Sunday, June 28, 2009

One man's meat . . .

Sunday 28Jun09: Romans 14: 1 - 12 NIV

[This post was in progress until 29Jun09]

One man's meat is another man's poison. So it's often said by my primary school teachers. This morning I had the privilege to preach the Sunday sermon at Ipoh Garden Baptist on this passage Romans 14. When I was first given the text, this old adage came to mind.

On closer inspection, however, it became more like,

"One man's meat is another man's vegetable"!

Here's the text to my sermon this morning:


Some things are practised differently among some Christians in Church.

At an International Students' Conference at UM back in 1982, I met an Indonesian brother who thought it was necessary to wash, bathe and change into clean clothes each morning before keeping his Quiet Time. He was somewhat unhappy seeing me do my Quiet Time before washing up!

Some Christian communities, e.g. Indian Christians, feel strongly that they should be well dressed for worship service in church on Sundays. The men and boys would invariably put on long sleeved shirts with neckties. To them, it is disrespectful to God to wear casual clothes on Sundays.

Similarly, there was a Church in Bidor town which my family attended back in 2002, which encouraged all the brothers to wear ties during worship. Again, failing to do so indicates a lack of respect for and honour to the Lord.

At one time, in some Baptist Churches, e.g. in USA, women were discouraged from wearing pants, and only skirts were allowed. This was done out of concern for the command in Deuteronomy 22:5, "A woman is not to wear male clothing, and a man is not to put on a woman's garment, for everyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD your God".

And here, in our own country, there are some churches like the Bible Presbyterian, which do not use musical instruments during worship. There's even a church in Bukit Beruntung which does not sing any hymns or choruses, but instead uses only the Book of Psalms for singing during worship.

And the list goes on.

This morning let us look at the apostle's teaching on disputable matters in church.
Verse 1 in Romans 14 tells us, "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters". The KJV translates disputable matters as "doubtful disputes" while the TEV uses the term "personal opinions". Let us see how we can accept one another's persuasion and conviction in such disputable matters.

Let us ponder over how we can accomodate our individual differences, on matters that don't really matter!

I Some of us are different from others

verses 2, 5 and 21

Some of us are stronger in our faith:
v2: his faith allows him to eat everything. These are people who can drink some wine, eat some meat and regard some festivals as the same as other days. And they can still live with a clear conscience.

Others among us are weaker in our faith:
v2b: his faith is weak, he eats only vegetables. In contrast to the stronger in faith, these are people who cannot bring themselves to accept a broader interpretation of some disputable matters. For such people, it is wrong to eat meat, it is not right to treat special days, feasts or celebrations as the same as other days in the year. And for some, it is an ungodly practice to drink wine.

In this morning's passage, the terms "stronger" or "weaker" should not be seen as referring to "superior" or "inferior" Christians, as we often tend to see. Instead, the apostle Paul was referring to some people whose conscience were troubled (the weaker in faith) when they see others apparently taking liberties in some matters of Christian living (the stronger in faith). It must be emphasised here that the stronger in faith are not to be seen as better Christians that those who were weaker.

What really mattered here in Romans 14 was not what some people believed or observed in such areas of Christian living. Whether they were "stronger" or "weaker" in their faith was not a cause for concern in this passage. Instead it was how these people treated one another that caused problems. The Apostle Paul pointed out that those who were weaker judged those who were stronger in faith. At the same time, those who were stronger despised those who were weaker in faith.

It was this issue of Christians' passing judgment and showing contempt to one another that is being addressed in this morning's scripture passage. Here, and also elsewhere in the NT, the apostle Paul teaches clearly on how Christians should be careful about not offending one another on such disputable matters.

Let us look more closely into two examples.

Firstly, the example of taking food. In 1 Corinthians 10: 25 - 33, the apostle Paul instructed at length, how some Christians who were stronger in faith could actually give thanks for food that were served to them when they eat at the homes of non-believing friends, regardless of whether they had been offered on the altars of idols prior to dinner time, believing that "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it" (1Cor10: 26, Psalm 24: 1).

Yet, Paul taught them that they should be mindful of the presence of others, including Christians who were weaker in their faith, whose conscience would be badly troubled if they saw fellow believers taking such "offered" food, usually meat. Furthermore, the non-believers conscience may also be affected, when they see Christian friends apparently violating their own beliefs about idol-worship. So, out of consideration for people with weaker faith and conscience, a precaution is necessary:

But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake— the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. 1 Cor 10: 28, 29

Secondly, the example of observing sacred days. "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike", verse 5 says.

