult to resist this temptation, but we must.

Fortunately, like David found out with his sin with Bathsheba, even when we do give in, repentance is an option. Even in Jeroboam's case, God gave him a chance to repent — only he refused to take it.

So: follow God! If we mess up, repent and turn back to Him! Don't persist in evil, or face the consequences.

P: Father, when I am tempted to disobey You, please remind me of the lesson of Jeroboam. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Lessons from Jeroboam's life (with scripture texts)


S: 1 Kings 11:9-11, 29a, 30b, 33, 37-38 The Lord was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions and had warned him about this very thing, so that he would not follow other gods. But he did not obey the Lord’s command. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you insist on doing these things and have not kept the covenantal rules I gave you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.” ... The prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met [Jeroboam] on the road... “Look, I am about to tear the kingdom from Solomon’s hand and I will give ten tribes to you.... I am taking the kingdom from him because they have abandoned me and worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte, the Moabite god Chemosh, and the Ammonite god Milcom. They have not followed my instructions by doing what I approve and obeying my rules and regulations, like Solomon’s father David did.... I will select you; you will rule over all you desire to have and you will be king over Israel. You must obey all I command you to do, follow my instructions, do what I approve, and keep my rules and commandments, like my servant David did. Then I will be with you and establish for you a lasting dynasty, as I did for David; I will give you Israel.”

1 Kings 12:26-30 Jeroboam then thought to himself: “Now the Davidic dynasty could regain the kingdom. If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem, their loyalty could shift to their former master, King Rehoboam of Judah. They might kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.” After the king had consulted with his advisers, he made two golden calves. Then he said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to go up to Jerusalem. Look, Israel, here are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” He put one in Bethel and the other in Dan. This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves.

1 Kings 13:1-6,33-34 Just then a prophet from Judah, sent by the Lord, arrived in Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing near the altar ready to offer a sacrifice. With the authority of the Lord he cried out against the altar, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says, ‘Look, a son named Josiah will be born to the Davidic dynasty. He will sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who offer sacrifices on you. Human bones will be burned on you.’” That day he also announced a sign, “This is the sign the Lord has predetermined: The altar will be split open and the ashes on it will fall to the ground.” When the king heard what the prophet cried out against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam, standing at the altar, extended his hand and ordered, “Seize him!” The hand he had extended shriveled up and he could not pull it back. The altar split open and the ashes fell from the altar to the ground, in fulfillment of the sign the prophet had announced with the Lord’s authority. The king pled with the prophet, “Seek the favour of the Lord your God and pray for me, so that my hand may be restored.” So the prophet sought the Lord’s favour and the king’s hand was restored to its former condition. ... After this happened, Jeroboam still did not change his evil ways; he continued to appoint common people as priests at the high places. Anyone who wanted the job he consecrated as a priest. This sin caused Jeroboam’s dynasty to come to an end and to be destroyed from the face of the earth.

1 Kings 14:1-15 At that time Jeroboam’s son Abijah became very sick. Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go to Shiloh and see the prophet Ahijah. He is the one who said that I would become king of Israel. Dress yourself so that people will not know that you are my wife. Give the prophet ten loaves of bread, some cakes, and a jar of honey. Then ask him what will happen to our son, and he will tell you.”

So the king’s wife did what he said. She went to the home of Ahijah the prophet in Shiloh. Ahijah was very old and had become blind. But the Lord said to him, “Jeroboam’s wife is coming to ask you about her son because he is sick. I will tell you what to say to her.”

When she came to Ahijah’s house, she pretended to be someone else. 6 But when Ahijah heard her coming to the door, he said, “Come in! I know who you are. You are Jeroboam’s wife. Why are you pretending to be someone else? I have some bad news for you. Go back and tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jeroboam, I chose you from among all the Israelites. I made you the ruler of my people. David’s family was ruling the kingdom of Israel, but I took the kingdom away from them and gave it to you. But you are not like my servant David. He always obeyed my commands and followed me with his whole heart. He did only what I accepted. But you have sinned worse than anyone who ruled before you. You stopped following me and made other gods for yourself. You made those statues to make me angry. So Jeroboam, I will bring troubles to your family. I will kill all the men in your family. I will destroy your family completely, like fire burning up dung. Anyone from your family who dies in the city will be eaten by dogs. And anyone from your family who dies in the fields will be eaten by birds. The Lord has spoken.’”

Then Ahijah said, “Now, go home. Your son will die as soon as you enter the city. All Israel will cry for him. They will bury him, but he is the only one from Jeroboam’s family who will be buried. This is because he is the only one in Jeroboam’s family who pleased the Lord, the God of Israel. Soon, the Lord will put a new king over Israel who will destroy Jeroboam’s family. Then the Lord will punish Israel. The Israelites will be so full of fear that they will shake like tall grass in the water. He will pull Israel up from this good land that he gave their ancestors. He will scatter them to the other side of the Euphrates River. The Lord will do this because the people made him angry when they built sacred poles [to worship a fertility goddess]. He will let the Israelites be defeated because Jeroboam sinned, and then he made the Israelites sin.”

1 Kings 15:29 When Baasha became the new king, he killed everyone in Jeroboam’s family. He left no one in Jeroboam’s family alive. This happened just as the Lord said it would when he spoke through his servant Ahijah at Shiloh.

1 Kings 15:34 but he did what the Lord said was wrong. He did the same sins that Jeroboam had done that caused the Israelites to sin.

