Monday, November 4, 2013

A New (Ad)venture

Hi friends, I'm sorry that I've not been able to share with you guys Part 2 of my article on the book of Job... no flow lah :p

However, I'm excited to share with you a new venture (or adventure) I'm embarking on with a group of friends who have been impacted by the gospel of grace.  We bonded over the past six or more months over cyberspace as well as lunches and dinners, and recently decided to spread the grace message through our own website, GraceUnited.SG  and our own Facebook page.

I will be publishing my blog posts over there from now on and welcome you all to visit our new website. Feel free to like our Facebook page too... there will be a "unmerited favour" draw for those who like our page within this week. We are giving away 5 copies of Pastor Prince's latest book, "The Power Of Right Believing".

By the way, I have just published my first post on GraceUnited.SG . See you there!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Was Job A Successful Man? (Part 1)

Pastor Prince preached on the book of Job yesterday and I believe its confirmation for me that I am on the right track to reboot my blog with a study of the book of Job because the last time Pastor Prince preached on Job was in 2009 - "Why Good People Suffer - Answers From Job's Story".

My Whatsapp chatgroup (Grace United Faith Club) was so excited by yesterday's powerful sermon (sermon notes aggregated by Terence Yeo available here) that we had a little cyber bible study last night and Geri was inspired to write a very intriguing post - Job and Jesus and the number 33

However, unlike Geri's article, my post today is not really a deep word study of Job but rather I want to share a little detail which struck me as I read Job 1 and made me wonder if Job was really a sucessful man.

By all accounts, by society's standards then and now, Job would be considered a successful, nay , a VERY successful man because he "was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East".

I'm sure Job's mother-in-law would probably say that her daughter had landed a great catch - a moral, God-fearing and very rich man. Nevertheless, reading in between the lines, I come to the realisation that while he was indeed a very successul man, Job actually did not enjoy good success because he was always living in fear.

Firstly, Job was always fearful that his children would incur the wrath of God with their partying ways:

His sons used to go and feast in the house of each on his day (birthday) in turn, and they invited their three sisters to eat and drink with them.
And when the days of their feasting were over, Job sent for them to purify and hallow them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed or disowned God in their hearts. Thus did Job at all [such] times.

I read from these verses (in between the lines) that Job was not really close to his children, and hence he did not have a great influence over their lives. Perhaps he was too busy with his business (or careers in our case) and spent little time with them as they were growing up, and hence the children respected him but did not have any affection for him.

I know the verses did not explicitly say so but in my (Holy Spirit inspired)imagination, I can picture the children not feeling comfortable around their father and hence would rather not include him in their birthday celebrations.

Why should Job, a "blameless and upright man", fear that his sons may have sinned? Shouldn't he have the confidence that his sons would be just as blameless and upright as him? Sadly, no, he did not. I believe this was probably because he invested most of his time in his business, in accumulating his great wealth and invested little time in bringing up his children in the ways of God. Take note that it was Job, not the children themselves, who arranged for sacrifices to be offered on their behalf.

Sadly, I have to confess that this is what happened to me too. I have been hawkering for the last ten years and my long hours at the stall meant that I spent very little time with them as they were growing up. I had set aside Sunday as an off day to go to church as a family, and have lunch together and a spot of shopping after service but clearly that is not enough. My three sons are not affectionate with me although I do have their respect (or I'd like to think that I do).

However, on a brighter note, I believe God does redeem the time which the locusts have eaten, and my relationship with my sons has improved over the past few years and now they readily come to me for and listen to my advice.

Testimony time:
My second son joined his school's (Singapore Polytechnic) dragon boat team for his CCA becuase he heard that their training was very tough and he wanted to get very fit through that. However, the seniors in the team are not Godly people, always cursing and swearing at them with vulgarities and heaping a lot of punishments (push ups and other physical exercises) on my son and his fellow first-year recruits at every little excuse.

My wife had been nagging him to quit because of the physical and psychological abuse by his seniors but my son did not want to because he wanted to be recognised as being tough enough to survive the notoriously harsh dragon boat training. He was also conditioned by the seniors to think that those who quit the team are weak. I told my wife not to give him further pressure as he already has to deal with the self-imposed pressure of not being seen as a weakling by quitting.

Anyway, he has joined the team for about two months and last week before he went for another training session, I noticed that he had a look of dread on his face... so I told him that regardless of what CCA he joins, the most important thing is that he must find it enjoyable. It is okay to quit the team if he is not enjoying it and the past two months were not wasted as he has benefited from the physical training and gotten very fit.

Later in the afternoon, my wife called me to inform me that my son had called her up at the office to inform her that he had quit the team. He sounded a bit down and my wife asked me to talk to him when i reach home after work.

