Monday, January 21, 2013

My daily devotion

Pastor Marvin preached from Nehemiah 8 yesterday. This is the 17th of his 24-sermon series on the bible as a whole. He drew focus on the rebuilding of the people of God through His own word, and that it is always His word that God directs His people to.

One thing that struck me most from the sermon is when he said that we can be sure that whenever we open the bible and read it, God is at work in us. This is a reminder and encouragement to me to be fervent in the reading of His word everyday.

I am not very good in keeping schedules. Timetables don't work for me - I tried, setting the time and all - but it just doesn't work in the long term. So I am trying a checklist. I have a to-do list in my iPhone and the "Devotion" item is now permanently there everyday and I make sure I get to check it as done every morning. I hope this will last.

The other thing I have decided on is to use R. Kent Hughes series on Preaching the Word as my daily devotion reading. I have tried the day-to-day devotional materials like D.A. Carson's fabulous For the Love of God (Vol 1 & 2), but for someone who cannot keep schedules, having a must-read-everyday book became quite a stressor!

So I thought a "dateless"-a-message-a-chapter book would be ideal. There are many of such books available, but I have to find the right one with the right depth and breadth that I need. I have read the one on Ecclesiastes by Philip Graham Ryken in the Preaching the Word series back in 2011. I did not use it as devotion material then and have found it a more beneficial read if I were to go slowly chapter by chapter, but it defeated my purpose of my book challenge, i.e. to read as many books as I can in 2011/2012. So this time, with my interest in the book of Genesis, when I purchased the book in the series, I found that there are 75 chapters in the book! It will take me almost forever to finish it as a regular read. So I decided to use it as my devotional material, which is a perfect fit for me.

Genesis, Beginning and Blessing 
by R. Kent Hughes (Crossway Books, 2004)

This morning, I read the passage on the creation of Eve as Adam's helper. Hughes has several insights that are new to me and they really make sense. One of them is this: I have always wondered why God would have Adam try to find a helper amongst the animals to be his companion. Hughes suggested God did that to create an awareness for Adam, that as he named the animals, he realised that not one is like him and that he needs someone just like him to be with him. And when Eve was presented to Adam, he broke out with an adulation of poetry, the first recorded human utterance in the bible:

This at last is bone of my bones,
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

And Hughes quoted a line from the Merchant of Venice, which I thought was so beautiful.

For she is wise, if I can judge her,
And fair she is, if that mine eyes be true,
And true she is , as she hath prov'd herself,
And therefore, like herself, fair, wise, and true,
Shall she be placed in my constant soul.

God created man and woman to be devoted to each other, to be by each other's side. It is when we find ourselves especially in times of difficulty and conflict, we must remember that marriage is a covenant that is before God, before husband and wife, and before the community. It is not just a legal document between two people.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

JSTOR Register and Read

I have not been so active checking my fellow bloggers contribution to the blogosphere, but good thing I did this morning. Reb posted this on the STM blog recently and I have just signed up:

"JSTOR, an online digital library filled with quality academic papers, journals, and books, is now offering free access to everyone through their newly announced " Click here for more details.

I have not been active at all in the academic side of my life lately. I graduated from the seminary in 2011 and somehow, that was it, for now at least. I had tried to kick start it again by attending classes end of last year - on Paul's Prison Letters - but I have not even thought about let alone started on the two assignments due in the next few weeks.

This points to the drift that I am done with studying for now. I'll see when my academic thirst will rise up again.


Friday, January 11, 2013

What a taxi driver taught me about prayer

Much have been preached, taught, said and written about prayer. But I have not really understood it. As much as I am not satisfied with my view, it was more fatalistic in nature. I thought that things are as they are: willed and purposed by God. And they will be as they are, whatever we do. But God still commanded us to pray, and so I pray.

But I changed my mind today and have begun to understand it a bit differently. At least I now no longer have a fatalistic view of prayer. It all started with a taxi cab behind me on my drive to work.

I am somewhat a stickler for common courtesy on the road - as in, take your turn, line up and don't jump queue, make way for each other, and I firmly believe that if all drivers practice a give-and-take courtesy, driving will be a much better and less stressful experience.

Anyway, this morning, a taxi stopped short behind me without jumping queue when he had the opportunity to. I smiled, uttered a quiet thank you and by reflex prayed for him. I worked in a project last year in an organisation that manages the industry and I have learnt of their hardship in making a living as a taxi driver in our country. At that moment, I had the compunction and desire to bring their needs to God. And that very moment, I asked myself, why did I do it? What is prayer? Will it make any difference?

I then recognised and admitted that most of my supplication prayer for others are usually without much conviction. It is not because I do not care for them, I do care and very much at that but I had believed that God is in control and He has it already in His plan and His purpose. And I had believed that we pray so what we too remember and have them close to our hearts when we bring them to God in prayer.

But now I am beginning to see how wrong I was!

After I prayed for the taxi driver, I asked God why did I pray and what exactly am I doing? As I talked to him,  I began to understand it this way: God is indeed in control over his creation and the world that we all live in. His prevenient grace is over all societies and communities. But those who have committed their lives to him are his beloved and he listens to them. Anything that his beloved bring to him in prayer, he will in his time and purpose give his attention. We are like children bringing our cares and desires to our Father in heaven, who listens and responds as he sees fit.

I am glad I understood prayer better now and I will definitely be praying with more conviction and praying more for those in need, with the assurance that God wants to hear what cares I have in my heart so he can be a big part in my life.

There is still much mystery in the discipline of prayer, and I hope to unearth its truth slowly but surely as I spend more time praying to my God. Amen.

Photo (c) 2006 Austin, Canada