In Jewish practice of OT times, the first day of each month, the New Moon, was to be regarded as a holy day. The New Moon was associated with the sabbath (Isaiah 1: 13). It was celebrated as a new beginning and was marked by sacrifices to God (Numbers 28: 11-15), and by the sound of trumpets (Number 10:10, Psalm 81:3). The most significant New Moon was that of the seventh month of the year, (Lev 23: 24, 25 and Numbers 29: 1-6) when no work was to be carried out. Also, in Ezekiel 46: 1, 3, the new moon is to be regarded as a special day of worship.

It was not surprising, therefore, that there were Christians in the NT, probably the Hebrew Christians, who would hold strongly to the view that holy days such as the New Moon should be strictly observed in the Christian church. These were the "weaker in faith", in contrast to others who were stronger, who would regard everyday as equally holy to the Lord. On this matter, in comparison with the matter of taking food, the apostle Paul teaches those who were weaker to show some consideration to those who were stronger. In Colossians 2:16, 17, the apostle Paul wrote:

. . . do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

The TEV translates Col 2: 16 as "let no one make rules about what you eat or drink, or about holy days, or the new moon . . ." The weaker in faith, while being fully convinced in their persuasion that they should observe certain days as sacred, should refrain from "making rules" out of their persuasions and from imposing such rules on everyone else.

Some eat meat, others eat only vegetables. Some regard certain days as sacred, others regard everyday the same. Some drink wine, others abstain from wine. (N.B. In 1 Tim 5: 23, Timothy was urged to take wine to alleviate his stomach ailments.)

Let us accept that some of us will be different from others.

II Each of us is to decide for himself

verses 5, 6 and 12

Each one decides his own convictions:
v5 - he is to be fully convinced in his own mind. Each one of us is to "make up his mind firmly", the TEV translates. Let not anyone be doubled minded over disputable matters. Instead, let each one decide and make up his own mind and uphold his own persuasion and convictions on such matters.

Each one decides his own commitment
v6 - he is to regard, eat or abstain etc to the Lord and to God, with thanksgiving. Each of us is to live out his convictions thankfully towards God. Each member in the church lives to the Lord, not for his own self, but, instead for the sake of God. We are reminded by the Psalmist in Psalm 23:

He leads me in paths of righteousness, for his name's sake.

An old French version of the Bible translates this verse as " . . . for the cause of his name". So, whether we observe certain sacred days, or observe all days; whether we eat meat or refuse to eat meat; and whether we take wine or abstain from wine, each of us does it to the Lord, for the sake of His name.

Each one decides his own conscience
v12 - he is to give account of himself to God eventually. Each of us is to decide how we are going to explain to the Lord on judgment day, to give an account of our choices, our persuasions and our convictions on such disputable matters, and on how we have maintained a clear conscience in observing such convictions.

. . . all of us must appear before Christ to be judged by him. Each one will receive what he deserves, according to everything he has done, good or bad, in his bodily life 2 Cor. 5: 10 TEV

III All of us are destined for God

verses 7, 8 and 10

All of us live and die for our Lord
v7,8 - all live, and all die to the Lord. In v9, we can read that our Lord Jesus died and lived again to be Lord over both living and dead. None of us are to live for our ownselves in our Christian lives. Remember Paul's testimony in Philippians 1: 21,

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

All of us belong to our Lord.
v8 - all belong to the Lord. The word "belong" carries the sense of a servant or slave in this passage. Recall that v4 says (TEV) "Who are you to judge someone else's servant? It is his own Master who will decide whether he succeeds or fails. And he will succeed, because the Lord is able to make him succeed."

All of us will be judged by God
v10 - all will stand before the judgment seat. Note that v11 is a reference to Isaiah 45:23, "will kneel and confess (vow, or swear) that He is God"

Isaiah 45: 22, 23 KJV:

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

23I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear*.

* The LXX translates verse 23 as " every tongue shall confess to God"
(A Greek translation of the OT, including the apocrypha, dated around 300 BC, about the time of Alexander the Great. Traditionally believed to involve 72 scholars who translated the Pentateuch for Ptolemy II Philadelphus, 285 - 246 BC. Septuaginta (LXX) means 70 in Latin)

Also, in Philippians 2:10
"so that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth"

Two noteworthy questions are asked by Paul here: To the weaker in faith, "Why do you judge others?" and to the stronger in faith, "Why do you look down on others?".

Christians, if we believe that all creation, whether in heaven, on earth or even under the earth, will kneel at the name of Jesus, and that all will confess (vow) to God, and affirm that He is God, and that there is no one else, let us refrain from passing judgment and from showing contempt.

(1) Our meditation this morning is on matters that don't really matter e.g. eating certain food, observing sacred days and abstaining from wine. They are called "disputable matters" in v1 (NIV) or "doubtful things" (NKJV) or simply "personal opinions" (TEV). On such matters, what really matters is to let each one be fully convinced "in his own mind" v5.

. . . let no one make rules about what you eat or drink or about holy days or the New Moon festival or the Sabbath. Colossians 2: 16 TEV

(2) At the same time, let us also remember Paul's exhortation in 1 Cor 10:23 NIV on being sensitive to those whose conscience may be troubled by our "strong" faith:

Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.
(3) Finally, let us remember that we shall all appear before our Lord Jesus Christ, to be judged by him. Each of us live and die to the Lord. We all belong to the Lord, as slaves to a Master. And each of us shall have to give account of our lives to Him.

So, why do we judge our brothers? Or why do we despise our brothers?

(4) Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us accept one another's beliefs, persuasions and convictions on disputable matters. On doubtful disputes, let the stronger bear with the weaker in faith. And on matters that don't really matter, let the weaker refrain from passing judgment on the stronger.

May God help us all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Be Strong and of Good Courage

Tuesday 17June2009: Deutoronomy 31: 1 - 8 NKJV

(At last, this post was completed on 27Jun09, ten days after it began!)


Last week a beloved brother called Francis, a leader of a Church in Ipoh with whom I fellowship occasionally, fell very ill. He had severe abdominal pain. And the doctor had to arrange for him to be admitted to the hospital. A very delicate operation had to be scheduled to remove a blood clot from his abdomen, along with a section of his intestines. The surgeon told his family members that it was a very risky operation and the patient could die during the surgery.

Just before the operation, Francis spoke what appeared to be his last words to his family, asking them to make arrangements in case he couldn't survive the surgery, including making sure insurance policies and wills were in order. His wife broke down and cried.

Those were very frightening last words. They demanded great courage from all the family members. Everyone had to be brave and strong in facing the impending circumstances. Thanks be to God, the operation was performed successfully by the skilfull surgeon and brother Francis is now recuperating in hospital. Soon he will be able to go home to his family.

Tonight, we read about a person in the OT who was about to die. His name is Moses, and in Deutoronomy 31, he was, like our brother Francis, saying his last words to his "family" - the nation of Israel. And like Francis' family, all the people of Israel were probably frightened. Perhaps, some of them broke down and cried too.

So, Moses began to speak to all the people of Israel, reminding them of great things that God had done in their midst, and assuring them that God would continue to fight for them through their new leader Joshua.

In tonight's message, we will first look at how Moses recounted the victory that the LORD had given to them over the Amorite kings. Secondly, we will see how he reassured them that the LORD would likewise go ahead of his successor, Joshua, in conquering the Canaanites across the Jordan, and that He would never forsake them. Finally, we will ponder over how the Lord is also with us today, helping us to withstand and overcome our enemy, the devil, as a people of God.

I God was with Moses v 1 - 2
- in defeating the kings of the Amorites

Sihon and Og's story:

Earlier in Numbers 21: 21 - 31, it was recorded that Moses had made a request to King Sihon, king of the Amorites, who occupied an area of land east of the Dead Sea and the River Jordan, for permission to pass through his kingdom. King Sihon lived in the city of Heshbon. Instead of replying the request, King Sihon and "all his people" attacked the Israelites suddenly. God was with Israel, however, and in fulfillment of God's promise in Deut 2: 24, 25, Israel defeated King Sihon that day and conquered the land of the Amorites.

This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you. Deut 2: 25

This land, east of the Jordan, was later allocated by Moses to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Mannaseh (Numbers 32).

Subsequently, in Numbers 21: 32 -35, the Israelites went on to capture the city of Jazer before venturing north towards Bashan, on the east of the Sea of Galilee, south of Mt Hermon where there was fertile land for cultivation. Og, the king of Bashan led his army to battle with the Israelites at the city of Edrei, north east of Jazer.

Now King Og was a giant of a man. Deut 3:11 tells us that he had a bed about 12 feet long by 6 feet wide. It was possible that there were similar "giants" in his army, and this could have caused some apprehension among the Israelite soldiers. Nonetheless, the LORD promised Moses in verse 34 that He will help him defeat King Og and conquer his land, just as he had done to King Sihon.

Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon Deut 3: 1
And indeed, the Israelite army went on to kill King Og and his family, annihilated his army and occupied the land.

In both campaigns, the LORD's promise, "I have given them into your hand . . ." (Deut 2:24 and 3:2) was fulfilled and these victorious battles against Sihon and Og would later become the basis on which Moses made his call to his successor, Joshua, to be strong and of good courage in carrying on the campaign against the Canaanites who lived on all the land across the Jordan river.

II God was ahead of Joshua v 3 - 8
- in destroying the Canaanites:

Whilst the promise given to Moses, regarding the Amorites on the east of the Jordan, was "I have given them into your hand . .", the promise given to Joshua regarding the Canaanites over on the west of the Jordan was more personal:

And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed Deut 31: 8

See also:

  • verse 3: "The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; "
  • verse 4: "the LORD will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og" and
  • verse 8: "And the LORD, He is the one who goes before you."

In his address to all Israel, Moses called upon them to be brave and strong, and not to be afraid of the Canaanites. The Canaanites were an idolatrous and wicked people comprising many tribes spread all over the land on the west of the River Jordan, stretching from the region north of the Sea of Galilee all the way to the south-west of the Dead Sea. The LORD had earlier made a promise to Moses and to Israel, at the conclusion of giving the Law and his covenant, in Exodus 23:23 that, ". . . My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off."

Now, Moses has seen with his own eyes this promise being fulfilled, as the Amorites were defeated and destroyed. And this fulfillment of Exodus 23:23 will continue to include the destruction of the Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and the Jebusites. The assurance that God "goes ahead" of them and that God would always be with them was made loud and clear to all Israel:

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. v.6

Then, turning to Joshua, in the presence of all Israel, Moses reiterated this promise of the LORD going ahead of him and always remaining with him:

Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them to inherit it. And the LORD, He is the one who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed. v8

III God is among us
- in delivering us from the evil one.

Today Christians are likewise taught in the NT that our Lord Jesus is always with us, just as God had always been with Moses and Joshua and the Israelites in the OT.

In the last chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, the Lord Jesus said to his disciples:

"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28: 18 - 20

And just as Moses called upon the Israelites, and upon Joshua, to be brave and strong, the apostle Paul in the NT called upon the Corinthians church likewise, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong." (1 Cor. 16 13).

Today our enemy is no longer the Amorites nor the Canaanites, but it is the devil himself:

Be sober, be vigilant; because our adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 1 Peter 5: 8 - 10


Christians, sometimes we fall into similar circumstances like Moses did. Like him, we may encounter times when a good leader has to leave our church, or when a beloved brother or sister passes on to be with the Lord. There may be times when we are left feeling helpless and apprehensive in the face of adverse circumstances.

In such times, let us remember the testimony of Moses' victories over Sihon and Og. Let us recall his exhortation to Joshua, that God would go ahead of him and also remain with him in his ongoing battles with the enemies, the Canaanites, a host of people who worshipped Baal, who practised temple prostitution and who sacrificed even their children on the altar.

Let us remember that today, even as our enemy, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, our Lord Jesus has promised to be with us. Let us encourage one another to remain steadfast, brave and strong, resisting the devil even in times of suffering.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Consecrated Life.

Sunday 14th June 2009: 1 Samuel 16 : 1 - 13 NIV

Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me. v5

Those were the words which the prophet Samuel spoke to Jesse and his sons. He had just arrived in Bethlehem, and he wanted them to be present at a sacrifice. He consecrated them and invited them to the sacrifice he was performing.

In doing so, Jesse and his sons were set apart from their worldly life for worship and for the service of God on that occasion. This involved carrying out a ritual of cleansing. For example, we find in Leviticus chapter 1 that those who came to the tabernacle to offer burnt offerings were required to present a live animal without blemish, lay hands on the head of the animal, slaughter it and prepare it for burning on the altar of sacrifice. The priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice around the altar and then, methodically put the parts of the sacrifice animal on the altar to be burned in offering to God.

In such elaborate manner, Jesse and his sons were set apart from the rest of the world. They were prepared for worship and for serving God at the sacrifice, particularly for Samuel to carry out the work that God had sent him to do that day in Bethlehem: to choose and anoint one of Jesse's sons as the next King of Israel, in place of King Saul.

Sadly, after the sacrifice, none of Jesse's sons were accepted by the LORD. It was neither Eliab, nor Abinadab, nor Shammah. Nor was it any of the other promising, strong and healthy brothers present, for the LORD did not want them to judge merely by appearance.

Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. v7

Instead, there was someone else who was not there with them. He was David, the youngest son, who was still out in the field, tending the flock of sheep. And Samuel told Jesse to send for him.

Now, David wasn't yet consecrated for the sacrifice that day. He had not gone through any rituals of laying on his hands on and presenting of any animal for burnt offerings. He had just been brought in from the fields. He had not been set apart for that occasion of sacrifice that Samuel was conducting.

Instead, he had done something that none of his brothers had. He had consecrated his whole life to God. David, the youngest boy in Jesse's family, was referred to as a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13: 14). In the NT, the apostle Paul spoke of King David in his gospel message at the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia in this way,

After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' Acts 13:22

In fact, none of the Kings in Israel who reigned after David were comparable to him, who lived "after God's own heart". For example, the LORD rebuked King Jeroboam who succeeded David thus,

but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes 1 Kings 14: 8

Thus, whilst Jesse and his sons were consecrated by Samuel for the sacrifice that day, leaving the youngest boy, David out of the consecration, while each of the sons were presented for Samuel's evaluation, and while David was still out in the fields tending the sheep, God had already chosen David. Little did Jesse, nor even Samuel, realise that David was a man of God, a man who was not just consecrated for an occasion but who, instead, was consecrated all his life.

Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." v12

Christians, today we are reminded likewise to follow David's example. We are chosen by God to be set apart from this world. We are a holy nation. We should live as consecrated people of God, not just for some occasion, but for life.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1Peter 2:9
Let us live as a people who belong to God. Like David, let us live consecrated lives.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Commandments of men.

Thur 11Jun09: Matthew 15: 1 - 20 NKJV

And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men v9

The commandments of men. They are passed off as doctrines of God by the scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem. It's a hypocrisy, one that has been prophesied earlier by Isaiah:

Inasmuch as these people draw near to Me with their mouths, and honour Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, . . . Isaiah 29 : 13

The Lord pointed out publicly that Isaiah was prophesying about them. Isaiah had prophesied correctly, he said. These scribes and Pharisees, highly respected and authoritative leaders of Jerusalem, were the real hypocrites, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy.

Their sin: to take the teachings of men and to pass them off as doctrines of God.

These hypocrites had taught that young people can be exempted from honouring their parents if they declared that whatever they could give to their parents had been dedicated to the temple. This was a "commandment of men", formulated by the scribes and Pharisees, and passed off as a doctrine of God. This counterfeit doctrine had trampled upon one of the Ten Commandments, the very original teaching of God, as pointed out by our Lord, in Exodus 20:12

Honour your father and your mother.

In the words of our Lord, they have made the commandment of God "of no effect" by their traditions.

Christians, let us beware of such hypocrisy. It is a sin to pass off any man-made idea as God's teachings, making God's commands of no effect over our lives. When such man-made commandments are taught, emphasised and promoted long enough, they become traditions which trample upon the original teaching of God.

The hypocrisy and blindness of the scribes and Pharisees were unimaginable. They could ignore one of the most fundamental commandment given through Moses in promoting their own man-made tradition. And they were offended when the Lord Jesus rebuked them publicly. (v12)

The commandments of men. Let us ensure that they do not evolve into doctrines of God.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Filled with the Spirit - to do what?

Wed 10Jun09: Exodus 35: 30 - 36: 1 NKJV

See, the LORD has called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri . . . and He has filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding v30, 31

We often hear of Christians who are filled with the Spirit, who show great talents in the Church when exercising the gifts of the Spirit. Some are skilful administrators while others are far-sighted leaders. Then there are evangelists full of courage and preachers full of persuasion. We are also familiar with teachers who patiently bring across difficult lessons in life, sometimes over many years.

And let's not forget the humble brothers and sisters who are gifted servants, who excel in showing kindness, alongside those great men and women of prayer who bring about supply, healing and miraculous deliverance by their intercession!