1 Kings 16:2 “I made you an important prince over my people Israel. But you have done the same things Jeroboam did. You have caused my people Israel to sin. Their sins have made me angry.

1 Kings 16:19 So Zimri died because he sinned and did what the Lord said was wrong, just as Jeroboam did when he caused the Israelites to sin.

1 Kings 16:26 He committed all the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had committed when he caused the Israelites to sin. They worshiped worthless idols, and this made the Lord, the God of Israel, very angry.

2 Kings 10:31 But Jehu was not careful to follow the law of the Lord with all his heart. Jehu did not stop committing the sins of Jeroboam that caused Israel to sin.

O: God had told Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah that He would take away 10 tribes of Israel and make him king over them because Solomon stopped following the Lord. God was only going to leave Judah -- and that was only because of David's faithfulness to God. God assured Jeroboam that if he were to follow God faithfully, God would establish Jeroboam's dynasty like He did David's.

However, Jeroboam did not trust God. Not only that, he led Israel into spiritual adultery because of his lack of trust that God would fulfil His promise to him that He would establish his dynasty like David's, if only he trusted in Him.

God gave him another chance to repent when he sent the Judean prophet to confront him at the consecration of that evil altar. Yet Jeroboam did not repent, and as a result, Jeroboam and his entire family was eventually wiped out. Only one person in the whole family was found to be innocent, the little boy that God, in His mercy, allowed to die young and in peace, buried and mourned by Israel. The rest of the family were not buried nor mourned, because of their evil.

Jeroboam's evil became such a byword from then on that subsequent evil kings were always compared to Jeroboam.

A sub-lesson is that of Jeroboam's good son. Sometimes the good die young, to spare them from the judgment of God that will befall others around them.

A: God promises us many blessings if we follow His Way. But we are tempted to do things the evil way of the world. It is difficult to resist this temptation, but we must.

Fortunately, like David found out with his sin with Bathsheba, even when we do give in, repentance is an option. Even in Jeroboam's case, God gave him a chance to repent — only he refused to take it.

So: follow God! If we mess up, repent and turn back to Him! Don't persist in evil, or face the consequences.

P: Father, when I am tempted to disobey You, please remind me of the lesson of Jeroboam. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cry out to God


S: 2 Samuel 22:6-7 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.

O: Saul pursued David all over Israel seeking to kill him. David sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. (2 Samuel 22:1)

I have not been hounded by anyone wanting to kill me like David did, but I have faced many situations where I did not know how to solve my problem. And time and time again, after I cry out to God in prayer, the problem went away without my explicitly doing anything.

A: So always tell each other the wrong things you have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen. (James 5:16, Easy-to-Read Version) (See other translations here.)

P: Father, we thank You that You are in control even when we don't know what's going on! In Jesus' name, amen.
In these days of confused situations
And in these nights of a restless remorse
When the heart and the soul of a nation
Lay wounded and cold as a corpse
From the grave of the innocent Adam
Comes a song bringing joy to the sad
All you cries have been heard and the ransom
Has been paid up in full, be ye glad

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

God does not enjoy punishing people


S: Ezekiel 18:30b-32 This is what the Lord GOD said. “So come back to me! Stop committing those crimes and do away with those things that cause you to sin! Throw away all the terrible idols with which you committed your crimes! Change your heart and spirit. People of Israel, why should you do things that will cost you your life? I don’t want to kill you! Please come back and live!” This is what the Lord GOD said.

Ezekiel 33:11 “You must say to them, ‘The Lord GOD says: By my life, I swear that I don’t enjoy seeing people die—not even evil people! I don’t want them to die. I want them to come back to me. I want them to change their lives so that they can really live. So come back to me! Stop doing bad things! Why must you die, family of Israel?’”

O: God does not desire the wicked to perish, but rather, that they would repent. As human beings, when we experience injustice, our natural inclination is to retaliate, to hurt the other person. Like Jonah, we don't want our enemies to repent and be saved; we want the judgment of God to destroy them.

But this is not God's heart. Romans 12:17-21 says:
If someone does you wrong, don’t try to pay them back by hurting them. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do the best you can to live in peace with everyone. My friends, don’t try to punish anyone who does wrong to you. Wait for God to punish them with his anger. In the Scriptures the Lord says, “I am the one who punishes; I will pay people back.” But you should do this: “If you have enemies who are hungry, give them something to eat. If you have enemies who are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this you will make them feel ashamed.” Don’t let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.

A: Today, it is Hari Raya Aidiadha here in Malaysia. (Eid al-Adha) Yesterday, the Appeals Court in Malaysia made a terrible decision in favour of the UMNO-led supposedly "moderate" Muslim government to ban Christians and other non-Muslims from calling God the Father "Allah" in Malay, Iban and other related languages. This is in spite of the fact that Arab Christians have been calling God the Father "Allah" since before the advent of Islam, and in spite of the fact that Malay- and Iban-speaking Christians have been calling God the Father "Allah" since before there was such a country as Malaysia. Even Arab countries are incredulous at the Malaysian government's stance.

So this is a timely reminder for us as Malaysian Christians to not hate the people in the UMNO government. God does not desire for them to perish, either, but to come to repentance.

As people annoy us and do evil to us in our daily walk, we also need to remember this, and to see them with the compassionate eyes of Christ, instead of seeking revenge.