After I reached home later that night, my son told me that he smsed his quit decision to his fellow teammates and most of them just said a curt "Bye" while one senior got hold of a recruit's phone and berated him as a quitter.

I took this teaching opportunity to counsel my son on what I've learned in these ten years of being in NCC. I told him that his identity is not in what he does or able to do but rather his identity is in Christ and that will not change whatever he does, now in school, later in the army and after that in his career.

I also told him that it is normal to feel hurt when people say bad things about him and it is important to just let those words fly over his head and not let them build a nest on it. I told him to disregard words from people whom he barely knew and have no regad for his welfare.

I'm happy to report that my second son is more cheerful now and arranging with another friend to join the air-rifle club which he is trying set up (currently in the midst of gettting approval from the school authorities). Thank you Jesus :-)

Okay, thanks for reading all the way up to here... I shall continue my post in Part 2... akan datang ;-)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What About Job's Wife

The book of Job is a really long read (42 chapters); I've only finished 7 chapters thus far but for those of you who have read Job Chapter 1, you will know from the very first verse that Job owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 donkeys and a very large household; in fact, Job was the richest man in the region.

However, by verse 17 you will see that Satan took away all the animals through bandits and fire, and killed almost all of Job's servants bar three who were left alive to bring the bad news to Job. In one fell swoop, from being the richest man in the region, Job was instantly reduced to a penniless man by the devil.

That was not the end of his troubles; Satan also killed all the children of Job, 7 sons and 3 daughters, while they were having a feast at the oldest brother's house which collapsed due to a sudden great wind. This was the straw which broke the camel's back and "Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped." (verse 20)

At this point, I thought that Job effectively lost everything already but I discovered in Job Chapter 2 that there was still one important person in Job's life whom Satan did not touch at all - Job's wife! 

Job's wife was introduced to us in Job 2:9 - 'Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”Pastor Prince preached a sermon on Job in 2009 - "Why Good People Suffer - Answers From Job's Story" in which he explained what Job's real problem was and how God resolved the matter for him but Pastor Prince did not explain why Satan did not kill Job's wife.

Usually, when we talk about Job's story, we have the impression that he lost everything but he still had his wife! Has anyone ever wondered why Job's wife was left alone by Satan?

I am not saying that I can read the devil's mind but I believe Satan left Job's wife alone because he was following a previous formula for success. Right at the beginning of the Bible, the beginning of mankind, we already see the devil employ the strategy of using a woman to bring down a man, and consequently mankind. Yes, I am talking about Eve and Adam and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

In Genesis 3, we see Satan successfully tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree and she in turn also gave the fruit to Adam, who ate it, thus resulting in the fall of Man. Similarly, Satan left Job's wife alive so that she can tempt Job to curse God.

Do you remember what Satan said to God in Job 1:9-11?
9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!

In verse 11, we see that Satan's "bet" with God was that Job would curse God to his face if he lost all his possessions. I believe that Satan kept Job's wife as his ace in the pack just in case Job refused to curse God despite all his attacks.

Well, as Satan feared, Job did not curse God even though he lost all his possessions, servants and children; so Satan struck Job's body with painful boils from top to toe and when that did not cause Job to curse God either, Satan unleashed his final attack - he let Job's wife speak the words for him:“Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” 

As it turned out, Job still did not curse God (albeit under the wrong belief - see my earlier post) but scolded her instead (in verse 10):
10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Ladies, please don't misunderstand that I am blaming you for causing man's troubles. No, what I am trying to say is that your words are monumentally important to a man's well-being, especially when he is in trouble; your words can truly make or break a man... yes, I admit it, men are weak that way ;-)

Therefore, ladies, choose your words wisely... for your man's sake.

Proverbs 31: 10,26-29
10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.

27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Making Sense Of The Book Of Job

A while ago, a sister in grace highlighted to me a Facebook status update by Rev Rick Warren a few weeks after the tragic death of his son... it was a quotation of Job 2:10 - "Job replied 'Shall we accept only good from God, and never any trouble?' In his pain,Job said no sinful remarks."

That status update attracted more than 600 comments and a lot of them basically are saying "Amen!" to that verse, that suffering comes from God but he will help us pull through. This is very troubling to me because it shows that many people are not reading and understanding the bible in context.

When trying to understand bible passages, it is very important to be clear about the following:

1. Who said it?
2. To whom was it being said?
3. When was it said?
4. Where was it said?

Another important thing when studying the bible is to never lose sight of the big picture ie. the whole bible is about the story of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross; like what Mal said on his blog, there is a "scarlet thread" running through the whole bible.

I have not been writing for more than a year but this episode has inspired me to restart my blog; like what the tagline of my blog title says, I hope to help you make sense of what you are hearing in church as well as reading in the bible.