This morning, however, I realise from this passage in Exodus that there are yet other people through whom the Spirit of God works, people who are neither apostles nor prophets, teachers nor preachers nor workers of healing. Nor are they gifted in helps and administration, nor varieties of tongues nor interpretations. Instead they are gifted artistic workmen. Or, as some would call them, artisans.

. . . in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship. v31-33

In those times, people like Bezaleel and Aholiab were filled with the Spirit. They were "filled with skill to do all manner of work . . ." (v35). These artistic works ranged from engraving to design, from tapestry to weaving, from carving wood to cutting jewels.

Filled with the Spirit? To do what?

Perhaps, that's our question in today's Church too. The Lord may fill us with the Spirit to do work skilfully, work which may not have anything to do with teaching, praying, or evangelism. Just skilful working for His own purpose.

Notice in Exodus 36:1 the purpose of the Spirit filled skills of Bezaleel, Aholiab and all the other gifted artisans:

And Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the LORD has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the LORD has commanded.

It was for the building of the elaborate tabernacle of God, and it had to be done exactly in the way the LORD has commanded. Likewise, let us walk with God like Bezaleel and Aholiab, and all the other artisans.

When God fills us with His wisdom and understanding, to do "all manner of work", let us do it skilfully in obedience to his will.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Grievious Question

Mon 08Jun2009  John 21 : 18 17 NKJV

Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" v17 

They had just had their first breakfast after the Lord's resurrection (see my earlier post).  The Lord asked Simon Peter a personal question, twice.  The first time, 

"agapas  me  pleon toutwn"
(you-are-loving-me more of-these?)
whist the second, 

"agapas  me"
(you-are-loving me?)
To both questions, Simon Peter answered, 

"nai kurie su oidas hoti philw se"
(yes, Lord, you have-perceived that i-am-being-fond-of you)

I am reminded of teachings which point out Peter's "philw" (i-am-being-fond-of) in response to the Lord's "agapas" (you-are-loving-me).  Peter was honest with the Lord.  He could love the Lord with only a friend's love, "philw", not God's unconditional love, "agapas me".  He wasn't ready. Certainly not after he had denied the Lord thrice recently.  And he was forthright with the Lord.

The Lord did not forsake Peter for want of Godly love.  Instead, with only a "philw" from Peter's reply, the Lord asked him to feed His Lambs and tend His sheep.  Notice also that the Lord addressed Peter with his real, personal family name: Simon son of Jonah, instead of his given name, Peter.  He was asking the "real" Simon a very personal question rather than the "rock" Peter.  And Peter shows Christians today his example of being real with the Lord: "philw se".

It appears that God can use the inadequate Simon, the disciple who could not manage to love the Lord with "agapas".  His third question thus became, 

"simwn iwannou phileis me "
(SIMON OF-JOHN you-are-being-fond-of me?) v17

This was a grievious question.  Peter was saddened that the Lord had to ask him again, for a third time.  And this time it was about the obvious, "phileis me" rather than the difficult "agapas me".  Simon, son of John, was made to affirm once more: 

"Lord, You know all things: you know that I love You."
(. . . philw se)  v17b
And the Lord told Peter a final time to feed his sheep.

Dear Christians, are we grieved when we have to search our souls and find that we are inadequate?  Like Simon Peter, we may only manage a friendly fondness for our Lord instead of the Godly unconditional love for Him.  Nevertheless, like Peter, our weakness is sufficient for the Lord.  He did not have to say yes to "agapas me".   Instead, it was sufficient to say yes to "phileis me".

The grievious question: it took away Peter's grief.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Empty discussions and stupid speculations.

Tue 02Jun2009: 2Timothy 14 - 18, 23 RBV

But keep away from those godless, empty discussions, for they lead people further on into godlessness. v16

I read this portion of 2Timothy while travelling back on board a shuttle train last Sunday morning from KL Central to the Kampar station. The journey was monotonous and I've had little sleep the night before on my way back from Tanjung Pagar Singapore.

Suddenly, I was startled by those words in verse 16, that we should keep away from empty discussions. Godless, empty discussions, Paul wrote. And they lead people further away from God, and deeper into godlessness.

A short while later, a similar but sharper warning caught my attention again. It's verse 23,

Decline those foolish, stupid speculations, as you know they breed quarrels.

While empty discussions lead us into godlessness, stupid speculations brings us quarrels.

Christians, beware of these kinds of idle chatter. They make us into godless and quarrelsome people. Let us stay away from empty discussions and decline stupid speculations.