Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Faithfulness Is Simply Witnessing To Those Nearest You (2 Tim 1:5)



“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

After his opening salutations, Paul’s first words to Timothy were to remind him that it was his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice who had handed down to him the Christian faith he believed in. These were just ordinary women who we know did not do extraordinary things for the Christian Church. But we can see their faithfulness in witnessing faithfully to their children the true Christian faith. The fruit of their faithfulness was seen in Timothy’s life despite the fact they did not set out to plan for him to take over from Paul. I think that is a good lesson for us to learn that faithfulness is not dreaming of doing great things for God tomorrow but doing the mundane for him today.

We all have what some people call a sphere of influence - a small circle where our actions affects another person’s life. We have our own families, we work in an office with other colleagues, we play games with people of similar interests, we have our neighbours, and so on. We can share about what God has done in our lives and then leave it to God to touch their hearts. And we should not be ashamed to share the Gospel. What is it that motivates us to share the Gospel? Think about it, what would motivate you to share the Gospel with those people in your sphere of influence? I know some literature puts the burden on us to witness because if we do not people will go to hell, etc. That is true and valid but let me give you one more reason why I think you should share it – because the Gospel is true. That is right; you should share the Gospel because it is true and has worked in your life. That is what a witness does, just tell what is true and what he has seen. Think about it, if something is true and good for you, don’t you want to share it with your friends? When you go out to Telok Ayer market and you eat char kway teow and you find it to be so good, don’t you talk about it with your friends over the next days? When someone wants to eat roti prata wouldn’t you suggest some place where you know the roti prata is good? So if you can share something about the goodness of the food that you have eaten then why not share the truth about the God who has been good to you? All of us are Christians because someone near us took the trouble to share the Gospel with us and we were touched by God. That is all that Lois, Timothy’s grandmother and Eunice, his mother did. They faithfully carried out their ministry – to share the Gospel with their own household. Their simple faith and faithfulness made a significant difference in God’s Kingdom. And that is what we all can do, no exceptions, faithfully witnessing whenever we can to whoever we can.

Friday, November 20, 2009

WHAT IS TRUE RELIGION? (Lev 23:22)



While preparing for a lesson on Hebrew festivals, I came across an interesting observation in Leviticus 23. Leviticus 23 is also considered the Jewish religious calendar and in it, we find seven annual festivals which the Israelites were commanded to observe. The calendar begins in March-April with the observation of Passover, followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After that comes the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, more familiar to us as Pentecost. These are the Spring Feasts and following them are the Fall feasts, from Lev 23:23 onwards. The Fall feasts are Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and Tabernacles which are observed in September/October. Just after the Spring feasts (Lev 23:1-21) are declared we find the exhortation “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God." (Lev 23:22)

In fact, it seems that this verse stands right in the middle of the chapter after Pentecost in spring and before Trumpets in the fall. Pentecost actually celebrates the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. It is a time of joy and thanksgiving over the bountiful harvest that God has given. Perhaps, the verse is positioned here to remind the Israelites that when they go about their elaborate observations to worship their God, they should remember that there are people who are not blessed with similar abundance.

The lesson too for us is this - as we go about our regular worship and small group meetings and thank God for the bounty he gives us, we should give thought to those people in our midst who have little or nothing. True religion is a practicing sacrificial religion. In the verse, God commands the field-owner to give up what was rightfully his so that others less fortunate may also be provided for. That is exactly what Jesus did for us. When we were lost and poor, alienated from God, Jesus did not hold on tight to his rights as God but sacrificed his life so that we may be redeemed.

True religion is one that involves sacrifice on our part. And sacrifice means there is a cost involved. If we give up something that does not cost us anything, we cannot say we are making a sacrifice.

John Wesley once said “Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” That is a good maxim that Christians ought to follow. Every Christian should strive to be a great ambassador for Christ to a watching world. We should examine ourselves to see whether what we do makes a positive impact on the people around us. Sometimes, our Christian community is the only witness to the world about what God is like. We are the ones who show that God cares for each individual regardless of the person’s gifts and abilities. That his compassion extends to those who are dispossessed, disenfranchised and marginalized. He expects those who have more to give to those who have little. When we do this, we are continuing a tradition of embodying God’s character and compassion to the world.

One of my TTC lecturers once said that God has no hands and feet. He was telling us that God’s agenda for this world can only be fulfilled by our hands and feet. If we do not come forward, the work is not done. In fact, as we reflect further, we should remember that each one of us is a Christian because someone took the trouble to share the goodness of God with us. It is therefore only right that we should go out and share God’s goodness with someone else. In doing so, we manifest what the true Christian religion is all about – caring sacrificially and sharing with those around us.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Growing Through Daily Communion With God


In studying from the book of Leviticus recently, I came to understand, in a deeper way, what our salvation meant - having a God walking with us and dwelling in and amidst us. Many Christians have it backwards by thinking that salvation is all about being able to go to Heaven and living with God forever. To a certain extent, this statement is rhetorically correct but adopting it unthinkingly leads to a subtle misunderstanding about our faith. One may even begin to think that having gained one-and-for-all forgiveness, we are now free to live our lives as we like. Sadly, that is how many Christians self-sufficiently live; content to leave God on the shelf, until such time when he is needed again to resolve a problem.

The Bible teaches us that before Adam fell into sin, God walked with him and Eve. Sin led to a separation in this fellowship but because of Jesus Christ, we are now redeemed. The question is what does being redeemed mean to us? For one thing, it allows us access to God’s presence. But the access has a purpose to it – that we be changed into the image of man as he was originally created before the Fall. This image is exemplified by the life of Jesus Christ, who lived a life wholly pleasing to God.

God’s love for us is not limited to time in eternity where we spend heaven with him. God’s love for us means he is also very interested in the lives we live right now. He is very concerned that we be restored to the holiness he originally created us to be. That is what real freedom means – to be holy and wholly separated unto God through Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, in many Christians, the idea of personal holiness is being marginalized. To them, the concept smacks of self-effort, legalistic and Pharisee-like. The thought is that since we are forgiven, we just need to remember Christ’s love and we will be transformed. That may sound true but I would to clarify that to remain a passive receiver of the love of Christ will not transform us. Transformation comes through a Spirit-quickened response to Christ’s love.