Since I am returning to writing because of Job 2:10, I think I might as well tackle the whole book of Job, especially since many people like to  (erroneously) quote from Job when they themselves or their friends are going through troubles. 

However, you have to be patient with me because the book of Job is heaaaaaavy reading, not only in terms of quantity (42 chapters) but also in terms of depth. I want to read through the whole book once, and then think about how to structure my series on Job instead of simply going through it chapter by chapter.

For a start, let me deal with Job 2:10. 

Firstly, it is vital to note that this verse was spoken by Job himself. The Holy Spirit recorded this down but He did NOT speak it.

Secondly, Job spoke this in response to his wife who cursed him in verse 9: Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!

Job 2:10 is not the gospel truth! It is the uttering of a man in deep suffering while quarreling with his deeply frustrated and anguished wife; a man who has a wrong opinion of God! (Spoiler alert: this is one of the main themes I will touch on in my series)

Does God give us troubles? Do we even need God to give us troubles when we are perfectly capable of looking for trouble ourselves? Anyway, if you read through Job 1 and 2, you will find that it is Satan who dumped all those troubles on Job. In fact, before Satan's attacks, Job was the richest man in the region because of God's blessings. Satan himself testified to it in Job 1:10!

Job 1:10 (NKJV)
Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

Is God a schizophrenic? One moment He blesses us and the next moment He almost destroys us? NO! God is love and God is good. There are so many verses in the Old Testament that says God delights in us and wants to see us well.

Psalm 18:19 (NLT)
He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.

Psalm 35:27 (NLT)
But give great joy to those who came to my defense. Let them continually say, “Great is the Lord, who delights in blessing his servant with peace!”

Psalm 36:8 (NLT)
You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights.

Psalm 37:23 (NLT)
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.

Psalm 132:15 (NLT)
I will bless this city and make it prosperous; I will satisfy its poor with food.

Psalm 149:4 (NLT)
For the Lord delights in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.

Micah 7:18 (NKJV)
Who is a God like You,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,

Because He delights in mercy.

Many Christians are still confused about the heart of God; they think like Job, that God gives both good and evil to us. How can that be? God is light and in Him is no darkness at all! (1 John 1:5) Moreover, You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.(1 Thess 5:5)

If you are still not sure about who wants good for you and who wants to destroy you, then listen to what Jesus himself says:

John 10: 11-12 (NLT)
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.

Ask yourself this: Who sacrifices his life for the sheep? Who attacks the sheep? Can Jesus be both the Shepherd AND the Wolf as well? Can God be both light and darkness? Can God give both good and evil?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Logical Christian Reboot

Hello friends, I'm back.

I am dipping my toe into the waters again after a long break. I think today is a good day to reboot my blog as it is the Fifth day of the Fifth month of the lunar calendar, 5-5, Grace Grace :-)

Today, I am going to talk about something that's been bugging me for the past few weeks - the issue of throwing stones. Specifically, I want to talk about a verse often quoted by people admonishing others for daring to criticize church leaders:

John 8:7
7 However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

I have been reading CHC Confessions on Facebook for the past few weeks, and there are quite a number of people who like to use John 8:7 against those who criticized the actions of certain CHC church leaders.

I am sure many of you are familiar with this verse in John 8 where a group of scribes and Pharisees threw a woman caught in the act of adultery in front of Jesus and asked Jesus whether she should be stoned in accordance to Moses' law, and verse 7 is Jesus' answer to them.

Many people have used this verse to scold someone who criticizes a church leader for doing something wrong, implying that he is not qualified to do so since he's not perfect and must have done something wrong in his past. They believe that the moral of the story of that adulterous woman is that Jesus is the only perfect one and He gave the woman grace, and therefore we should do likewise.

However, if you read carefully, you will notice that Jesus did not say that the accusation of against the woman was false. Neither did the woman herself protested her innocence. All who read this story, especially those who like to use John 8:7 will agree that the woman was indeed guilty of adultery.

According to the Law, the adulterer and adulteress have to be put to death as punishment for their crime, and this is done by stoning. Therefore, throwing a stone at her is an act of execution, NOT an act of accusation.

When you point out a church leader's wrongdoing, you are not throwing a stone; the scribes and Pharisees were not throwing stones when they said the woman was caught in the act of adultery. Jesus invited them to throw the first stone to punish the woman for her crime; you are throwing stones only when you want to exact your own punishment on that church leader.

Many people have misused John 8:7 this way and the end result is that nobody will say anything even if they see wrongdoing within the church. If church members themselves want to bury their collective head in the sand in this manner, then rest assured that God will use forces outside the church to expose those wrongdoings.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear!