Daddy blog

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

Friday, December 25, 2015

You can still turn back to God


S: Judges 10:6-16 (LXX2012)

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Astaroth, and the gods of Aram, and the gods of Sidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Phylistines; and they forsook the Lord, and did not serve him. And the Lord was very angry with Israel, and sold them into the hands of the Phylistines, and into the hand of the children of Ammon. And they afflicted and bruised the children of Israel at that time eighteen years, all the children of Israel beyond Jordan in the land of the Amorite in Galaad. And the children of Ammon went over Jordan to fight with Juda, and Benjamin, and with Ephraim; and the children of Israel were greatly afflicted.

And the children of Israel cried to the Lord, saying, We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken God, and served Baalim. And the Lord said to the children of Israel, Did I not save you from Egypt and from the Amorite, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Phylistines, and from the Sidonians, and Amalec, and Madiam, who afflicted you? and you cried to me, and I saved you out of their hand? Yet you forsook me and served other gods; therefore I will not save you any more. Go, and cry to the gods whom you⌃ have chosen to yourselves, and let them save you in the time of your affliction.

And the children of Israel said to the Lord, We have sinned: do you to us according to all that is good in your eyes; only deliver us this day. And they put away the strange gods from the midst of them, and served the Lord only, and his soul was pained for the trouble of Israel.

O: As I read this on Christmas day, I'm reminded of how often I have let God down and disobeyed Him this year -- even as recently as yesterday. I've also let my wife down, etc.

But this Christmas morning, as I read this, I am reminded again about how God is a God of second chances. While we yet live, there is always the opportunity to repent and return to Him. And He will yet save us.

A: 1 John 1:9 points out, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This is ever true.

The late Bill Bright put it this way:

Spiritual breathing

By faith you can continue to experience God's love and forgiveness.

If you become aware of an area of your life (an attitude or an action) that is displeasing to the Lord, even though you are walking with Him and sincerely desiring to serve Him, simply thank God that He has forgiven your sins - past, present and future - on the basis of Christ's death on the cross. Claim His love and forgiveness by faith and continue to have fellowship with Him.

If you retake the throne of your life through sin -- a definite act of disobedience -- breathe spiritually.

Spiritual breathing (exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure) is an exercise in faith that enables you to continue to experience God's love and forgiveness.

  1. Exhale -- confess your sin -- agree with God concerning your sin and thank Him for His forgiveness of it, according to 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25. Confession involves repentance - a change in attitude and action.
  2. Inhale -- surrender the control of your life to Christ, and appropriate (receive) the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith. Trust that He now directs and empowers you; according to the command of Ephesians 5:18, and the promise of 1 John 5:14, 15.

P: Father, thank You for Your Son whom you sent, not just as a baby in an manger, but to save us on the Cross. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Aid to the right amount


S: Joshua 5:10-12 LXX2012 And the children of Israel kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, to the westward of Jericho on the opposite side of the Jordan in the plain. And they ate of the grain of the earth unleavened and new corn. In this day the manna failed, after they had eaten of the corn of the land, and the children of Israel no longer had manna: and they took the fruits of the land of the Phoenicians in that year.

O: God provided manna for the Hebrews up until the time that they entered the land and could now live on the land's produce.

A: When we help people, there's the possibility of them becoming dependent on us. For example, when our children are little, we need to help provide for them, but all of us know that an adult child shouldn't rely on his parents for sustenance unless he is disabled, or in some temporary situation like he just lost his job and is looking for a new one.

P: Father, help us to be wise in our charity; to be generous and provide help where needed, but not to become an enabler for dysfunction. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Success more dangerous than failure sometimes


S: Deuteronomy 8:10-20 After you eat and are full, give praise to the Lord your God for the good land he gave you. Make sure that you never forget the Lord or disobey his laws and teachings that I am giving you today. If you always obey them, you will have plenty to eat, and you will build good houses to live in. You will get more and more cattle, sheep, silver, gold, and other possessions.

But when all this happens, don't be proud! Don't forget that you were once slaves in Egypt and that it was the Lord who set you free. Remember how he led you in that huge and frightening desert where poisonous snakes and scorpions live. There was no water, but the Lord split open a rock, and water poured out so you could drink. He also gave you manna, a kind of food your ancestors had never even heard about. The Lord was testing you to make you trust him, so that later on he could be good to you.

When you become successful, don't say, “I'm rich, and I've earned it all myself.” Instead, remember that the Lord your God gives you the strength to make a living. That's how he keeps the promise he made to your ancestors.