P: Father, help me to see people who do evil to me with Your eyes, and to remember that You would rather that the evil repent rather than die in their sins. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sticking with God's principles even when it's inconvenient


S: Psalm 119:105-112 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again: I will obey your righteous regulations. I have suffered much, O Lord; restore my life again as you promised. Lord, accept my offering of praise, and teach me your regulations. My life constantly hangs in the balance, but I will not stop obeying your instructions. The wicked have set their traps for me, but I will not turn from your commandments. Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart’s delight. I am determined to keep your decrees to the very end.

O: Yesterday, I gave a ride to a friend and we were stuck in a long queue at a traffic light. As is often the case here in Malaysia, some annoying people forcing their cars into the queue from the next lane instead of properly waiting their turn. I mentioned to him that I've had the fantasy of taking a gun out and pointing it at them, threatening to shoot them unless they stopped. Of course, it's a fantasy, but this led us to talk about Luke 6:27-36:
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”

My friend was saying that he was upset with Christians who tried to interpret this passage metaphorically -- while acknowledging that he did not live up to it himself.

Last night, in our cell group, the cell group leader taught from this passage in Psalm 119. THe psalmist notes that he had suffered much, yet he remained determined to keep to God's principles.

A: It's easy to keep to God's principles when it's convenient. It's much harder to do so when it is inconvenient. I certainly am not there yet myself, and my friend admitted he wasn't either. However, it's what we should be aiming for.

P: Father, keep bringing us into conformity with Christ. There are many areas I'm not there yet. There are even areas I'm not really willing yet to follow You in. However, I'm willing to let You change my desires ☺. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

False Prophecy is a Grievous Thing


S: Ezekiel 13:1-7 Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to the prophets who prophesy from their imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit but have seen nothing! Your prophets have become like jackals among the ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up in the breaks in the wall, nor repaired a wall for the house of Israel that it would stand strong in the battle on the day of the Lord. They see delusion and their omens are a lie. They say, “the Lord declares,” though the Lord has not sent them; yet they expect their word to be confirmed. Have you not seen a false vision and announced a lying omen when you say, “the Lord declares,” although I myself never spoke?”

O: God views false prophecy as a very serious offence. These prophets prophesying that all would be well and that the Lord would rescue Judea from the Babylonians were engaging in wishful thinking, misleading the people of Israel. God had allowed the Babylonians to conquer Judah because of their centuries of turning away from Him. The exile was necessary to purify Judaism and bring them back to worship the Lord.

In our Charismatic Christian circles, I have observed wishful thinking claiming to be prophecy. Many a beloved Christian dying has had "prophecies" said over them claiming that they would be healed... and then, when they die, many have lost their faith either partially or altogether.

A: We must not be glib about prophecy. Before you prophecy, you'd better be sure it's from the Lord. If you have falsely prophesied, repent and seek forgiveness both from God and from the persons you have harmed.

For this reason, I am also skeptical of the practice in certain Charismatic circles of telling people to "practice" prophecy. I've been in a crowd where we were told to pair up with some other person and to pray and ask God for a prophecy to speak over him or her. It seems to me that this is a good way to encourage people to make wishful thinking into fake prophecy.

Prophecy is God's prerogative. Its source is God, not man. We have God's written revelation and we can study the Bible and apply it to our lives and counsel others. (2 Timothy 3:16) We must not use "prophecy" that is actually wishful thinking as a short-cut to bypass this process.

Therefore, we must diligently study the Word of God like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). If God gives you a prophecy, great! But it's His prerogative, not yours.

P: Father, teach us Your Word, Your Truth, and lead us to Your Life. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

David the liar and genocide?


S: 1 Samuel 27:6-12 So Achish gave him the town of Ziklag (which still belongs to the kings of Judah to this day), and they lived there among the Philistines for a year and four months. David and his men spent their time raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites—people who had lived near Shur, toward the land of Egypt, since ancient times. David did not leave one person alive in the villages he attacked. He took the sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, camels, and clothing before returning home to see King Achish. “Where did you make your raid today?” Achish would ask. And David would reply, “Against the south of Judah, the Jerahmeelites, and the Kenites.” No one was left alive to come to Gath and tell where he had really been. This happened again and again while he was living among the Philistines. Achish believed David and thought to himself, “By now the people of Israel must hate him bitterly. Now he will have to stay here and serve me forever!”

O: Look what this "man after God's own heart" did! He lied to King Achish who had given him shelter from King Saul who had wanted to kill him. He attacked and massacred villages that did nothing against him, committing genocide upon those villagers. How can this be a "man after God's own heart"? He had shown no remorse or repentance for any of these horrible acts that today would have had him condemned in a United Nations war crime tribunal.

What, indeed, did God reprimand him for? For one adulterous affair with Bathsheba, for one murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite. (2 Samuel 11-12).

Why was that? Why did God overlook monstrous crimes where large numbers of people were massacred, and make such a big deal about one single case of adultery and one single case of murder?

I think the answer lies in what God could expect David to know about right and wrong. It was acceptable in David's time and culture to attack foreign villages and rape, plunder and kill them. But David knew full well it was wrong for him to steal the wife of a friend and murder him.

It was not that David's sins which he did not know were sins had no consequences. God forbade David from building the Temple because of the blood on his hands. (1 Chronicles 22:8) However, God did not expect David to repent of sins he did not know were sins.

A: I have been teaching my daughter Joni about confession and repentance before partaking of Holy Communion lately. One of the things that a spiritually-attuned child might worry about is "What if I forget to confess some sin before I take Holy Communion? Will I be then guilty of the body and blood?"

The example of how God dealt with David is one of the pieces of evidence that God does not expect us to confess and repent of sins we are not aware of. If at some point, He teaches us that something we had been doing in the past is wrong, we can confess and repent of it. Meanwhile, He only expects us to confess and repent of what sins we do know about.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) The blood of Jesus covers all our sins, whether we know them to be sin or not.

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

P: Father, thank You so much for Your grace and mercy upon us. Thank You for sending Jesus to pay for our sins and bring us into Your family. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Green-Eyed Monster; loyalty to God transcends loyalty to the government


S: 1 Samuel 18:6-11 When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals. This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!” So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David. The very next day a tormenting spirit from God overwhelmed Saul, and he began to rave in his house like a madman. David was playing the harp, as he did each day. But Saul had a spear in his hand, and he suddenly hurled it at David, intending to pin him to the wall. But David escaped him twice.

1 Samuel 20:42 At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.

O: Saul was the anointed king of Israel, chosen by God Himself. Yet, he disobeyed God several times and did not repent, and now he was getting jealous of David.

This jealousy led him to attack David and try to kill him, even though David had always been loyal to him and only did him good. This eventually led to Saul's downfall.

Jonathan and Michal, though they were Saul's children and though their father was the legitimate king and government, recognized this and helped David escape their father's murderous intent.

A: Jealousy can lead one to grievous sin. It can blind one to ones' friends and make one their enemy.

As we celebrate Malaysia day this weekend, the example of Jonathan and Michal in defying their rightful government leader because of his abandoning God's principles also is applicable to our own situation. As people who want to change the government, however, we should also recognize that there are good people who continue to be in the government's party and not demonize them.

Jonathan continued to fight on his father's side when his father was legitimately fighting the Philistines. In fact, Jonathan died in such a battle, partially as a consequence of his father's folly.

There is a good and Godly man with whom I sometimes carpool who supports the corrupt BN government. He is a good reminder to me that not everyone who supports the BN government is evil.

Happy Malaysia Day!

P: Father, when we see our brother or sister doing well, keep us from jealousy. And help us to remember that those who politically oppose us are also people made in the image of God. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Looking beyond personal hurt


S: 1 Samuel 12:23 As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you. And I will continue to teach you what is good and right.

O: Samuel felt hurt when the people demanded a king. (1 Samuel 8:6) However, he did not allow his own personal hurt prevent him from doing the right thing.

Often, when I feel unjustly treated, I feel like hitting back. However, that's not the right thing to do. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but He only wants them to turn from their evil ways so that they may live. (Ezekiel 33:11)

A: We need to continue to follow God's Word and do the right thing even when we've been unjustly treated.

P: Father, sometimes it is so hard to keep on doing right when we have been hurt by others. But it is what You want me to do. Please help me to continue following you when that happens. In Jesus' name, amen.

Thank you, Lord, for the trials that come my way. In that way I can grow each day as I let you lead,

And thank you, Lord, for the patience those trials bring. In that process of growing, I can learn to care.

But it goes against the way I am to put my human nature down and let the Spirit take control of all I do. 'Cause when those trials come, my human nature shouts the thing to do; and God's soft prompting can be easily ignored.

I thank you, Lord, with each trial I feel inside, that you're there to help, lead and guide me away from wrong. 'Cause you promised, Lord, that with every testing, that your way of escaping is easier to bear.

I thank you, Lord, for the victory that growing brings. In surrender of everything life is so worth while. And I thank you, Lord, that when everything's put in place, out in front I can see your face, and it's there you belong.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Proof Text Without A Context Is A Pretext


S: Judges 21:11 This is what you should do: Completely destroy every male, as well as every female who has slept with a man.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted.

O: The last four chapters of Judges is a sordid tale, with seemingly no good guys. First, the Benjamites repeated the sin of Sodom & Gomorrah, wanting to rape the Levite from Ephraim. Then, the Levite and the old man in Gibeah were willing to sacrifice the girls to be raped to save him. Then, the Benjamites raped the poor girl to death. Then the Levite cut her up into 12 pieces and sent them to the other tribes of Judah and rallied the troops who then massacred every Benjamite man, woman and child except for 600 men who got away. Then they felt sorry that a tribe of Israel had been wiped out and massacred the innocent people of Jabesh-gilead just because they didn't send anyone to fight the Benjamites, and took the remaining 400 virgins to be forcibly made into wives for the surviving Benjamites. Then they had the remaining 200 Benjamites kidnap wives for themselves from the girls of Shiloh.

Taken out of context, a verse like Judges 21:11 seems to advocate killing those innocent people of Jabesh-gilead. There are other verses like that in the Bible, for example, the Danites massacre of the peace-loving people of Laish in Judges 18.

The fact is that, the book of Judges, like many other parts of the Bible, are descriptive and not prescriptive. And even in the prescriptive parts of the Bible, you can take verses out of context.

A: It is important to look at the whole counsel of scripture. That is why we need to read the whole Bible and not just cherry-pick the parts we like. Professor D.A. Carson has often quoted his father as saying that "a text without a context becomes a pretext for a proof text."

As we memorize scripture, we also need to also know the context of that scripture. Last week's Adventures in Odyssey, No Chemistry Whatsoever, had a sub-plot illustrating that.

P: Father, help us to understand Your Word as we read it, and not to be misled by taking things out of context. In Jesus' name, amen.
This song has nothing to do with the topic of this post, but because today is 31 August, Merdeka Day (Independence Day), I thought it would be appropriate for the day.

