Month: January, 2014

Apostle Peter 19: Walking Trees (Part 2)

Bible Reference: Mark 8:11-21

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Apostle Peter 19: Walking Trees (Part 1)

Bible Reference: Mark 8:22-26

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Apostle Peter 18: Tradition 2.0 (Part 2)

Bible Reference: Acts 10:9-23

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Apostle Peter 18: Tradition 2.0 (Part 1)

Bible Reference: Mark 7:6-13

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A Certain Way to Return to Joy – Psalm 128

Peter Eng

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A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Psalm 128

1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive plants
Around your table
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

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We are reading the Songs of Ascents, songs sung by Jews returning to the land of Israel from their exile in Babylon, or pilgrims visiting the holy city on a special occasion. So what have they to do with us?

They are more relevant for us than for them!

Zion is more than a place. Jesus told the woman at the well “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain [Mt Gerizim] or in Jerusalem.  … But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21,23, NLT).

There is a New Jerusalem; it is the Kingdom of God. In the consummation, we will see the New Jerusalem come from heaven to earth figuratively (Revelation 21:2). It will be the fulfillment of our prayers when we say “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The blessings expressed here for OT saints are ours in fuller measure because we are called to return from a more deadly exile to a more glorious city. From the kingdom of death to the new heaven and the new earth.

Therefore, Jesus reminds us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In this psalm we have a description of the life of one who lives in acute consciousness of God. In the OT the term “fear of the Lord” is used. We find this call to “fear” God alien and say it is “reverence.” But when we do that, we water things down. We water down how we ought to live before God (in fear) and then expect a full measure of blessing from him.

The fear of the Lord is the consciousness, awareness, accountability to God who is able to take away our life in a moment if he so chooses. We are totally dependent on him for life, health, and every single joy in life.

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There is a certain way to live so that we appropriate the fullness of what the Jews experience only in part. They return from national exile; we return from the kingdom of sin and death to everlasting life. The Lord blesses them out of Zion, that is, through the good administration in Zion. The blessings of God will flow to us through the growing realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, and most fully when he brings in the new heaven and the new earth! Kingdom blessings are here now, and will be hereafter.

This psalm looks at God’s blessing from a husband’s perspective, and from a family with grown children. He will have a fruitful wife. She will bless the home with children and with many other good things. The children will be like olive trees around the table, meaning that they will help supply the need of the home. They will grow up strong, independent, and bless the home when they are grown up. And the mature couple are at that point in life when they are about to become grandparents and see their children’s children.

This bucolic picture of prosperity and happiness can be easily adjusted to an urban lifestyle. The point is that there is a certain way of life that brings in God’s blessings. It is the life that is lived in a healthy “fear of the Lord,” and when we “walk in his ways.”

Many of us are so blind to our own faults that we do not even know when you are not walking in the way of the Lord, and then wonder why we are deprived of blessings others seem to have.

Many of us are also blind to the blessings that God has already bestowed on us, and we do not realize that even hardships are blessings from him. Hardships as blessings are hard to understand, but they come from the same loving hands that give us the blessings we do understand.

There are years of plenty and years of leanness. The patriarchs of old were not spared from drought or famine regardless of their spiritual condition. But even in lean times, there is a blessing for God’s people that others cannot have.

In times of plenty, when we leave the kingdom of death, we can expect blessings of plenty from the Lord, under ordinary circumstances. Many of us are not counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and if we should be called to this great blessing, it purifies us and prepares us for the eternal kingdom as nothing else can.

We do not seek the blessing of persecution, but let us then seek that blessing of peace and plenty from our sovereign Lord. We do so in the fear of the Lord, knowing that we don’t even deserve what we have. We seek the blessings in humility and not as spoilt children. We seek the blessing always checking on the condition of our heart.


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Apostle Peter 17: Crisis of Faith (Part 2)

Bible Reference: John 6:60-71

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Apostle Peter 17: Crisis of Faith (Part 1)

Bible Reference: John 6:60-71

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A Victim of Failure Returns to Joy – Psalm 127

Peter Eng

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A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Psalm 127

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
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Unbearable Intensity. There are times when the truth of God comes upon me with such unbearable intensity that I become spiritually and mentally floored. I feel exhausted by the enormity of truth and there is no way I can speak about it, much less share it meaningfully. I was writing the series “Return to Joy” and became floored by Psalm 127. This is because I had experienced crushing failure and this psalm calls me to a joy that seems so far from personal reality and yet it strikes home with such intensity. Until I internalize it, until the Word of God has done its work in me, I cannot talk about it.

The Holy Spirit of God calls to my mind this psalm as we enter this New Year, and this article is first a lesson I need to articulate for myself, and then a lesson that may also bless your heart.

King Solomon built the first temple to the LORD, built a fledging nation, built his own palace, etc. This great builder of buildings is not talking about stone, brick or mortar. We know his emphasis when we see his exhortation to us about children in the second half of the psalm. There is truth here relevant to physical buildings and the defense of a city, but the normal person is to understand this psalm as the building of a household. This includes a physical home, but goes far beyond that. The home is for the development of the people, the children, in the home.