But I'm warning you—if you forget the Lord your God and worship other gods, the Lord will destroy you, just as he destroyed the nations you fought.

O: When things are going badly, we're often spurred to remember the Lord and ask Him for help. But sometimes when things are going well, we may become complacent and slack off.

A: We need to stay faithful in "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health" like the marriage vows say. It's no coincidence that God uses marriage as a picture of our relationship with Him.

P: Father, whether things are going well or going badly at the moment, may I be faithful to You. In Jesus' name, amen.

[Image source]

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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Balaam's Big Boo-boo

Image source: Clive Uptton

S: Numbers 22-31

22:12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people; for they are blessed.”

22:21-22 Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. God’s anger burned because he went; and Yahweh’s angel placed himself in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him.

23:20 Behold, I have received a command to bless. He has blessed, and I can’t reverse it.

24:1-5 When Balaam saw that it pleased Yahweh to bless Israel, he didn’t go, as at the other times, to meet with enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness. Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came on him. He took up his parable, and said, “Balaam the son of Beor says, the man whose eyes are open says; he says, who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down, and having his eyes open: How goodly are your tents, Jacob, and your dwellings, Israel!”

31:8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. They also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.

31:16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh.

O: Balaam appears to be a real prophet who really heard from God. Yet, he was also practicing Simony — the commercialization of the spiritual. People paid him to curse their enemies, which is why Balak had the idea to ask Balaam to curse the Israelites for him.

God told him not to go, yet in the end, because of his avarice, God allowed him to go. But even so, God prevented him from cursing the Israelites.

However, Balaam knew that if he could alienate the Israelites from God, then the Israelites wouldn't be protected anymore, so he advised the Midianites to use their women to seduce Israelite men to commit spiritual adultery (along with physical adultery.)

For that, he was destroyed along with the Midianites when the scheme was thwarted.

A: People can really be Christians and really be led by God at various times in their lives, yet end up astray. In recent times here in Southeast Asia, we have seen the downfall of Pastor Kong Hee and his pop singer wife Sun Ho of City Harvest megachurch due to corruption and misappropriation of funds.

At various other times, we've seen other falls from grace of prominent Christian leaders.

Does this mean that all their ministry has been fake? Not necessarily, just as Balaam really was a prophet of God.

But this does mean that if God gives us spiritual success, we still need to beware, lest we fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

P: Father, let me not become overconfident and prideful. I must remember that my adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8). Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13) In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hellfire & brimstone?



Hebrews 10:26-29 For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace?

O: As modern Evangelical Christians, we have shied away from the old "fire and brimstone" preaching and instead we put more emphasis on the grace and forgiveness of God. This is generally good and correct, but sometimes I need to be reminded of the other side of the coin.

Sin is a very serious issue. Passages like this do exist. It's not just a matter of "We mustn’t do evil because it grieves the heart of God" or "We mustn't do evil because it hurts other people." It's also because somehow it does imperil us spiritually.

How does this all tally with grace & forgiveness, and salvation? I don't know precisely, but we do know that there are a lot of things that are true, that may be difficult or impossible for us to get our minds around.

Scientists have been able to teach chimpanzees sign language, and so people have been able to hold conversations with chimpanzees. Probably, you could even teach them counting and simple arithmetic. But you couldn't teach them calculus. It would seem contradictory to them -- how can you add up an infinite series of numbers and end up with a finite sum, for example?

And yet, calculus is manifestly correct -- we build bridges and skyscrapers, aeroplanes and satellites with them. The fact that a chimpanzee cannot understand calculus doesn’t stop it from being true.

God is way more intelligent than we are than we are to chimpanzees. So is it surprising that there are mysteries that we cannot comprehend and yet are true?

A: So, while I can rest in the peace of Christ's sacrifice, God's saving grace, and His infinite salvation, I must be aware that in some manner, I can still imperil my eternal soul when I sin. How this can both be true at the same time, I don't know, but I do know that sin is serious stuff spiritually.

So, when I am tempted, I need to remember passages like this. "Don't play-play," as Phua Chu Kang says.

P: Father, I continue to struggle with sin. Please remind me of its seriousness when I am tempted, so that I may stay true to You. When I do sin, may I quickly repent and come to you for forgiveness. Thank You for Your provision of Jesus Christ to save us. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hedonism doesn't satisfy


S: Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

O: My first impression of Ecclesiastes the first time I studied it years ago was very negative. The problem with this book is that this is a record of Solomon's thoughts when he was a jaded backslidden believer. He had started out with so much promise as a young man dedicated to God, but then, as time went on, he strayed away from God, partly due to marrying unbelieving wives who led him into spiritual adultery with other gods.