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

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Samson's Folly


S: Judges 16:4-31

O: People often think of Samson as a big muscular guy and his hair as something magical. Samson probably was actually a fairly ordinary-looking man, not especially muscular. Otherwise, why would the Philistines keep wondering about the source of his extraordinary strength and want Delilah to find out its secret? If he had big muscles, they would have assumed it was due to his muscles.

Secondly, the long hair was not magic -- it was only a symbol of his Nazarite dedication unto the Lord. As such, the Lord gave him supernatural strength when it was needed.

The fact was that Samson had repeatedly not lived up to his Nazarite vow of dedication. He repeatedly disobeyed the Lord, and Delilah was merely the last in a long string of disobedience. The cutting of the hair was, in effect, the last straw.

This is also recognized in that Samson prayed to the Lord to again give him supernatural strength at the end.

Little by little, over the years, Samson whittled away his Nazarite vow. Since he still had his strength, perhaps he thought he was getting away with it. But eventually came the day of reckoning.

A: We must stay true to our dedication unto the Lord. We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a unique people who were called out of darkness into light. (1 Peter 2:9)

Therefore, let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

P: Father, when I am faced with the temptation to compromise, let me stay steadfast in Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just a little seed of faith


S: Judges 4:1-24 The Lord allowed the Hazorians to oppress the Israelites for 20 years because they stopped following the Lord. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord raised up Deborah the prophetess to judge Israel.

She told Barak ben Abinoam to lead an army against Sisera, the Hazorian general, telling jim that the Lord has promised him victory. However, Barak didn't have enough faith and said he would only go if Deborah went with him.

Deborah replied, “Very well, I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”

So the Lord gave Barak's forces victory, but arranged for Sisera to be killed by Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, instead, as prophesied.

O: Barak didn't have enough faith to lead the army of Israel on his own against the army of Hazor even though the Lord had prophesied victory. But he had just a little bit of faith ― enough that if Deborah went with him, he would be willing to do it. This robbed Barak of the full glory of the victory, but God was still able to use that little seed of faith to achieve His purposes.

Nonetheless, Barak was still listed in the Faith Hall of Fame of Hebrews 11. God was able to take that little seed of faith and grow a tree of victory with it.

In Mark 9:14-29, we saw a man didn't have a lot of faith Jesus could heal his epileptic son, since Jesus' disciples already failed to do so. Yet because he had just a little seed of faith to say to Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” God was able to take that little seed of faith to heal his son.

A: We often lack faith. When confronted with a difficult situation, it can be hard to trust God. But if we have faith just a little seed of faith, even as small as a mustard seed, God can still do amazing things.

This is because it's not so much dependent on our faith, as much as the One we have faith in ― God.

P: Father, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief! In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Even believers can fall into last week's trap


S: Jeremiah 42-43 After Ishmael ben Nethaniah murdered Governor Gedaliah, Johanan ben Kareah and the other guerrilla leaders asked Jeremiah to ask God to show them what to do and where to go, promising that they would obey the word of the Lord. However, when Jeremiah told them the Lord wanted them to stay in Israel and not flee to Egypt, Azariah ben Hoshaiah and Johanan ben Kareah refused to listen and claimed that Jeremiah lied. They decided to disobey God's word and go to Egypt instead, and even forced Jeremiah and Baruch to go with them. As a result, they would be caught up in the horror of Nebuchadnezzar's sacking of Egypt.

O: This is a repeat of last week's lesson: Why bother to seek God's Word if you won't follow it? The difference here and there was that there, Zedekiah was a bad king who didn't follow God from the beginning, while Johanan ben Kareah seemed like he was trying to follow God at first.

This is a lesson to us who follow God. Even believers can fall into this trap.

A: As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:11-13, "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."

P: Father, I am weak but You are strong. Jesus, keep me from all wrong. Keep me walking close to You. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why bother to seek God's Word if you won't follow it?


S: Jeremiah 38:14-24 One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the Lord’s Temple. “I want to ask you something,” the king said. “And don’t try to hide the truth.” Jeremiah said, “If I tell you the truth, you will kill me. And if I give you advice, you won’t listen to me anyway.” So King Zedekiah secretly promised him, “As surely as the Lord our Creator lives, I will not kill you or hand you over to the men who want you dead.” Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape! This city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground.’” “But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them. And who knows what they will do to me!” Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the Lord. Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you. But if you refuse to surrender, this is what the Lord has revealed to me: All the women left in your palace will be brought out and given to the officers of the Babylonian army. Then the women will taunt you, saying, ‘What fine friends you have! They have betrayed and misled you. When your feet sank in the mud, they left you to your fate!’ All your wives and children will be led out to the Babylonians, and you will not escape. You will be seized by the king of Babylon, and this city will be burned down.”Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “Don’t tell anyone you told me this, or you will die!

O: King Zedekiah knew that Jeremiah was really a prophet of God, so he sought him out to find out what God had to say about what to do about the Babylonian invasion.

Jeremiah knew that Zedekiah wasn't willing to follow what God said, but Zedekiah insisted that he tell him anyway. Indeed, history shows that Zedekiah did not follow what God said, and even his reaction here — telling Jeremiah to not reveal what he told him — shows it.

A: As James 2:19 points out, even the demons believe in God, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder." And earlier in James 1:22-24, it says, "But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like."

We must not only seek out the Word of the Lord, we must also obey it! Otherwise, it's a pointless exercise. 2 Kings 25:7 tells us what happened to Zedekiah because he ignored what God said: "They made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon." What a terrible way to go!
When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

P: Father, when I am tempted, remind me to be a doer of Your Word, and not a hearer only, deceiving myself. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

What's in a name?