This psalm is placed in the collection called “Songs of Ascents,” songs used by Israelites when they journey to the temple in Jerusalem as returnees from the exile or as pilgrims. It is a song that celebrates God’s blessing after the experience of crippling failure.

The Israelites lost the war against the Babylonians. They were captured and sent into exile, and had only the clothes on their back. Some have enjoyed a measure of success after seventy years in exile, but they were all acutely aware of devastating loss experienced by their parents.

“We need to build our household in such a manner that God will bless.” That is the lesson that personal and national judgment from God has taught them. Some may have been obedient to God, but there is a national judgment and no one is spared the pain of that devastation. “Therefore, as a family and as a nation, we must now build with God’s blessings in view,” would be the singular resolve of a humbled people.

We can experience loss as the result of personal foolishness, or through the wrongs done by other people. Even when we did not do wrong, it is hard not to escape the feeling that God has not been good to us. We can see what we lose, but cannot see what we retain. We can see what we want, but cannot see what we have. And when we finally recognize the kindness of God even in the midst of adversity, we are ready to rebuild under a new commitment to live and work in such a way as to actively seek God’s blessings in what we do.

We Lose Our Joy When We

The life and work of a person living outside of God’s blessing is an incredibly busy life with little to show for it. We lose what we make. We rise up early and retire late. The food we eat is the meager wage of painful labor. But the one who is blessed by God is able to work in confidence, and sleep in peace. “For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” The Lord’s beloved is like an investor who continues to enjoy growth as he sleeps. He is like the farmer who does not have to watch his crops grow. He is the mom or dad who does not have to supervise the children’s education or the company they keep.

The truth of this psalm comes to us more powerfully in our modernity than at other times. We are so connected that there is no rest from work. We are reachable 24/7. We are reachable even when we are on vacation, when we are resting, or spending time with family. The curse of toilsome labor in place of fruitful labor comes with the fall of man, and with each passing year, we pierce ourselves with more rest-depriving technology.

Let 2014 be different. Let us discover the blessing of the Lord, even the blessing of rest.

But the courage to rest can be difficult. Solomon tells us that our hearts must be tuned right before we can rest. We must internalize the reality that “Unless the Lord builds the house, / They labor in vain who build it.” I know I tend to make “me” the first reference point in my labors, but I need to change that. The blessing of Yahweh has to be the first reference point. All my labor can be reduced to busy work unless the Lord builds my household. When we do God’s will, and do it God’s way, “He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

I often hear investment trainers boast of how they make money work for them, or how others work for them. They do nothing and the money keeps coming in. God had already revealed this to Solomon 3,000 years ago. And the key to this is who builds the house. If God builds our household, which is focused more on the family than the assets used to run the family, the work continues even when we sleep. I find it amazing that God is saying, “I love, you, I don’t want you to be anxious, I want you to sleep well, and to this end I will continue to bless you even as you sleep.”

If I do not find 24 hours enough, it is not because God has made a mistake by creating days that are too short. I am not spending my time rightly. This is especially true if you are already very well organized and there is still not enough time in a day. The issue is then not organization but much deeper.

The blessing of the Lord that gives rest does not refer to cushy jobs. Some jobs will be tough! But even tough jobs must give way to rest; especially tough jobs—they must give way to rest.

Some Christians choose to believe that when they tithe, God will give them a good easy life. Other Christians choose to work as though God wants them to burn out and die prematurely. Neither is true. Labor is necessary for our well-being; so is rest.

How we labor and what we labor over are both vital. We cannot really labor and rest rightly until we know the object of our labor. One simple word defines out labor: children.

For people with biological children, the point is self-explanatory. We love our children and more than any other motivation for work, we are motivated by our children’s success in life. As much as this is natural, it is also inadequate.

Take a look at singles, the best example being Jesus himself. He had no biological children, but he labored, rested and unhurriedly did the work of God. And if skeptics will not believe him, just have them look at what he accomplished in 3½ years of work! Has any human, or can any mere mortal work 3½ years and accomplish what he did?

All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life.
James Allen

Today, 2.2 billion people, a third of the world’s population call themselves Christians. Jesus is the perfect example of how a person can be without biological children, and yet have more spiritual children than any biological act can produce.

In truth, he calls us to the same path when he says, “Go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Behold, I am with your always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-10).

The victim of failure returns to joy when he restarts his life with God’s blessings in view. In view of the strong delusion going around Singapore, I need to specify that the life of success in our children (biological and spiritual), and in the ability to rest, is not the materialism that some preachers promise you. They say God will make you rich. That is not God’s reference point to bless you. He will bless you when you focus your life on raising godly children and give you the means to do so, including material means. And as you fulfill his will in your life, he will give you rest.

In New Testament language, raising godly children is called “discipleship.” When “making disciples” becomes the goal in our life, the blessings of fruitful labor and restful sleep described in Psalm 127 become our lot.

Failure is a call to reboot our life to live in the blessing of God, to realign and find success in building a household that is also the household of God.


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