But reading it again this week under the guidance of Pastor Kris Langham's Through the Word Bible Audio Guide, I was struck by this passage. Langham points out the contrast between Solomon's hedonistic "I denied myself nothing" with Jesus' call to "deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24 / Luke 9:23)

Solomon, having drifted from God, searched for meaning in life. He tried pleasure, studying, work, wealth, and many other things. Nothing satisfies.

A: When life gets tough, sometimes I entertain the fantasy of throwing away everything and living for pleasure. Solomon's life is an example of how that doesn't satisfy. See also the lives of so many celebrities we know of. They have wealth, fame, anything they desire, but end up in rehab centres or even taking their own lives, because ultimately, it's meaningless.

We cannot find ultimate fulfillment in life by indulgence. Ultimate meaning only comes from eternal purpose. Godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6). To a lesser extent, it's like the pleasure of a family versus the hedonistic single life - as illustrated in this For Better or For Worse cartoon.

P: Father, when I'm feeling down, remind me of this truth, "If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." (Matthew 16:25) In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Corruption & Conviction


S: Acts 24:24-27 A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him. After two years went by in this way, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And because Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jewish people, he left Paul in prison.

O: Felix actually felt convicted at Paul's preaching. However, instead of responding to that conviction with repentance, he sent Paul away. But he kept calling him back because the message was so compelling, and also because he had hoped Paul would bribe him to set him free.

A: Even when government officials are corrupt, God still can work things out for good (even though Paul himself ignored the Holy Spirit's warning not to go to Jerusalem earlier.) Eventually Paul did manage to get to Rome and preach the Gospel there.

Here in Malaysia as well as in many other places, we are frequently faced with corrupt people in positions of power. While we should do what we can to change that, even if we are unable to change them, nonetheless, we can and should still follow God ourselves.

Do not despair! Ultimately God's truth prevails.

P: Father, when we feel discouraged, remind us that You are ultimately in charge.

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

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unbelievable, though predicted


S: Luke 9:21-22 Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Luke 24:5-11 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it.

O: Jesus predicted his death and resurrection several times, and his followers knew about those predictions, yet they didn't think of that when he was crucified.

A: Jesus told us many things which we know, but in the living of life we tend to forget, e.g. Luke 12:4-7 “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

Yet we so often fear death more than we fear letting our relationship with God drift away.

P: Father, remind me of Your truths, so that when the going gets tough, I'll stay true to You. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Conflicts among brothers in Christ


S: James 4 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”? But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into this or that town and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You do not know about tomorrow. What is your life like? For you are a puff of smoke that appears for a short time and then vanishes. You ought to say instead, “If the Lord is willing, then we will live and do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.

O: I'm following a reading schedule from The YouVersion Bible App, and today, the reading was extremely on target.

Today's reading is James 4, and I just so happen to be in the middle of a horribly emotionally disturbing dispute with another follower of Jesus.

He said several things to me which hurt my feelings tremendously, and I think he's pretty vexed about it as well. Due to my recent realization that we as followers of Jesus have no right to anger, that there is no such thing as human “righteous anger” (see my 18 April life journal), I bridled my immediate impulse to reply with cutting remarks of my own, but probably due to us having different assumptions about the situation, he continued to say one thing after another which hurt my feelings.

He might not realize how much his words hurt me, and I think that, in spite of my attempt to be polite in return, my own angst showed through and cause him to feel even more vexed as well.

I also have to examine my own motives. I had made some suggestions to him which he had made assumptions about my motives which I think are incorrect, but then my reaction once he said words that hurt my feelings would likely be coloured by my feelings of hurt. In verses 1-3, James says that conflicts and quarrels among us come from our passions that battle inside us, and that we desire and do not have because we do not ask, and we ask and do not receive because we ask wrongly, to spend it on our passions.

In verses 4-10, he goes on to say that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble -- so we must humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God -- then He will exalt us.

Then verses 11-12 tells us not to speak against our fellow believers -- not to judge our neighbour -- for God is the only true righteous Judge who can see all the circumstances behind everything -- we all can only see partially and so our judgement is flawed. This is, indeed, a big reason why there is no such thing as human “righteous anger”.

I admit that I indeed judged my brother and found him wanting. I felt justified to hit back at him, and felt that my anger was justified. Thanks to Brant Hansen's pointing out to me over the course of the last few months what the Biblical teaching about anger was, fortunately, I didn't hit back like I felt like I wanted to. But I can't say that my motives were pure.