S: Joshua 10:3-4, So King Adonizedek of Jerusalem sent messengers to several other kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon. “Come and help me destroy Gibeon,” he urged them, “for they have made peace with Joshua and the people of Israel.”

Joshua 10 describes how Adonizedek rallies Hoham, Piram, Japhia and Debir to unite and attack Gibeon, which had allied themselves with Israel. The Israelites then came to Gibeon's rescue, and the Lord granted them a great victory, the armies of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmut, Lachish and Eglon were destroyed, and Adonizedek, Hoham, Piram, Japhia and Debir were all killed.

O: The name "Adonizedek" means "The Lord is Righteous" or perhaps "The Lord of Righteousness". It's actually a name with a very good meaning.

Centuries before, Jerusalem was ruled by Melchizedek, which means "King of Righteousness" or "My king is Righteous". Melchizedek worshipped the Lord and Abraham actually paid a tithe to him when the Lord gave Abraham a victory. (Genesis 14:17-20)

Somewhere in the intervening centuries, however, Jerusalem appears to have deteriorated spiritually, and although the king still had a good Godly name, he was no longer good and Godly like his predecessor Melchizedek. Because of this, in spite of his good Godly name, God engineered his defeat.

A: It is more important to worship God in spirit and in truth than to have good Godly symbols. James 2:14-26 reminds us that faith without works is dead. If we worship God in spirit and in truth, our lives will reflect this in the good that we do.

If we find that we have fallen short of God's standard, however, we need not give up hope as God calls us to repentance. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).

P: Father, keep us on the strait and narrow path of righteousness. Let us not rely on mere names, symbols or rituals of righteousness, but to worship You in Spirit and in Truth. In Jesus' name, amen.
I thought to put a video of the song "I have decided to follow Jesus" for this video because of the theme of following Jesus in spirit and in truth. When I went to YouTube to search for such a video, this very touching video surfaced about how our brothers and sisters in Christ are being martyred around the world. Though the video isn't quite in line with the theme in today's Life Journal, it's such a touching video, I decided to include it anyway.

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

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Is God on our side or are we on God's side?


S: Joshua 5:13-14 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army. ”At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

O: Often, we asked God to bless our plans. We ask the Lord to fight on our side. However, the point is not, "Is God on our side?" but rather, "Are we on God's side?".

Who is on the Lord's side? Who will serve the King?
Who will be His helpers, other lives to bring?
Who will leave the world's side? Who will face the foe?
Who is on the Lord's side? Who for Him will go?
By Thy call of mercy, by Thy grace divine,
We are on the Lord's side—Savior, we are Thine!

"Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORDwatches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain." (Psalm 127:1)

A: We need to know God's Word well, and check our plans against them. "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful." (Proverbs 29:18). [By the way, this verse is often misapplied from the King James Version, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." The word "vision" here is actually revelation from God, i.e. the Word of God, and not about having a vision/purpose. The second part of the verse makes it clear that this is what it's talking about, even in the KJV -- keeping the law, i.e. following God's instructions.]

This is another reason why remembering what God says is so important. "How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:9, 11, 105.

P: Father, when I make my plans, when temptations come, when I have to make a decision, please remind me of what You have already revealed in Your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Which prophet? Witch prophet?


S: Jeremiah 28:1-4 One day in late summer of that same year—the fourth year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah—Hananiah son of Azzur, a prophet from Gibeon, addressed me publicly in the Temple while all the priests and people listened. He said, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will remove the yoke of the king of Babylon from your necks. Within two years I will bring back all the Temple treasures that King Nebuchadnezzar carried off to Babylon. And I will bring back Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the other captives that were taken to Babylon. I will surely break the yoke that the king of Babylon has put on your necks. I, the Lord, have spoken!’”

Jeremiah 28:15-17 Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, but the people believe your lies. Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You must die. Your life will end this very year because you have rebelled against the Lord.’”Two months later the prophet Hananiah died.

O: It is a serious thing to prophecy. In fact, the Mosaic Law says to execute prophets who prophesy falsely (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)

In new testament times, we don't use Mosaic Law, but the principle still applies. Claiming God revealed something to you which is not true is a serious matter.

I have seen this happen in many churches, usually with no reprimand nor repercussion on the person making a false prophecy. Even Christian leaders whom I respect, who are generally men and women of faith, I have heard with my own ears make false prophecies. Usually, it was their own personal intense wish making them voice their wishful thinking as a prophecy, e.g. a friend who is dying of cancer, and they prophesy that the person would live, but instead, the cancer patient dies.

I am not accusing these people of being a witch prophet like Hananiah. I do not think that these people making these prophecies were malicious, but they allowed their own wishful thinking to cloud their thinking and make these false prophecies.

In the modern Charismatic church context, people usually don't say, "Thus says the Lord" like Hananiah did. However, the effects can be still damaging, because everyone knows that they intend to say that God had revealed this to them.

I have personal friends who appear to have lost their faith in God because of such false prophecies.

A: I think we in Charismatic churches often are too eager to speak prophecies. Yes, we have a living God and yes, He still does miracles today. But if you think you have a prophecy, are you so sure that it was truly the Lord who spoke to you and not your own wishful thinking?

