The Wisest Man who made the Worst Mistake

Though King Solomon was the wisest man on earth, he made worst mistake regarding his wives. He disobeyed God’s command not to intermarry with foreign women of other faiths. God warned that they would turn his heart away from the true God. We read the sad epilogue to Solomon’s life:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

1 Kings 11:1-3

It is interesting to note that God put it very strongly that marrying those of another faith will cause you to turn away from God. God never asks a believer to marry an unbeliever to turn her to God. Then you may ask, “What about Rahab and Ruth, foreign women who married Israelites?” Good question. From the Bible account, we know that these two women though non-Israelites, believed in the God of Israel before their marriage. Rahab believed in Israel’s god and thus hid the two spies. Ruth believed in Naomi’s god and chose to live with her. And both were blessed to be ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we know that God is not against marriage between people who believe in Yahweh.

This has strong implications for us today. As believers we are not to date or marry an unbeliever as they will turn our hearts away from God. Do not be unqually yoked! I know many Christians who backslided or left the faith due to their unbelieving partner. It’s easier to pull someone down than to pull them up. When you look at the pretty girl or hot guy, remember that they are still under Satan’s grasp. They must be saved from the clutches of the Devil before you can even consider marrying them. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Let us look at the effects it had on Solomon’s life after all these marriages.

God raised up enemies immediately as we read from verses 14 to 40. God raised up Hadad the Edomite and Rezon (external threats) and Jeroboam (internal threat). Thus, Solomon paid for his sin when he disobeyed the Lord’s command not to marry wives who worshipped other gods. He knew it was wrong but chose to continue. Despite all the enemies that were raised, Solomon refused to repent of his evil ways till the end of his life. It eventually led the nation to experience a gigantic rift into the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

We must take heed of Solomon’s mistake of marrying someone from another faith. If you happen to be converted to Christianity after you are already married, live a life of godliness so as to influence your spouse to believe in God. All is not lost! Peter wrote to wives about this amazing truth:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

1 Peter 3:1-2

But if you are not yet married, don’t let Solomon’s mistake become yours. Choose to honour God in your relationships and He will honour you. If you are currently in a relationship with an unbeliever, tell your boyfriend or girlfriend about who God is and how important He is to you. Give them the option to truly believe in Jesus for salvation. If they choose not to believe in God, you must break up the relationship and not let it carry on towards marriage. This will prevent further pain and heartache.

Instant Family: Reflections on Adoption

Instant Family (2018) — The Movie Database (TMDb)In the movie Instant Family (2018), a couple decides to adopt 3 foster kids and it describes their tumultuous journey of adoption. One of the hardest task is to convince the foster kids, who often move around different homes, that they’re really loved. In one of the key scenes, the couple are deliberating whether to give up their foster kids. The man’s mother walks in and offers life wisdom that leads them to change their minds on adoption:

“She doesn’t hate you, she just thinks you don’t love her. You get reminded what a sack of sh-t you are five times a day, after a while, you can’t believe anyone could ever love you.”

-Sandy Wagner (Instant Family)

Children need a proper loving stable home with one male father and one female mother. If you’re interested in adoption or foster care you can check out their website. If you’re in Singapore, check out Home For Good SG.

Adoption is a wonderful theme in the Bible. We learn to address God as our Father (abba is an Aramaic term that is can translated by papa or daddy). We learn to see fellow believers as brothers and sisters in Christ. We join a new family of God. Just check out these few verses:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:15

…and…

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1:12

These are only a small sampling of the grace that God has given us by adopting us as his children, as his family. A close friend of mine who recently adopted a baby boy said to me, “One of the greatest revelations I had was that Jesus himself was adopted.” He’s absolutely right. Jesus’ father Joseph had no part to play in the virgin birth and was like an adopted father to Jesus.

Are you are part of God’s family yet? Are you adopted as his child? Do you realise the blessing of being God’s son or daughter? You can return to him if you’ve strayed away because he’s waiting for you. He loves you like his flesh and blood. God the Father sent Jesus to die for you so that you can become his family.

Why? Because you’re worth it.

God: Friend or Foe?

Image result for joshua and the angel of the lord free image

We’ve sung the song by Israel Houghton, “I am a friend of God! I am a friend of God, He calls me friend!” Of course we are called God’s friend in the Bible in several places. But are we always God’s friend? There is an interesting account in Joshua that sheds light on this topic.