Verses 13-17 points out the folly of us making promises. This situation arose because I agreed to do some work for this brother, which I thought would involve weekly emails and monthly visits, but his needs turned out to be much greater, and I found myself unable to fulfill his needs. Hence, I made some suggestions about how to change things to accommodate the situation, which he took very badly. This is what, from what I could see, precipitated the situation.

Earlier, for 2 or 3 months after we originally discussed doing this, I got busy and forgot to follow up, so he was upset that I had forgotten to follow up and said some things which I found very cutting. But it was easier to forgive him for those hurtful things because I realized that I had let him down by forgetting to follow up. This time, however, it was much harder, because I felt that I had done nothing wrong. Clearly, his assumptions about the situation were different and he had felt very wronged on his own part, which is why he said those new remarks which hurt my feelings badly even worse.

This morning, he sent me an email which indicated that he was also wanting to take steps to resolve the matter. I think that if I had given in to my anger and said cutting remarks back at him, we would not have reached this stage so quickly. Nonetheless, feelings are still raw on my side, and I think on his side as well, and I pray for God's wisdom.

A: “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) This is so true. Our natural reaction when we are hurt is to hurt back. But that is not what God calls us to do. He tells us that when we get angry, to quickly put away that anger so as not to give the devil an opportunity. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

We have to do that.

P: Father, please give me wisdom how to resolve this situation amicably, and to grow in such a way as to prevent future recurrences. We are both brothers in Christ and we both think we are right in how we have acted in this matter, yet clearly we have caused great pain to each other. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Praying for politicians you disagree with


S: 1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

O: I must admit that I seldom pray for Najib and the rest of the Barisan Nasional politicians. Some of this is due to the busyness of life, but some of it is due to my animosity towards their policies which I believe are corrupt and undemocractic. But Paul was living under Roman oppression when he wrote these words... disagreeing with the government isn't a valid excuse.

A: I need to pray regularly on behalf of all people, even for politicians I disagree with in positions of authority. For God so loved the world ― the whole world ― that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

P: Father, just like Jonah needed to see Your heart for people that he disliked, I need to see Your heart as well. Change my heart, O God. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Be Angry?


S: Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity.

O: I’ve always taken this verse to mean that I am to be angry, but not to keep it going, because letting anger keep going will turn into bitterness.

However, lately, Brant Hansen on his podcast has been recently pointing out that actually, this verse doesn't say we are to be angry. It's saying that if you get angry, get rid of it quickly so as not to sin! The New Living Translation puts it this way:
And “don't sin by letting anger control you.” Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
If we do a search on all the Bible verses with the word "anger" or "angry", we can see that they fall into 3 basic categories:
  1. Humans being told not to be angry.
  2. Human anger having bad effects.
  3. God being angry because of something humans did.
There is no case of human anger being good! Only God's anger can be good — because God is perfect, and can see the whole picture. We humans cannot see the whole picture, and “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires”(James 1:20).

We Christians often think that we must be angry against the evil people we see around us. But the Bible tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). So, none of us are righteous (Romans 3:10)

That's why “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

A: This is not an easy thing to do, and we certainly cannot do it on our own strength, but God calls us as followers of Jesus to love our enemies and do good to those who sin against us. (Matthew 5:44)

I freely confess that I have felt a lot of anger and hatred against people that I think are doing evil. Barisan Nasional, Dr. Mahathir, Najib, or even the guy who cut me off in traffic.

I felt justified in my anger. I pointed to how Jesus got angry and threw the merchants out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12) as justification for legitimate anger. But I forget: Jesus is perfect. Jesus is God. I am not God. I am not perfect. My human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

Yes, I will feel angry again. But then, the correct thing to do is to put it away. As soon as possible. And do not act on it.

P: Father, this is a tough challenge You have called Your people to. We are called to be a people of love — that’s how people will know we’re Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35) When I am angry again in the future, please remind me of this, and by Your Holy Spirit, let me put it away quickly and not act on it. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you're interested in reading more about this issue, check out Brant Hansen's book, Unoffendable.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)
Image credit

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Jars of Clay

Image by Pete Briscoe

S: 2 Corinthians 4:6-18 For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body.

For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body. As a result, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. But since we have the same spirit of faith as that shown in what has been written, “I believed; therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak. We do so because we know that the one who raised up Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence.

For all these things are for your sake, so that the grace that is including more and more people may cause thanksgiving to increase to the glory of God. Therefore we do not despair, but even if our physical body is wearing away, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

O: "Life is suffering," the Buddha said. In a sense, he is correct in this, and this passage from the Bible agrees. But that's not the end of the story.

Actually, for most people reading this blog, I would guess that life is not as much suffering as for the majority of the people in the world. We don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from; we have a place to sleep tonight, etc. Recently, we have read of the 21 martyrs in Libya, the 4,000 killed by Boko Haram, the 10,000 killed by ebola, and the many-times-more grieving relatives of these victims.

But we have our "little problems" -- as I grow older, the years of playing high-impact sports have worn out my knees and now I have to do orthopaedic exercises to prevent knee pain, and have to be careful how I walk up stairs, and how I lift heavy objects, and how I sit due to my coccyx injury, etc.

Paul himself suffered from all sorts of ailments. But he points out that even as our physical body will wear away, and all of us will physically die, our inner person can be renewed day by day. Eternity beckons, and our lives here is but "momentary light affliction."

But it's not just "buck up and pull yourselves up by your bootstraps"! We have this treasure in jars of clay. What is this treasure? It is the power of God for salvation.

For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6

A: In light of this, let us stay true to Christ, even through the daily toil and trouble. As that old Negro spiritual says,

I am a poor wayfaring stranger
Wandering through this world of woe
But there is no sickness, no toil, nor danger
In that bright land to which I go.

Therefore, we do not despair. We continue to do what is right, in spite of everything, "though the fig tree does not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vine" as Habakkuk says.

We can rejoice, even in our "momentary light affliction", as we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

As we recall, when Jesus was walking on water, and Peter stepped out of the boat to walk to him, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he could also walk on the water. Only when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the storm around did he begin to sink. Yet even as he did, he cried out to Jesus and Jesus reached out his hand and rescued him. (Matthew 14:22-36)

P: Father, thank You that we have Your treasure in our jars of clay. When we see the winds and waves buffet, help us to keep our eyes on Jesus. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, February 14, 2015

You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar


S: Romans 14:13-15 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean in itself; still, it is unclean to the one who considers it unclean. For if your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy by your food someone for whom Christ died.

O: I sometimes get annoyed with people who assert things which I know to be false. Sometimes I feel like deliberately doing something to provoke them on the area of dispute.

A: While there is a place for persuading people to change their minds about their wrong beliefs (e.g. Paul himself in Galatians 2-3 tries to persuade people who believe in all these clean/unclean practices to change their minds), we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Speaking the truth without love is a good way to drive people away from the truth. "A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath." Proverbs 15:1

Jesus calls us to value the other person. We should persuade them to the truth because of love, for their own benefit, not for our own self-aggrandizement.

Ultimately, there is no point winning an argument when you've lost the person.

P: Father, when I find myself in a disagreement with someone, help me to remember that the other person is someone Jesus has died for. Help me to love them like Jesus loves them. In Jesus' name, amen.

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

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The just shall live by faith


Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

O: Paul was quoting Habakkuk 2:4 when he wrote “The righteous by faith will live.” or as a more familiar translation puts it, “The just shall live by faith.”

Habakkuk had complained to God during the waning days of Judah as an independent kingdom around the 7th century B.C. He observed that bad people were prospering, yet God doesn't seem to be punishing them.

Does that sound familiar? Today we see what Daesh is doing in Syria & Iraq, what Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria the surrounding countries, what the Burmese government is doing to both Muslims and Christians, the blasphemy cases in Pakistan, the heightened persecution in India since the BJP took power, etc. In our own country of Malaysia, we see how the government is eroding our civil liberties and restricting our churches, what with the “Allah” case, the conversion of East Malaysian rural Christians by trickery, the corruption, the gerrymandering and malapportionment, etc.

A: It's easy to despair. But in the end, Habakkuk realized that God is still in control, and we need to trust God even when things look like chaos.
When the fig tree does not bud,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
when the olive trees do not produce,
and the fields yield no crops;
when the sheep disappear from the pen,
and there are no cattle in the stalls,
I will rejoice because of the Lord;
I will be happy because of the God who delivers me!
The sovereign Lord is my source of strength.
He gives me the agility of a deer;
he enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain.