But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6

P: Father, when You do give us a prophecy, may we be clear and sure about it. But when it is not from You, may we not claim it to be. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)
Image credit: This same image can be found on many websites, e.g. [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Gospel according to Spiderman


S: Deuteronomy 27:18-19 ‘Cursed is anyone who leads a blind person astray on the road.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’ ‘Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.’ And all the people will reply, ‘Amen.’

With great power comes great responsibility -- Spiderman O: Spiderman has popularised this saying: "With great power comes great responsibility." This is actually a very biblical concept. Throughout the Bible, we are told not to take advantage of those who are less powerful than ourselves. The Deuteronomy passage above cites the blind, foreigners, orphans, and widows — people who are typically powerless in ancient society.

Each of us have a certain amount of power. Even if you're still a kid in school, there are more powerful kids and less powerful kids. This power might be in the form of popularity, being in the "in" clique, being stronger or bigger.

A: As followers of Jesus, we must not misuse our power. We must use whatever power we have to show Jesus' love.

P: Father, when I am tempted to take advantage of other people, please help me to instead show Jesus' love. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What do you do when you live in a culture where bribery is a way of life?


S: Deuteronomy 16:19 You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly.

O: God clearly condemns bribery for twisting justice. But what do we do when we Malaysians live in a culture where government officials often expect bribes to get anything done?

Some things are clear-cut. For example, if we are legitimately caught for a traffic violation, we should not pay a bribe to the policeman but rather should pay the ticket properly. However, some people cannot even get their legitimate job done if they don't pay bribes.

A: I'm very fortunate that as a lecturer, I don't face this in my job. But I have friends who are architects and civil engineers, who would never get their building plans approved if they did not pay bribes.

One friend who is a committed follower of Jesus facing this says that he doesn't pay bribes to get officials to twist justice -- to do anything they are not supposed to do. But he does pay them when it is necessary to get them to do what they were supposed to do in the first place.

As one who doesn't face this myself, I cannot stand in judgment of him. But this I know — as Malaysian Christians, we should do what we can to destroy this culture of bribery.

Businessmen face the same problem in India. Here is an article about what some Indian believers are doing about it.

P: Father, I lift up Malaysia to you and pray that we will be able to overturn this culture of bribery. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pass it on


S: Deuteronomy 11:1-3 You must love the Lord your God and obey all his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands. Keep in mind that I am not talking now to your children, who have never experienced the discipline of the Lord your God or seen his greatness and his strong hand and powerful arm. They didn’t see the miraculous signs and wonders he performed in Egypt against Pharaoh and all his land.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.

Man wearing tefilin O: Tomorrow is Father's Day, and this passage reminds me of the responsibility I have as a father to pass the faith on to my children. In the 34 years since I received Jesus as my Saviour, I have seen His faithfulness many times. My children are still in Kindergarten, and they have not yet seen so much about of what He has done.

MezuzahOrthodox Jews took some of these injunctions literally, wearing small boxes containing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (tefilin) strapped to their foreheads and arms, and putting decorative cases containing Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21 (mezuzah) on their doorposts and gates.

A: As Christians, we don't have to wear tefilin and put up mezuzah, but God's principles should guide our daily lives, and we must teach our children God's principles and the great things He has done in the past, to build their faith.

P: Father, I lift up my children Joni and Hannah to You. Lead and guide me as I teach them about You, that they may grow up to be women of God. In Jesus name, amen.

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

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Maid to Work?

S: Deuteronomy 5:13-14 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do.

O: The commandment to rest one day a week also applied to people that traditionally are given no rest -- foreign slaves and servants.

A: Most foreign maids in Malaysia get no rest day. I'm glad that one of the stipulations in the new agreement with Indonesia says that Indonesians maids must be given one day off a week, just like what Filipna maids get.

It is a violation of human rights as well as Biblical principle to not allow your maid a day of rest.

However, not only maids: how many businessmen (especially in Chinese-run businesses) get no day of rest? The principle applies to the towkay as well as the employee. "All work and no play makes [everyone] a dull [person]."

P: Father, forgive us Malaysians for violating Your Principles. May we change to be more and more in conformity with Your Will. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)
Image credit:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What seems reasonable to one might not seem reasonable to another at first


S: Numbers 32:1-7,16-22 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.” Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them?” ... Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. But we will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan.” Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him— then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel.”

O: It's unclear if the Reubenites & Gadites were originally trying to not go on to fight for the Promised Land or not; I thought they were, but Juliane thought that they weren't, and only gave in after Moses admonished them.

In any case, the Reubenites & Gadites had wanted to do something which seemed reasonable to them, which seemed totally unreasonable to Moses and the rest. In this case, if Juliane's interpretation is correct, then they realized their error when Moses admonished them. If not, then Moses at least saw what they meant after discussion and allowed them to propose a compromised.

In Joshua 22, the Reubenites & Gadites get misunderstood again -- this time with even more potentially disastrous consequences. Here it is very clear that the rest of Israel had misunderstood them and that they had not intended anything wrong. Fortunately, this time as well, before things came to blows, the rest of the Israelites actually sent a fact-finding party, so things were resolved again.

A: Many times we have thought we were reasonable while the other people are being unreasonable, but if we actually do some proper investigation out before we act, it may turn out to be a misunderstanding.

James 1:19-20 says "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires."

P: Father, help me remember this the next time someone else does something which seems terrible to me. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Even what God originally sanctioned can become an idol


S: Numbers 21:4-9 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died. Then the people came to Moses and cried out, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.” So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!” So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!