Joshua and Israel had just crossed the Jordan River by a tremendous work of God and were preparing to destroy the city of Jericho. God was surely on their side. But Joshua had a rude shock when he met a man wielding a sword. The story goes like this:

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

Joshua 5:13-15

Was this strange person a friend or foe? The puzzling thing is he replied, “Neither one”. We know that this person was either an angel or the pre-incarnate Christ (before he was born as a human). So this person was sent from God. Wouldn’t that automatically make him a friend, an ally to Joshua? Apparently not.

God is a friend or foe depending on your response to him. Do you obey his commands? Do you abide in him? Do you have a restored relationship with God? This was a key moment for Joshua as he received instructions on how to conquer Jericho that were, to put it mildly, unusual (read: out of this world). Would he obey or reject God?

Joshua accepted God’s command and carried them out faithfully. God was his friend. If he didn’t, God would be his foe! God’s hand would be against him because of his disobedience. Remember, 40 years ago, 12 spies went to spy the land of Canaan and though God had promised to give them victory over their enemies, 10 spies didn’t believe. They rejected his commands and led Israel to lose faith in God also. Thus, God punished them by sending them into the wilderness. God is not an automatic friend nor a foe. It depends on how you respond to him.

Joshua recognised the holiness of God. He took off his sandals in reverence. It’s not about God being on your side. It’s about you being on God’s side. Is God your friend or a foe? Would you bow in reverence before God today and recognise his holiness and to obey him with all your heart?

So Close and Yet So Far Away

Image result for pharisee and jesus“So close, so close and yet so far…”

Thus goes Frankie Valli’s hit song, “My Eyes Adored You”. I think God also sang that song about the Pharisees in Jesus’ days. They seemed to be doing all the right stuff, praying the right words, but their hearts were far away from God. Jesus said about them:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Matt 15:8-9

The Pharisees’ problem is just as fresh today. One of the greatest dangers of pastoral ministry is to believe that serving God means you’re right with God. Just because you’re leading the worship or preaching sermons doesn’t mean that your heart is right with God. Christianity is not a performance-based religion. It’s a relationship with God.

Jesus quoted from Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 29:13). It was not a new problem. It was centuries old. Priests were serving God, offering right sacrifices but hearts were not right with God. God wasn’t pleased. Their worship was “vain”. What does “vain” mean? Useless. Futile. Pointless. Worthless.

This really scares me. I can be so zealous to lead Bible studies, to sing worship songs, to tithe faithfully but totally missing the mark. No wonder  Joel said:

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Joel 2:13

God is not merely interested in outward actions. He’s looking at your heart. Our actions must flow from inside-out. If our heart is not right with God, Joel says: Return to the Lord your God. I love that. God is compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. He wants you more than anything else in the world. He doesn’t want your words, your money. He wants your heart. Whole-hearted devotion.

Let’s not get caught up with the same issue that the Pharisees had. They focused on the outside rather than the inside. If you’re serving God yet feel so far away spiritually, it’s time to reflect. It’s time to return to Him.

He’s waiting.

He’s close and not so far away.

God Loves to Work with Families

“It’s amazing how God called two brothers into ministry at the same time!” Many people have asked my brother and I that question. And it led me on a search in Scripture whether God called siblings at the same time? If you check out the Bible, it’s fascinating how God chose siblings for his work at the same time also.

  • Moses, Aaron and Miriam
  • Andrew and Peter
  • James and John
  • Jesus, Jude and James

God loves to work with families. Why? Maybe they have a common background to begin with. If they are raised by the same good parents, the children mostly will be good. I must attribute our entry into ministry to our parents too. They are really sold out for mission work overseas and have a passion for equipping pastors in third-world countries. That made a crazy huge impact on us. It showed us that God must be number one in our lives. It showed us the cost of discipleship. It showed us that we give our lives for things of eternal value.

Though it wasn’t an easy decision to enter church ministry, our parents were supportive. Because of their love for God, they released us to pursue where God led us. That’s how we entered at the same time. God loves to work with families. God the Father released his son Jesus to cross space-time boundaries to become a human being. He had parents, brothers and sisters. After his death and resurrection, his mother Mary and his siblings were part of the Upper Room group that met to prayer. James and Jude each wrote a book in the New Testament.

God loves to work with families. As parents, are you setting a godly example for your children? Are you willing to release your children to where God may be leading them (church work, missionary)? If God has called you, have you responded to God’s call for your life?

Love is a One-Way Street

Image result for hosea redeems gomerWould you love someone that keeps on cheating on you? Keeps on betraying you? It’s really tough even painful. Once bitten, twice shy as they say. But Hosea the prophet was asked by God to redeem his adulterous wife Gomer from sexual slavery. He was asked to love her again. Could you do that if you were Hosea? We read:

The Lord said to me, ‘Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.’

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me for many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.’