― Habakkuk 3:17-19

P: When things seem to be falling apart, help me to remember that You are still in charge, my Lord and Saviour. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Plan B


S: Acts 19:21 After all these things had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem by traveling through Macedonia and Greece. He said, “After I have been there, I must see Rome.”
Acts 20:22-23 “I am determined to go to Jerusalem now. I don’t know what will happen to me there. However, the Holy Spirit warns me in every city that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me.
Acts 21:4 In Tyre we searched for the disciples. After we found them, we stayed there for seven days. The Spirit had the disciples tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:10-14 After we had been there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. During his visit he took Paul’s belt and tied his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘This is how the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man who owns this belt. Then they will hand him over to people who are not Jewish.’” When we heard this, we and the believers who lived there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Then Paul replied, “Why are you crying like this and breaking my heart? I’m ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but also to die there for the sake of the Lord, the one named Jesus.” When Paul could not be persuaded, we dropped the issue and said, “May the Lord’s will be done.”

O: The Holy Spirit warned Paul time and time again not to go to Jerusalem, but Paul was determined to go. He saw the great turning to Christ among the Gentiles, and he longed to see a similar turning to Christ among his own people, the Jews. So Paul allowed his own desires to cloud his judgment and he managed to rationalize disobeying the clear command of the Holy Spirit, saying, “Why are you crying like this and breaking my heart? I’m ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but also to die there for the sake of the Lord, the one named Jesus.”

However, God did not abandon Paul because of this disobedience. Indeed, Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and spent at least 4 years in captivity as a result. Who knows what plans God may have had for him in those two or three years? But God still used Paul in prison — He used that time to inspire Paul to write several epistles, and also used Paul to lead many of Caesar's soldiers to Christ.

A: Even a great man of God like Paul messed up. And he wasn't the only one — Abraham, David, Peter, they all messed up. Yet God did not abandon them. God still had a Plan B for them.

So, if you find that you have messed up, that you've disobeyed God, that you have deluded yourself somehow to think that your own desire is God's plan, don't give up! He still can use you, just as he did Paul.

P: Father, thank You that you're ever merciful and give us second chances. When I mess up, may I quickly get up, repent, and return to following You. In Jesus' name, amen.
Note: Some Christians disagree with the interpretation that Paul had disobeyed God in insisting to return to Jerusalem. This is mainly due to the ambiguity of translation of verses like Acts 19:21 and Acts 20:22. The Greek is ambiguous: the word "spirit" can mean a person resolved to do something. However, if you compare many translations, for example using, you can see that only some of the translations translate this as "Spirit" — others translate it as "spirit", while others translate it as "decided to" or "determined" or "resolved to."

Given that God sent several prophecies to warn Paul not to go back to Jerusalem, including one by the same Agabus who accurately predicted the Judean famine, I think it makes a lot more sense to interpret it this way. These web pages have a more detailed discussion of this issue:
Note: this is using the SOAP method. For more information, see this page (not written by me.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015



S: 1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

O: This verse has been quoted in modern English many times to mean that our personal bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. That's not what the Greek says, apparently. "Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς Θεοῦ ἐστε, καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν" I don't know Greek, but I'm told by people who know Greek that the "you" here is plural Even the King James Version, which was translated from the Greek back before English lost the ability to distinguish between the singular and plural second pronoun, says "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" -- Note that it says "ye are the temple of God" and "dwelleth in you" (plural) not "thou art the temple of God" and "dwelleth in thee" (singular). This is also clear in the Chinese translation " 难道你们不知道自己是上帝的殿宇吗?不知道上帝的灵生活在你们心中吗?" "你们" is plural you. German "Denkt also daran, dass ihr Gottes Tempel seid und dass Gottes Geist in euch wohnt!" "Ihr" is plural.

That means that I am not the temple of the Holy Spirit. We in community are the temple of the Holy Spirit (and the Father, and the Son.)

There is a stream within modern Christian thought that "Me, the Bible and Jesus" is all that is necessary. I have heard it said so many times by sincere Christians "You are the temple of the Holy Spirit!" meaning you, singular.

But even aside from this verse, Hebrews 10:24-25 points out "And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near."

The word "church" itself is a translation of εκκλησία, which I am told, meant "gathering" or "assembly" in Koine Greek. (That's the dialect of Greek that the New Testament was written in.)

A: We are not meant to be lone ranger Christians. We need each other. We need the positive peer pressure, and when two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, then He is with us (Matthew 18:20) Let us not neglect meeting together regularly, encouraging one another to love and good deeds! (Hebrews 10:24-25)

P: Father, when we feel like our church is not "feeding" us, when we feel "tired of going to church" remind us to look for ways to improve it rather than to run away and be lone ranger Christians. In Jesus' name, amen.

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