2 Kings 18:4 He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.

O: God was the one who told Moses to make the bronze snake. So originally, it was a good thing. However, after many centuries, people started worshipping the snake instead of God. So good King Hezekiah had to destroy it.

A: What originally good things have we allowed to become idols in our lives?

For example, some churches have made rules like, "You must not drink any alcohol", "You must never hold a joss stick", etc. The original intention was good — to help people avoid drunkeness, to avoid worshipping idols, etc. However, these rules can become legalism.

P: Father, if there are any "Nehushtan"s in my life, please reveal them to me and help me to break them up. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Remain Steadfast in the Face of Ungodly Opposition


S: Numbers 14:3-10. 20-24
“Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!” Then Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel. Two of the men who had explored the land, Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, tore their clothing. They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle.

God was going to destroy the Israelites, but Moses pleaded for them.

Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it. But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.”

O: Caleb and Joshua did the right thing, but the Israelites listened to the other 10 spies and were going to stone them! Sometimes when you obey the Lord, you find people attacking you.

Sometimes, like here, God vindicates you. Sometimes, like many prophets and martyrs, you do get killed, or at least harmed, in this life, so your reward and vindication is only in heaven.

A: Nonetheless, regardless of whether our reward or vindication happens here on earth, or has to wait till heaven, we must be steadfast in Christ when we know what God requires of us.

This is easier said than done, of course, but having other believers around to encourage us helps, by providing positive peer pressure. This is another reason why regular fellowship with other believers is so important.

P: Father in heaven, lead us and guide us, and give us the strength to follow Your leading. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Malaysia Untuk KemuliaanMu


S: Isaiah 61:8, 11 “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward my people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.”
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

O: God originally was speaking to Israel, but in verse 11, He extends His justice to all the nations of the world.

This doesn't mean that His justice is already operational in all the nations of the world, but as the Kingdom of God is slowly extended throughout the world, like a mustard seed, the influence of God's standards of truth and justice spreads.

A: Tomorrow, Sunday 5 May 2013, is election day here in Malaysia. Let us vote in such a way as to uphold God's justice. May it spread to Malaysia as well!

P: Father, we pray for Your Justice and Goodness to overshadow everything that is happening here in Malaysia. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Balancing Truth & Tact


S: Leviticus 26:1 Do not make idols or set up carved images, or sacred pillars, or sculptured stones in your land so you may worship them. I am the Lord your God.

O: I've been reading the Manga Bible series with my 5½-year-old daughter Joni lately, and we just completed Manga Melech and started Manga Messenger.

As we read the stories, it became very clear to Joni that God viewed it very seriously when the people of God abandon the worship of the Immortal Invisible God and start worshipping statues.

At the same time, as we live here in Selangor, Malaysia, we see statues being worshipped everywhere because many of our friends and family belong to religions that use statues in their worship. We also live in a society that is traditionally very racist and religiously-discriminatory, and we want to bring up our children to eschew such bigotry.

My children attend a predominantly Chinese-Malaysian preschool and on one occasion they innocently pick up a racist word from some of their friends and we have been trying to teach them not to use such words. We tell them that is not polite.

But as we teach our children about how seriously God views the worship of statues, we also are concerned that they might then tell their friends in an offensive manner -- friends whose families use statues in their worship.

A: The Bible is very clear about the importance of worshiping the immortal invisible God alone, and not any man-made thing. I wrote an article years ago about this topic, and how Christians should not fear idols.

But now my wife and I are faced with how to teach our children to hold to the truth of scripture regarding idols while being tactful in how we talk about it to our friends who do not share our beliefs. It does not do any good to be offend people needlessly.

P: Father, give us wisdom as we bring up Joni and Hannah in the Lord. Help us to teach them how to balance Biblical Truth and tact. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Treat foreigners well


S: Leviticus 19:33-34 Don't mistreat any foreigners who live in your land. Instead, treat them as well as you treat your own people and love them as much as you love yourself. Remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

O: The Levitical Law isn't in force on us as new testament believers, but I think the principle for this continues.

Tenaganita's Irene Fernandez Mistreatment of foreign workers in Malaysia is rampant. Employers mistreat them. Police extort money from them. They're overworked, underpaid, etc. I shudder to think what judgement God might have in store for Malaysia if we continue in this way.

Tenaganita has many times in the past pointed out some of these abuses. Yet nothing seems to change. A lot of it is tied up in the current corrupt political system, but a lot of it is also tied up in ordinary Malaysians' attitudes and prejudices against foreigners. Foreign maids abused

Time and again I have heard good Christian Malaysians voice out prejudiced statements against foreigners -- that they bring crime, that they are being given ICs by the corrupt BN government so that they would vote for BN and prevent democratic change in Malaysia, etc.

While I agree that it is wrong for BN to give ICs to foreigners on the condition that they vote for BN, this shouldn't make us ignore what the Bible says against racism, and about treating foreigners properly. Many of us are descendents of immigrants ourselves, and I believe anyone who is willing to uproot themselves and move to another country and work hard should be given a chance.

Sure, if they commit crimes, they should, just like native-born people, be given a fair trial and punished if found guilty. But we shouldn't let our angst against BN make us victimize other people.

A: Yes, by all means, let us work against corruption and bring down the BN government, but let us also treat foreign workers with compassion and the love of Christ. As Christians, we should be the first the speak up against abuse of foreigners.

P: Father, I beg your mercy upon Malaysia. Please forgive us for how nastily we have treated foreigners in our midsts. May Malaysian change our attitudes and become more conformed to You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)