Hosea 3:1-3

Hosea’s love for Gomer is a picture of God’s love for Israel though they have been unfaithful. Though they rejected God’s love. Though they ran after other gods. I’m not sure how Hosea would have felt. I would have asked God, “Are you serious? She’s hurt me too many times. I’m done with her.” But God asks him to love again. It’s a costly love too – Hosea had to pay to get his won wife back. That’s a beautiful picture of redemption.

On one level, it teaches us how to love others. Especially people that aren’t easy to love or grateful or willing to change. We don’t know how Gomer lived or if she changed her sinful ways. Hosea’s love teaches us how to truly love others.

There are so many aspects of this love. Love is risky. Love is a choice. Love is costly. Love takes courage. Love is long-suffering. Love is a one-way street. It doesn’t take but gives – again and again, in the hope that the other person changes. It opens you up to be hurt again. In spite of all that, Hosea still loves. You have the power to love someone else. No one can take that away.

God loves us with this kind of love when he sent Jesus to die for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus didn’t redeem us with money or barley like Hosea did, but with his blood. He died on the cross to redeem us from slavery to sin. He didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before he would die for us. He died for us so that we could clean up our act. It was a great risk. We could reject his gift of salvation. But love gives first. It’s a one-way street. It’s a choice to make the first move.

How would you respond? Would you give up your sinful ways and accept Jesus as your Saviour? He loves you so much that he gave his life for you. No one is too far from God. No one is too bad for God to save. Would you show love to someone that doesn’t deserve it? Though that person has failed you time and time again? When we love, we are most like God.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:10-12

Danger and God’s Open Doors

Image result for killer waiting behind doorMost of us run away from troubles. If you see a gang fight, you stay away. If you see a storm brewing, you stay sheltered. If you see mobs burning churches, you stay home. But we might also be missing out on God’s greatest work. What if God’s greatest work coincides with Satan’s greatest opposition? Would you go? Paul was such a person. We read in the last chapter of 1 Corinthians:

For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

1 Cor 16:7-9

This is an amazing statement by Paul! He’s giving the Corinthians the reason why he’s choosing to station himself in Ephesus. I understand the first part where he says that “a great door for effective work has opened for me.” If there’s a readiness to hear the Gospel, that’s a good sign!

But the second reason stumps me. Scares me even. “…and there are many who oppose me.” What? Are you serious Paul? Don’t you know that your life is in danger if you stay there? We often don’t see opposition as a sign that God has called us to a place. Instead, we run away from opposition. We bolt at the first sign of trouble. Of course, people should oppose you for the right reason. Right reason – preaching the undiluted Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wrong reason – insulting their religion or cheating them of their money.

When we consider where God may be leading us, it is intuitive to find the place where there is an open door for the Gospel to be shared and churches to be planted. Jesus said that the fields are white for harvest. But what is not so intuitive is choosing to stay in spite of opposition to your message and work. It takes guts, thick skin and God’s divine protection to keep on working in the midst of dangers. When people are maligning you. When people are disturbing your family. When people send you nasty messages. God’s open doors may not be trouble-free.

Paul was that kind of person who entered the open door in a hostile land. He accomplished God’s greatest work in the midst of Satan’s greatest opposition. May God guide you to where he may be calling you to serve him. Do not be afraid. Paul, near the end of his life, recounted the protection of God and may this be true for you too:

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed, and all the Gentiles would hear it. So I was delivered from the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will rescue me from every evil action and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Tim 4:17-18

Know Your Limits

Alfred: Know your limits Master Wayne. 

Bruce: Batman has no limits. 

Alfred: Well, YOU do sir. 

Bruce: Well, I can’t afford to know ‘em. 

Alfred: What’s going to happen on the day that you find out? 

Bruce: We all know how much you like to say I told you so. 

Alfred: On that day Master Wayne, even I won’t want to. Probably. 

– The Dark Knight (2008)

Like Bruce Wayne, we can fall into a similar trap. I’m talking to the pastor who feels the need to keep it all together. I’m talking to the youth leader who goes hundreds of extra miles to attend to anyone who calls for help. I’m talking to the faithful burnt out Christian who is thinking of dropping out of all ministry and possibly even church.

Know your limits. Even Batman has limits. Though he hardly wants to admit it. That’s why God gave us a Sabbath day of rest. Take it. Rest in it. Realise that the world won’t implode without you. Maybe it’ll implode with you meddling about when you should be resting. Ever work too long yet accomplish too little? Tiredness decreases your productivity.