Thus, what is also needed in our quest to become what God had created us will require what Adam did with God before the Fall – daily intimate communion. That means a regular pattern of communication with God. Applied personally, it simply means a daily pattern of prayer and reading the Bible. It also means to read the Bible as God’s Word thereby making it a personal encounter with God. This will help us to align with what God wants to do in our lives. His Word is many things to us - a mirror that reflects what is right and good; a seed, if planted well, reaps abundant fruit, a sword that slashes through facades and reveals God’s reality; a lamp to guide us through darkness and adversity; and bread that quenches the hunger of our souls.

Our failure to establish a pattern of communion with God leads to a lowering of our understanding of God and his ways. This, in turn, lowers our concept of God's holiness and our understanding of sin which simply means to miss God’s mark. We may find ourselves tolerating more than we should and becoming used to things that should repel us. By communicating with God directly, we will find ourselves growing in our appreciation of God's holiness. This will help us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, through prayer, to grow in righteousness and purity.

If we say we love God then this is what we should do. Our God does not expect a performance-based faith from us. Yet Jesus also did say “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). If we love him, communion with God through his word and prayer will not be a performance or a drag - it will be the most natural thing for us. If your love is golf, how hard it is to get going to play a game? If you love golf, would you call a game of golf work or a chore? I sincerely doubt that.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cherish (Ps 16:11)




In a book I once read, I remember the author looking across the dinner table at his wife and, in a moment of extreme vulnerability, asking her “Is there anything I could do to be a better husband?” As his wife drew into a pensive mood, he wondered if perhaps she could be rewinding all those horrible husband moments to lay on the table as a prelude to squaring the accounts. After what seemed like an eternity to him, but was actually only a brief moment, she looked at him and said “Just cherish me a little more.”

Feeling pretty pleased with himself, the writer purred, “That’s what I do. Can you give me a specific way I can cherish you more?” Immediately came not one but three examples, “Affirm my opinions,” the wife said, “Don't get upset so easily,” and finally “Be kind and considerate to me.” As I was reading the wife’s rejoinders, I could not help thinking that perhaps that is what Jesus might say to me if I were to think too highly of my love for him. Probably my wife too might be keeping these three examples for her moment with me one day.

When we say we love someone that person’s interests and priorities becomes ours too. When Jesus was on earth, he never failed to model this, manifesting his love for his Heavenly Father by putting his Heavenly Father’s will first. We need to remember that it is very important to reflect this perspective of faith in the way we live our lives. Do we consider our Lord’s will in ALL that we do or do we selectively decide the matters that we consult him on? Do we accept READILY and not get upset when his voice jolts us out of our comfort zone to take that leap of faith? Do we consider his feelings FIRST or do our own feelings have pre-eminence in our own lives? After asking these questions, I must admit that I find it hard to answer in the positive.

The word “cherish” is a very beautiful word carrying with it heart-warming images of love, care, affection, tenderness, protection, etc. In fact, when I read of God’s love in the Bible, I have no doubt that his love for us is also a cherishing kind of love, a love that makes each one of us the ‘apple of his eye’. We can never return his love measure for measure but the least we can do is to cherish and hold dear the relationship his grace and love has made possible for us.

How do we show that we do really cherish this relationship? I believe a good starting point is submission to his sovereignty. In all that we do, we submit to his approval and review and we await his correction, not his rubber-stamp. We cultivate a mindset of dependence on him. The attitude of dependence should not be difficult because we are always dependent on someone throughout our daily lives. When we take the bus or train, we depend on the driver’s ability. When we take our lunch, we depend on the cook’s ability so why not also engraft this ready attitude of dependence into our relationship with God. After all, right at the beginning, he already knows how the end will turn out. He has already factored in all the possibilities, and his option is always the best. So then, why not hold dear the relationship we have with him by submitting dependently to his ways and thoughts? When we do so, we will be able to echo confidently the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 16:11 “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

What Keeps George Going


After listening to George Verwer, I have often asked “What keeps George going?” Listening to George preaching with so much gusto and fire led me to ask this question. Despite fifty-odd years serving the Lord in mission posts all over the planet, George continues to serve with the same fervour he had at the very beginning of his ministry. Enthusiasm still gripped his voice and the spark still gleamed in his eyes as he spoke about missions and the winning of souls for God’s Kingdom. Most people would be jaded or lukewarm after doing the same things for many years, but not George. Perhaps then, we should also reflect on the qualities that kept George going on in ministry and see how his example may serve to inspire us so that we do not flag in ministry.

Obedience. In his first message George said, “I need to be reminded that what I am doing is commanded by God. I want to make sure I am in a God thing”. I believe George, while planning God’s work, was always willing to defer his plans to God’s Will. After all, if God had a part for George in his perfect plan for all creation, then surely George cannot go wrong in submitting his plans to God. That is the attitude we should have when we make plans. The starting point for all our planning must be God’s sovereignty. Making plans without submitting them for his review, correction and approval is an act of arrogance on our part. While we may still achieve our objectives, yet we may still miss out on some blessings that God already had in store for us.

Authenticity. In another posting, I touched on George’s ‘tell it like it is’ manner. George expressed this manner even when talking about himself. He shared with us about his own ‘grace awakening.’ For years, he had been too blunt to the point of being insensitive. He shared about misjudging people by thinking they were lazy or did not have a vision when actually they were struggling with inferiority or baggage from overbearing families, etc. Finally God had to break him on this and helped him to learn about grace by reading more and learning from other Christians. I was really encouraged by George’s authenticity, his willingness to put aside masks and fronts so as not to appear vulnerable. We too should pray for the grace to be authentic Christians. We can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the real truth about ourselves. Let us not lie ourselves about any issues because doing so will only hinder our development. Let us pray for courage and grace to truthfully assess ourselves and grow as a person.

Enthusiasm in learning. Somehow it seems George never stopped learning. In all his messages, he always referred to good books he had read as well as those he was still reading. However, to George, his reading habits were not merely an exercise of knowledge acquisition. Someone once said the Dead Sea was so named because water flowed in but nothing flowed out. With George, I guess whatever flowed into him, flowed back out to bless the lives of other people. Perhaps, that is why he was always reading. To George, there was always something that he could learn that would be useful in ministering to other people. Perhaps, that is also the reason why he continually recommended books to his listeners; books he felt would give them ‘value-added’ spiritual lives.