God rested on the seventh day of Creation. Not because he was tired, but that his rest represented his kingly rule. A conquering king who subdued his enemies gained rest. God rested when he finished creation as the king who won over the primeval chaos. Thus, God’s Sabbath rest became a covenantal sign to Israel that he was their king. That’s why God got mad when people didn’t keep the Sabbath. When we work on the Sabbath, we’re saying God isn’t king, we are.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. …It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

Exodus 31:12-13, 17

God graciously gave us the Sabbath to rest in God’s covenantal love for us. As we rest, we place our trust in God that he’s in control. As Christian, especially for ministers, we must seriously take our Sabbath rest.

Aquaman: “You are the bridge between land and sea.”

Arthur: I’m no leader. I’m not a king. I do not work or play well with others, and I can’t let you die trying to turn me into something I’m not.

Mera: You think you’re unworthy to lead because you’re of different worlds. But that is exactly why you are worthy. You are the bridge between land and sea. I can see that now. The only question is, can you?

Arthur Cook aka Aquaman had major misgivings about whether he could be king of Atlantis. He felt like a fish out of water being neither fully human nor Atlantean. However, Mera saw that his unique background was the exact reason why he could unite these two worlds.

Unlike Arthur, Jesus knew he was the bridge between two worlds – heaven and earth. Jesus, the sinless God-man (isn’t that a cool idea for a new film?), was the only one worthy to come to earth and die on the cross for our sins. Through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, he formed the bridge from earth to heaven. By believing in Jesus Christ, we cross from death to life. Paul wrote:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Col 1:19-20

When we pass from this earthly realm, we transit to the heavenly realm. All because of Jesus, the God-man, who came to rescue us from our sins. Therefore, we have a message for the world: Jesus is the bridge to God. Jesus’ death provides reconciliation to God and we are his ambassadors of this glorious message. Again Paul writes with palpable excitement:

For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

2 Cor 5:19-21

We have a message of reconciliation to tell the world. There is hope in Jesus Christ! In the recent Celebration of Hope event, this wonderful message of Jesus was shared through testimonies, songs and messages. Keep on appealing to people to come back to God. We are ambassadors sent by the King. While Arthur took his rightful place as king, Jesus is the King of Kings. He conquered sin, death and Satan. By believing in him, we receive the victorious life as we cross the bridge to eternal life.

What To Do When You’re Wronged

Related imageWe’ve all been wronged before in our lives. It maybe a family member, a close friend, a pastor or a colleague. It hurts especially when we are innocent but falsely maligned. What do you do when you have been wronged by someone? Do you take revenge? Do you let it slide? Do you badmouth the person to others? Do you bury it within and become bitter? There are many options when we get hurt. It can be even worse if the other party doesn’t realise their wrongs. It is tempting indeed to take revenge into our own hands to even the score for all the harm we received. But there is a better way that we learn from the lives of David and Saul. David left revenge in the hands of God.

Saul wanted to kill David out of jealousy. God had rejected Saul for his disobedience and chosen David as the next king, a man after His own heart. That made Saul hopping mad! Consequently, David, who had done nothing wrong, was hunted down like a dog to be silenced.

There were two opportunities where David could have took revenge (1 Sam 24 and 26). David’s men urged him to seize this God-given opportunity to kill Saul and end this man hunt. But David refused. Even cutting a corner of Saul’s robe made him guilty-stricken. Sometimes the people around us can give us wrong advice on what to do. We need to listen to what God tells us. We take personal responsibility for all our decisions.

In the second incident  in 1 Sam 26, David explained to Abishai why he refused to kill Saul.

Abishai said to David, ‘Today God has given your enemy into your hands. Now let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t strike him twice.’

But David said to Abishai, ‘Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless? As surely as the Lord lives,’ he said, ‘the Lord himself will strike him, or his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. Now get the spear and water jug that are near his head, and let’s go.’

1 Sam 26:9-11

Saul, even though he was guilty of many sins, was still king. He was still the Lord’s anointed. David would not harm God’s anointed servant. He left Saul’s fate in the hands of God who is just and swift to act. He knew Saul would meet his end one day and God would be the determiner of it. Taking justice into our hands against someone who has hurt us is not the way. We must leave vengeance in the hands of God (Rom 12:19). God knows what is best. When humans take revenge, we often harm the other party unfairly with disproportionate force. Only a just God can handle it fairly.

When we may be hurt by some authority figure (pastor or leader), we need to remember that he/she is the Lord’s anointed person. Like David, we declare our innocence and not take revenge. If we do take revenge, we become guilty of sin. Thus, we must not badmouth, spread harmful rumours or use social media to flame someone in order to take revenge. Instead, we return good for evil by praying for justice to prevail and leaving the other party in the hands of God to deal with.