There are other qualities that those of you who have heard him may have noticed as well. It would be impossible to list all of them here but I hope these will be sufficient to inspire us to aspire to the life of obedience and servanthood exemplified by George. As one Missions Conference chairman described him, George remained a faithful steward, a fiery spokesman, a fervent servant. In closing, I would like to echo what George himself said, “At the end of the day I believe all of us want to please God - in our lives, in what we do, the way we use our time, the way we spend our money.” George exemplified this ethos in his life by depending on the Holy Spirit whom he called the Chief Executive Officer of all missionary work.

Friday, November 6, 2009

God is able to do Immeasurably more...



I once had the joy and privilege of hearing George Verwer give a series of sermons on missions at a Missions Conference. As he spoke one thought kept running through my mind. How did he do it? From scratch, he built a missionary organization, Operation Mobilization (OM). Todate, OM has been the channel through which more than 100,000 people has served in the mission field. The ministry’s ships, Logos II and Doulos (see above picture), still navigates the world’s oceans, distributing Christian literature and delivering the gospel message in various languages and in various forms wherever it docks. Even as I write, OM has commissioned a new mission ship, LogosHope, even though George no longer helms OM. OM currently has over 4,000 missionaries spreading the gospel in over 100 countries, and counting, on this planet. That is really a wide-spread and far-reaching ministry. I don’t think even George had any inkling of the mighty ways God would use him in ministry for over forty years.

After listening to George’s messages delivered at the church conference as well as at our church, the following are some reflections on how George did it. Or perhaps I should say how God did it through George.

George made himself available. From the moment of his conversion, George availed himself to whatever ministry was open to him. He shared the gospel with his college mates. During his summer holidays, he would, together with his friends, travel to Mexico and distribute copies of John’s Gospel. George knew that Christian living was dynamic and based on action for God’s kingdom. Obedience to God did not mean sitting in an office, dreaming big visions and then waiting for the ‘right moment’ to get them done. George bloomed where he was planted and did what he could, whenever he could, wherever he could. He knew the secret of obedience was to get up and go. It does seem to have a simple ring to it – God calls, George goes. The same possibility exists for us. Will we respond in the same way?

George had a ‘Kingdom of God first’ mindset. I guess I should be glad that I was not a local church or denominational leader when I attended the conference. Listening to his plain-speaking ‘tell it like it is’ manner, I would probably cringe when George pointed to strictures and rules that tended to isolate or separate the local church or denomination from other co-labouring organizations. I think, George always thought first of whether an action had an impact on God’s kingdom first. To him, an action’s positive impact on God’s Kingdom was more important than judging whether the action was ‘politically correct’ or if it conformed to the church system and rules. George’s attitude echoes Paul’s words in Phil 1:18, “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” We could do with such a mindset in ministry by concentrating on the major issues that unite us rather than be distracted by the minor issues that threaten to divide us. To paraphrase what George said, “we can have unity in diversity.”

George was a team player
. While most people saw George as Mr. OM, I doubt George saw OM as a one-man-operated agency. It was awesome to know he already had an army of tens of thousands of people backing him up in prayer regularly. Yet, after the first talk, he still stood outside the door, diligently giving out prayer letters to enlist even more prayer warriors. Even when he started out handing out gospels, he did not do it alone but with a team. George mentioned people whom he brought along on his trips. With them, he cultivated a Paul/Timothy relationship, mentoring them for leadership. George has now passed the OM baton to others and moved on to holistic ministries reaching out to the abused and marginalized. Yet, OM continues to thrive and expand its ministries. This is perhaps the greatest legacy of George’s team attitude, something we should emulate. Will the ministries God has entrusted us with thrive after we are gone or will they collapse because we did not do our part to ensure other people could carry the baton too?

I am also very sure George did not just keep the ministry going through passion, charisma and drive. Rather, he knew that it was God doing the work through him. All he had to do was obey. As his website says, George walked ‘emphasizing the need to worship God, live in fellowship with one another by walking in the light, and live a disciplined life of victory as forgiven, repentant, Cross-centered Christians.’ George as been doing ministry now for fifty years, and counting. That is a lifetime for most of us. He is a good example about walking a life that pleased God and doing the things that were close to God’s heart. We many never achieve the harvest that George did but let us emulate his life and attitudes anyway.

For more on George Verwer, please go to www.georgeverwer.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Do We Love?


Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” I John 3:18

A few years ago, in my hurry to leave for college, I left the house without exchanging a few words with my mother who was now staying with my wife and me. That was what I would normally do but because she was in the toilet, I felt I could not wait and left. While on the way I regretted what I did. The thought crossed my mind that, her being eighty-eight years old (at that time), anytime I left the house might be the last time I ever saw her again.

MY fears were realized soon enough. Just a few hours later, the neighbours called to say she had fallen down. She was conscious but they were afraid to lift her up. I rushed home and together with my wife we called an ambulance to bring her to hospital. After a few weeks stay in hospital, we thank God she recovered and returned to our home.

I praise God that, in his mercy, did not allow my regret and guilt to become permanent. I was glad that our God is one who ensures that our failures do not mean the end of the world for us. Then it would become so easy to be entrapped by dejection and depression. It is an amazing God that we have, one who stands ever ready to forgive and forget our failures, something that we ourselves may not be prone to do.

I have also learnt that these are the small bits of faithfulness that God blesses most – when we manifest love by giving our presence instead of merely holding warm thoughts and affections in our hearts. Our presence is the most important thing that we can give to the people that we say we love – our spouses, our parents and our children. How much of ourselves do we give to them? It is a tough question that we need to ask ourselves regularly. This is because, in the busyness of our daily lives, we may give less time to them as we want to destress and unwind through some personal hobby or pursuit. We may even comfort ourselves by saying that the remaining time we give them is ‘quality’ time, whatever that means. I think they will find it more meaningful if we give them ‘whatever’ time. That way we send a message that they are very dear to us.

I once read that abuse in the family also includes the aspect of mere neglect which is providing for a person’s needs but neglecting to give personal attention and talking to him or her. That statement was an eye-opener. It is so easy for us to open our wallets to provide for a person’s sustenance but greater is our need, and harder for us, to open our hearts and increase our sensitivity to give of ourselves to those we love. After all, we have the example of our Lord Jesus to follow. He did not just give us physical life and all that we needed to sustain that life. More than that, he gave us himself so that the lives we have may be complete and abundant. Surely we can do no less for the ones that we say we love.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

He’d hold your tears instead...by Joanna Lee



He stood,
As sandy stones beneath his feet
Grow hot, cold,
Hard, soft; sinking toes.
In creeps texture;
Wind-cracked skin.
Fingertips tingle with incipient awareness
Of misty skies
Vapour ephemeral,
Yellow streaks transient.

Like life that passes
Temporal.
Like the sun that rises and eventually sets.

The tears that rim
Snake slowly down
Each drop in slow-motion fall.
Sand turns blurry grey.
But no frenzied horror writhes in him
No wind-tossed emotions
Only loneliness stilled like surface seas.
He knew too well she’s gone.

His pain a dissipated pink
That spread across the clouds.
Rich colour reflected on
breaking waves
of sadness that rising, roaring crash
Down upon his soul
As swallows of sorrow soar.

But look up,
There is still some magnificence
Some glory in that glow
In every stroke His hand is seen
His hand that painted beauty.
The birds
have far more songs to sing
The sand
has yet to be washed
By tides
tinged with reddish glow,
By tides of His love and blood.

She’s gone, but not to someplace sad
She’s gone to a place where the sun would shine
More beautiful than now.
Where voices sweeter than swallows sing

Where greater power than the seas
Of roaring waves and ebbing flow
Will be exalted high.
So wipe the flowing tears away
And whisper a little prayer.

For He could hold the ocean in His hand,
But He’d choose to hold your tears instead.

Joanna Lee, the writer of this poem is one of the youths of Powerhouse+

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ready or Not? (1 Thess 4:1-18)



The H1N1 pandemic, like SARS a few years earlier, is a reminder to us of our own mortality. That day the Lord calls us before him is a day we all anticipate, although we also know it comes on us stealthily and suddenly. Nevertheless, it is a day we can prepare for. In reading 1 Thess 4:1-18, we are reminded that as we live on earth, there are dangers to avoid and duties to take on. If we follow faithfully our Lord’s guidance, we can be sure that we will not be caught ashamed when the Day of the Lord is upon us.

Live a Balanced Life (vv3-8) – Avoid spending inordinate time and effort on things we do for pleasure. How much time do we spend on our hobbies or on eating even? Measure that against time we spend on reading God’s Word. That should give us some idea of how important our spiritual life is to us. We should also avoid being obsessed by our work life. God has given each of us creativity. Unfortunately, when it is tarred by sin, we tend towards workaholism. This subjects us to burnout and neurological disorders leading to a barren life, despite our material abundance.

Be involved in things that matter (vv9-12) – While we are to avoid the excess of working for our keep until we burnout, it does not mean we avoid ministering in God’s name. I believe God expects us to be involved and has called us to be his partners in making him known through ministry and mission. How involved are we? Are we using our gift(s) to his glory in ministry?

This life is not the only one we have (vv13-18) – We should live keeping our eyes on eternity. Many people, Christians included, live as though only the earthly life matters. Our journey through this life should be lived in the light of the Gospel. Each day is a day that God calls us to the obedient life that reflects his glory and truth. Sometimes, this obedient life will cause the world to think disparagingly of us and even ridicule us. This is something Jesus received and told us that we will too. But he also reminded us that God’s favour is on us when we live our lives to please God, regardless of the world’s attitude towards us.

So as we ponder about balancing the work life and recreational life with the spiritual life, or even our temporal work life against our ministry life, we can see that we need wisdom, above all, to bring things into balance. We all need this wisdom, even pastors, and it can only come from above. To attain this, we need an uncompromising attitude of prayerfulness. This consists of continuous and continual prayer. How much time and how many times do we spend on daily prayer? Excluding our prayer before meals, our prayer in church and with our CG friends, how much time do we devote to prayer daily and weekly?

Regular prayer is victorious prayer. I read this somewhere “unless we know how to bend our knees before God, we will never stand upright before Him on the Coming Day.” Seeking to live a God-pleasing life without seeking God’s will can be futile and fruitless. The only way to overcome the flesh, the world and the Devil is by drawing on heavenly resources. These heavenly resources are ours through reading and reflecting on God’s Word and through prayer.

May the Lord’s praise be with us when he comes to take us home!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inspiration - 2 Timothy 4:7

One Day at a Time - In the Aftermath of Devastation (Jer 29:4-14)


The recent Typhoon Ketsana that devastated the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam turned many lives upside-down. Within a few hours, their cities were flooded chest high. People saw their children drown and loved ones swept away. People ran out of food and electrical power. Life looked out of control for them.

The Jews that Jeremiah wrote to in Jeremiah 29 also faced a similar challenge – their lives were out of control. Conquered by the Babylonians, thousands, including their king, were deported to Babylon. Will they ever see and worship in Jerusalem again? They had not expected everything to be turned upside-down like this! Undoubtedly, many of these Jewish exiles had faithfully followed God. Yet they too suffered devastation. Likewise, we Christians are not exempt from the tribulations of life, even when we have done nothing wrong.

I had a friend whose life once was turned upside down. He was an executive in a Christian ministry and was happy serving there. But a time came when his boss was upset with him and started treating him like a leper. My friend’s duties were taken away from him and it seemed like he was being forced to resign. It was so bad that he would wait till his wife was asleep so that she would not see him cry as he prayed to God.

How did he cope? He told me, “Every morning I woke up and asked God to give me a day not worse than yesterday. If someone needed help, I would do whatever I could. If there was any paperwork, I would finish it.” In short, one day at a time, he would just plod on and do a God-pleasing day of labour. Then he went home and thanked God for the grace to have lasted the day.

In looking at Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles, we see the same idea in his advice. The Jews were to do their best for God even in captivity. They were to settle down, grow crops, build houses and have children (Jer 29:5-7). In other words, they were to carry on with all the normal, mundane tasks of life, wherever they were. There was no talk of a miraculous deliverance from Heaven. Instead, they were to live one day at a time for seventy long years before they would be restored.

How did they endure it? By trusting in the One who made the promise, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). The One who made that promise knows everything, sees everything and has power over everything. Although the waiting was difficult, the end-result was assured by God. The lesson for all of us is just to persevere, not in moaning and groaning, but in the tasks that God has entrusted to us.

It ended well for the Jews. Seventy years later, a remnant of them returned them back to their land. For some of us, though, our trials may not end soon enough. However, we can persevere because of our hope that the Kingdom of God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will be fulfilled. Many times, our victory lies not in the hope of a miraculous deliverance but in the hope of having the grace to live one day at a time.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great reading - How to be a truly 'successful' pastor

The following article is taken from http://yingyee.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/fighting-the-success-syndrome/.

I remember a few years ago going through some pretty severe depression. I don’t think anyone knew about it. I guess I was able to keep it under wraps, but I remember very clearly going through some dark days wondering what I was doing with my life, rethinking about ministry and so many other things. During this time I happen to have come across Kent Hughes great book “Liberating ministry from the Success Syndrome”. As I read it, it exactly describe what I was going through and the emotional roller coaster ride I was on. Kent Hughes describes how he had fallen for the Success Syndrome in evaluating his ministry and because things were not “successful” he was spiraling ever into more spiritual depression. But by God’s grace he was able to recover from his depression and regain a biblical perspective in evaluating his life and ministry.

What Hughes had fallen prey to was what I was falling prey to as well. I had fallen victim to the success syndrome. A chief cause of this was my tendency to compare myself to others. I would compare my preaching to others, my skill to others, my intelligence to others, my pastoral skills to others. I would compare everything to everyone else. Not surprisingly I was falling ever into depression. But by God’s grace I was able to pull myself out of it, yet the cry to be “Successful” is an ever present taunt in my ears and it’s a daily battle to fight against it.

While the message that we are called to be faithful rather than successful is something many of us have heard over and over again, yet it remains a constant struggle. Unfortunately this is not helped when the Christian community, both near and far, have themselves bought into the ’success’ lie.

Inadvertently, in the way we talk or even treat our leaders, we can make it very hard for our leaders to focus on being faithful rather than on being successful.

So personally here are some thoughts I’ve had to think about. Firstly to us leaders:

a. When you are jealous of other people’s success work even harder to pray for their ministry and give thanks to God for them. Now I’m not so naive to know that no one is perfect and so it’s easy to punch holes in their ministry and look at their flaws. For everything good there is always a mixture of bad. That’s life. We’re not in heaven as yet. However as far as we are concerned let’s just concentrate on praying that they will stay focused on the gospel, keep preaching the scriptures and that God will use their ministry to his glory even more so than our own ministry.

b. When things are going well with your ministry and growing make it a special point to pray that God will all the more make you last in the eyes of the world so that you will be first in his eyes. And when everyone wants to talk up how great you are make it an even special point to fervently pray that God will make you a nobody in the eyes of the world so that you will be a somebody in his eyes.

Lord make me last in the eyes of the world that I might be first in your eyes.

c. Accept the fact that you are not as “good” as someone else but that’s ok. So stop comparing. The fact is that God has wired you differently and that’s OK. Remember God never makes mistakes and that includes you.

d. If someone wants to put you on a pedestal tell them they’re stupid and they need to see a doctor. (Ok maybe in a more pastorally sensitive way).

e. Finally we need to realise the fact that change is difficult and painful. The key to glory is always via the way of the cross and in this case, the cross is personally wanting that others will to be more successful than you.

OK a word to the rest of us, here are some thing to think about so that we don’t make it hard for our leaders and cause them to fall victim to the success syndrome.

a. Avoid avoid avoid, playing the “comparing game”. This is wrong and ungodly. Ok, so your pastor may not be a great preacher like……. or they might not be a great leader like…………… but don’t play the comparison game. Accept the fact that God may have wired your leader like……….. If that is the case then learn to work with what you’ve been given and be thankful. But whatever you do don’t play the comparison games. Of course there are real cases in which you leader is just not the right person for your congregation. If that is the case then it’s ok to tell the person, but just don’t play the comparison game. This doesn’t help anyone.

b. Avoid playing the “I saw……………” game. You know this game the world plays.

“I saw Keanu Reeves.”
“I ate in the same restaurant as Tom Cruise”
“I touched Matt Damon
Unconsciously we do the same thing. We can play up that we know……….. or that we had a chat with……………or that we are related to….. etc etc. All this tends to do is to put someone else on a pedestal but make your leaders feel really bad.

c. Watch what gifts you give to your leaders. I think this is great. I’m all for it, but there is a danger that we can favour one over and above the other by what we are prepared to do for one and not the other. I’m not saying that we don’t be generous to our leaders but rather we need to show equal generosity to all and not just to some.

d. Be careful not to play up one over and above the other. This only creates jealousy and makes one feel bad and the other big headed.

e. Stop complaining about your leaders.

f. Just one more thing, if you’re organising a camp, concert, or a function of any sort avoid all the soppy thank you’s at the end. Why do some get more thank you’s than others? You know what it’s like to be overlooked while others are thanked. So my suggestion is a general thank you to one and all. Give a personal and private thank you to all concerned. And don’t forget the guys who picks up the garbage.

Ok, these are just some personal reflections. So now back to my church growth book on how to be a successful pastor. Hmmmm….

WRITTEN BY REV YING YEE,
Chinese Christian Church
100 Alfred St Milsons Point,
Sydney, NSW, Australia. 2061

Tiredness is a Blessing (1 Kings 19)


Once while reflecting on all the busyness of completing assignments and preparing for exams, my mind was drawn back to a study I did on Elijah a year ago. After his great victory over the false prophets of Ahab by calling down heavenly fire, he fled when Jezebel threatened to take his life. What happened? What made him come to this – from hero to zero? I think it was simply fatigue.

At the end of 1 Kings 18, it was recorded that he outran a thunderstorm all the way back to the king’s palace in Jezreel. Now Mt Carmel is 600 meters high and the distance from Mt Carmel to Jezreel is about 42 km, the distance for the Olympic marathon. Imagine Elijah’s state as he arrives. Physically, he must have been very tired. He must have also been emotionally tired too after having dealt with the prophets of Baal. And so he runs at the first sign of trouble. That is what tiredness can do. It takes our eyes off God. It makes us forget God’s power and promises.

Do we lament this aspect of our human-ness? Do we bemoan our tiredness wishing we could accomplish more work? Do we then push our bodies and think it good to ignore our fatigue so that we can achieve more? Do we think it a blight, this frail aspect of our existence that foils our efforts to squeeze more from our limited day? I know I do sometimes. Yet as we reflect, is tiredness a bane or really a boon? I have come to think it a boon, a gift of God. If we touch a hot iron, the pain automatically moves our hand away. The pain prevents our hand from being burnt beyond repair. In the same way, fatigue prevents us from going on and on until we are burnt out. It reminds us that we are human and therefore feeble. It reminds us that there are times we need to rest. It also reminds us that our strength and achievements come from God not ourselves. It helps us to be humble and dependent on God.

Do you get worn out from the cares and stresses of your daily life? If you do, welcome to the club. The demands of earning a living, our families and sometimes the burdens of friends’ needs add up to a lot of time and energy resulting in overwork, stress and sometimes burnout.

How do we avoid burnout then? Perhaps the following may be of help to us.

• Connect with God. This is most important. If we are too busy to be alone with God, we are too busy. Just as food gives our body the energy it needs, communion with God is also food for our soul.

• Decide what's really important. Everything we meet can be urgent but not everything is important. Ask God for grace and wisdom to decide what things are important and focus on them. Our role model, Jesus focused only on doing the Father’s Will, so we should do the same.

• Ask for help. Don't be a lone ranger. I believe that God has designed people to need each other. So sometimes, more is accomplished if we share our burdens with others.

• Remember people, not programs, matter. Relationships are the key to happy living. Let us not just work and forget the people around us. Let us make time for them. Sometimes merely being together is time well spent.

Sometimes the best is to just rest. That was what God did with Elijah. He did not lecture or rebuke Elijah when he complained, preferring to just let him eat and sleep. Only after Elijah regains his strength does God give him further instructions to carry out. The lesson is very clear to us. God cannot use a tired person. If we want to be useful in our lives, we must acknowledge our fatigue as a sign to rest. God can only use a tired person who knows when to rest. May He then give us the wisdom to know it and abide in it!


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Friday, September 18, 2009

The Mercy of God

This is another song that I really love. Geoff Bullock's song adapted from Ephesians 1

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Grace for the Moment: Michelle's Story (Chuck and Sharon Betters)


I was the mother of wonderful three-year-old twin boys and a beautiful little girl. But, nearly four years after our first child, Joshua, was stillborn, I was still bitterly angry with God. Because I felt He had failed to protect me from that terrible loss, I could not trust Him to protect me from similar losses.

Reading the Scriptures and honestly asking Him questions left me feeling even more abandoned, so I gave up expecting to feel His love or His presence in my life. The anger I always carried around so deep within me eventually began to break out; I started to lash out at my husband and my children, and I knew I was in need of help.

Through events only God could have arranged, I started meeting with a Godly older woman who seemed able to see right into my soul. My anger toward my family was bad enough, but this was only a symptom of the greater problem; my anger toward God was the real poison destroying my life. My friend recognized this, and she patiently began to show me the way back into fellowship with God by sharing the details of her own pain-filled life and how God had taught her to trust Him through those hard times. Yet my heart, seared and defiant, continued to resist.

Finally, one Sunday morning, the many months of loving support and encouragement from my friend and the ministry of the church broke through to me. God transformed me from a broken despairing woman into a woman who felt His presence deeply. Suddenly I knew He loved me, and never wanted to go back to my old way of living. Every day He surprised me with new revelations of His love and specific care for my family and me. I soon began to realize that He knew me even better than I knew myself.

God also patiently began teaching me to hold onto life loosely; I started to realize that my life might change at any moment, as it had the day I lost my son, and that I needed to be prepared. I began to see all of my circumstances in the context of eternity, and I knew I could count on the Lord to be with me through any hardships that might lie ahead. I had the feeling that God might be preparing me for something difficult, but I wasn't afraid because He was also teaching me that I could trust Him to give me the grace I would need when that moment came.

September 14, 1998, started out like an ordinary day for us, but it turned out to be a dramatic turning point in our lives. That was the day a pediatric oncologist told us one of our three-year-old twins, Jacob, might have cancer. I was terrified. "What will happen to Jacob if he does have cancer? Will he need chemotherapy? Will he need radiation? How sick will he get? Will he lose all his hair? How long will it take for him to get better?" The question behind the other questions, of course, was one I could hardly even contemplate: "Will Jacob get better?" The thought of an empty space at the table, of putting away his favourite things, of having only memories of him to hold onto, was more than I thought I could bear. Yet, in response to each of my questions God's gentle answer was always, "My grace is sufficient for you."

"Yes, yes," I would cry, afraid. "But what about Jacob?"

"Your times are in My hands, Michelle, past, present and future. Know that I love both you and Jacob and that I will give you the grace you will need for this moment"

As the doctor described for my husband and I the surgery needed to remove our son's cancer-ridden kidney and the subsequent tests to determine whether the cancer had spread, I thought, "How can I put my three-year-old son through the pain of surgery? What if something happens to the other kidney, then he will surely die." Again I could hear God saying, "My grace is sufficient for you for this moment, Trust Me, Michelle, trust Me in this."

Fear seized my heart again when the radiographs of Jacob's lungs indicated that the cancer in his little body might have spread. I wondered how this would affect his chances of getting better. What if they think they've cured him but his cancer returns? Each time I found my anxious thoughts running far ahead of God -into all the might-happens and what-ifs and dark and fearsome possibilities - He would bring me back to His truth. As long as I remained with God for that moment, He gave me the strength to handle whatever challenge I faced.

Our journey in this terrible land of cancer has only just begun. We are still waiting for test results to determine the extent of Jacob's cancer. We are strangers in an alien country. The language where we live includes the words "malignancy" and "terminal" and "life-threatening." We don't want to be here; we want to take our children and go elsewhere, anywhere. Our journey through grief, following Joshua's death, taught us much about God's character and His loving faithfulness, and now we know that the future, whatever it may bring, is in His hands. In this journey we are on, in this landscape filled with tubes, and monitors, and small children lying on hospital beds, we trust the Lord to teach us once again how to rely on Him for our future by giving us the grace we need for the moment - this moment.

Taken from “Treasures of Faith, Living Boldly in View of God's Promises” by Chuck and Sharon Betters. Please do not use without acknowledging the original source.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ambition Or Mission in Life



If there is one clear lesson that all of us can learn from the recent Java earthquake, Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan and other natural disasters that struck our neighbours, it is about the brevity of life. Which one of us can tell how much more time we have left on this earth? We can make plans for a long life but we have to live with the fact that life can be short. This truth makes it compelling for us to live and make our days count for something.

If only annihilation faced us beyond this life, then our choices are easy. Just eat, live and be merry because after this we cease to exist. Some do believe in this reality which is why they live for themselves grabbing and exploiting all that they can. We Christians, however, know that there is a different reality for us in eternity and that is fellowship with a loving Heavenly Father. So, knowing this is just a temporary holding area for us, we too should make our days count – benefiting not ourselves but the Kingdom of God. It would indeed be a sad day to stand before the Lord and be ashamed of the missed opportunities of service and obedience that came our way.

A book I once read had this question to ask, “In life, do you pursue an ambition or a mission?” It is a question worthy of self-reflection. Although the two may fit together at times, I think ambition refers to doing what we want while mission refers to doing what God wants.

Mission means focusing not on ourselves, which ambition does, but on how we can serve God and others, as God would want us to do. Mission is being God- and others-centred. It means being sensitive to the needs of others around us. Sometimes, meeting those needs may even cause us some discomfort and personal loss. But we should do it anyway, because it is what God wants us to do. We should expect from God situations like these, situations that will test our faith. If we respond in obedience, our faith will grow stronger. If we respond by compromising our faith, we slide farther and farther away from God.

I believe this is a Kingdom truth - when we do things we are not naturally inclined to do, we come away changed, and for the better. Further, we will praise God for that change because we would have done something we ‘naturally’ would not do. This is because God’s grace is at work. When we cooperate with His Spirit in performing others-centred acts regularly, we will be changed to having an others-centred mentality that is able to do Kingdom acts ‘naturally’. A shepherd’s heart and a servant’s spirit will come ‘naturally’ to us.

The year 2009 is ending soon and we can thank God for the past blessings of being able to give and work towards his Kingdom’s agenda. In the rest of the year ahead then, let us ask God to help us to be wise in our priorities. With only one life, our resources of time, energy and possessions are indeed important, not only to us but also to God. Let us then invest them in things that have eternal consequences, not in things that may seem important to us but ultimately be trivial from a Kingdom perspective. May God grant us the grace to know the difference as we echo the words of the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

WHO AM I?



You know I still get goosebumps when I look at these pictures. God's mercy has no limits whatsoever. The only thing I can think about is this song, "Who Am I". Thanks Bryan for introducing this song so many years ago when you led in Powerhouse+ worship.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just Dance (Pictures From the Internet)





Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.
If my life is a dance, then may Jesus Christ be my choreographer

This Story Is True - Joshua Bell






PERCEPTION…something to think about

It was in Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

3 minutes later: a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes later: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes later: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes later: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour later: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story.

Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post
as part of a social experiment about - perception, taste and people's priorities.

The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour,
Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing?

Friday, August 14, 2009

WHY WE WORSHIP TOGETHER


I came across this thought-provoking remark by Warren Wiersbe in his book “The Integrity Crisis”. Commenting on the spiritual climate of Israel during Jeremiah’s time, Wiersbe commented “the priests and false prophets peddled a popular brand of religion that gave the people enough experience to make them happy but not enough truth to make them holy.’ It is a statement worth pondering. It helps us to understand that, in corporate worship, the church needs to be a balance of both – an experience of God’s presence together with sound teaching of God’s Word to strengthen as we return back to the world.

It is true to say that God is always present in our lives but in corporate worship of God, we gain a better picture of who God is and what He has done for our lives. We may be reminded of his sovereignty and power as we sing a hymn like “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. Our hearts may be moved to remember the immeasurable love and mercy of God as we partake of the bread and wine, commemorating an event that Jesus himself inaugurated with his disciples. As we hear the message, we are challenged to align our lives here on earth with God’s agenda and we respond meaningfully with songs like “Lord I offer my life”. When we experience God in this way, it may seem as if we are being lifted up to Heaven.

However, the ultimate goal of worshipping God is not merely the gaining of an emotional experience, per se. Were that so, it would be man-centred! We also need to encounter God in his Word. More than just being a motivational talk or a homily to soothe our fractured psyche, preaching is how God’s Spirit convicts and challenges us to bend our will to his. As we reflect and meditate on the truths of God revealed to us, we are moved to respond. We feel compelled to share Christ with some of our friends who still do not know him. We are moved to change some aspects of our lifestyle that affects our witness to the world. We are moved to confess that certain behavioural changes have to be done, if we want to live God-pleasing lives.

This is how we grow spiritually as a result of our corporate worship. It will prepare us for the week ahead in the way we live our lives. Our encounter with God in our corporate worship will challenge us to better efforts and greater heights in the works and witness that we do before God in our everyday lives. It is then that we become, in truth and in spirit, God’s people.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

"Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is gin and water."

"When you breathe, you inspire. When you do not breathe, you expire."

H20 is hot water, and CO2 is cold water."

"To collect fumes of sulphur, hold down a deacon over a flame in test tube"

"When you smell an odorless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide"

"Nitrogen is not found in Ireland because it is not found in a free state"

"Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes, and caterpillars."

"Blood flows down one leg and up the other."

"Respiration is composed of two acts, first inspiration, and then expectoration."

"The moon is a planet just like the earth, only it is even deader "

"Dew is formed on leaves when the sun shines down on them and makes them perspire."

"A super-saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold."

"Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas."

"The body consists of three parts - the brainium, the borax and the abominable cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five - a, e, I, o and u."

"Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away."

"Planet: A body of earth surrounded by sky."

"Rhubarb: a kind of celery gone bloodshot."

"Vacuum: A large, empty space where the pope lives."

"Before giving a blood transfusion, find out if the blood is affirmative or negative."

"To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose."

"For a nosebleed: put the nose much lower than the body until the heart stops."

"For Fainting: Rub the person's chest or, if a lady, rub her arm above the hand instead.

"For dog bite: put the dog away for several days. If he has not recovered, then kill it."

"For asphyxiation: Apply artificial respiration until the patient is dead."

"For head cold: use an agonizer to spray the nose until it drops in your throat."

"To keep milk from turning sour: keep it in the cow."

"The pistol of a flower is its only protection against insects."

"The alimentary canal is located in the northern part of Indiana."

"The skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides have been taken off. The purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to."

"A permanent set of teeth consists of eight canines, eight cuspids, two molars,and eight cuspidors."

"The tides are a fight between the Earth and Moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight."

"A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is."

"Equator: A managerie lion running around the Earth through Africa."

"Germinate: To become a naturalized German."

"Liter: A nest of young puppies."

"Magnet: Something you find crawling all over a dead cat."

Hang Loose Again

QUICK WIT:

On a Plumbers truck: "We repair what your husband fixed."

Several weeks after a young man had been hired, he was called into the personnel director's office. "What is the meaning of this?" the director asked. "When you applied for this job, you told us you had five years experience. Now we discovered this is the first job you've ever held."

"Well," the young man replied, "in your advertisement you said you wanted somebody with imagination."

-----------------------------------------------------------
Funny Thoughts
"If you have five seconds to spare,
Then I'll tell you the story of my life." - Morrissey
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QUICK WIT:

Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous? Because no one wants to quit.

A magician worked on a cruise ship. Since the audience was different each week, he did the same tricks over and over again. One problem: The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick. Once the parrot understood, she started shouting in
the middle of the show: "Look, it's not the same hat! Look, he's hiding the flowers under the table. Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?"

The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was, after all, the captain's parrot. Then the ship sank. After swimming for a few hours, the magician found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea with, as fate would have it, the parrot. They stared malevolently at each other but did not utter a word. This went on for a day and then another, and then another.

Finally on the fourth day, the parrot could restrain itself no longer: "OK," she said, "I give up. What'd you do with the ship?"

-------------------------------------------------------------
Funny Thoughts
"Think less and live more." - Georg Hermann
-------------------------------------------------------------

Hang Loose and Relax

Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?"

"Because white is the color of happiness and today is the happiest day of her life," her mother tried to explain, keeping it simple.

The child thought about this for a moment, then said, "So, why's the groom wearing black?"

-------------------------------------------------------------
Funny Thoughts
"Ever notice how the most often quoted person is 'Anon?'" - Anon
-------------------------------------------------------------

QUICK WIT:

Two kids were talking one day. "Can people predict the future with cards?"
"My mother can."
"Really?"
"Yes, she takes one look at my report card and tells me what will happen when my father gets home."

Three sons left home, went out on their own and prospered. Getting back together, they discussed the gifts they were able to give their elderly mother.

The first said, "I built a big house for our mother." The second said, "I sent her a Mercedes with a driver." The third smiled and said, "I've got you, both beat. You remember how Mom enjoyed reading the Bible? And you know she can't see very well. I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took elders in the church 12 years to teach him. He's one of a kind. Mama just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it."

Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks: "Milton," she wrote one son, "the house you built is so huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house." "Gerald," she wrote to another, "I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home, so I rarely use the Mercedes. And the driver is so rude!" "Dearest Donald," she wrote to her third son, "you have the good sense to know what your mother likes. The chicken was delicious."

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Funny Thoughts
"I stand by all the misstatements I made." - J. Danforth Quayle
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Friday, July 31, 2009

Silly Things Actually Said By Commentators In The World Of Soccer


(Photo taken off http://www.strangedangers.com/)

1. Well, it's Liverpool two, Ipswich nil, and if the score stays this way, I've got to fancy Liverpool for the win.
2. He had an eternity to play that ball, but took too long.
3. And so they have not been able to improve on their 100% record.
4. With the last kick of the game, he scored with a header.
5. Well, it's a fabulous kaleidoscope of colour: almost all the Brazilians are wearing yellow shirts.
6. If that had gone on, it would definitely have been a goal.
7. Their manager, Howard Wilkinson, isn't here today, which strongly suggests that he may be elsewhere.
8. I am a firm believer that if one team scores a goal, the other need to score two to win.
9. If a team scores early on, it often takes an early lead.
10. You cannot possibly have counted the number of passes made, but there were eight.

Source of Article unknown

Fading Towards Glory


Paul said in 2 Cor 5:1a “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed…” I am coming to the experiential realization that our earthly tent WILL definitely be destroyed. Our bodies will wind down and decay as we grow older. Already I take a longer time to share off an ailment. Last Sunday I fell sick with all the flu-like symptoms except fever. I went to see the doctor. I was actually recovering already when I finished the medication course yesterday. But lo and behold, as I was sleeping last night, I started coughing again. Even as I write this, I am thinking that I am on a time-clock that will soon lose its spring. Only God knows when.

Yet I thank and praise God for the promise of 2 Cor 5:1b, “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” And to make sure we don’t miss the point Paul says, Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose…” (2 Cor 5:5). That is really grace, because we who deserve to be cursed have instead been endowed with blessing. Its like Warren Buffet strolling past you in your beggar clothes and then he suddenly stops and tells you, “Here, son, I am going to take you home to live in my house and everything I have there is yours.” Buffet has the legal right to ignore you and just pass you by, but he does not because of the grace he wishes to bestow on you. Multiply that to the nth degree and you still will not achieve the grace that God has bestowed on you, through his only Son Jesus Christ

What is our response then?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twenty Truths to Remember

1. Faith is the ability to not panic.
2. If you worry, you didn't pray. If you pray, don't worry.
3. As a child of God, prayer is kind of like calling home every day
4. Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape
5. When we get tangled up in our problems, be still. God wants us to be still so He can untangle the knot
6. Do your maths. Count your blessings
7. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts
8. Dear God: I have a problem. It's me
9. Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted
10. Laugh every day, it's like inner jogging
11. The most important things in your home are the people.
12. Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional
13. There is no key to happiness. The door is always open
14. A grudge is a heavy thing to carry, better to lose it
15. He who dies with the most toys is still dead
16. We do not remember days, but moments. Life moves too fast, so enjoy your precious moments
17. Nothing is real to you until you experience it, otherwise it's just hearsay.
18. It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are done.
19. Surviving and living your life successfully requires courage. The goals and dreams you're seeking require courage and risk-taking. Learn from the turtle - it only makes progress when it sticks out its neck
20. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are

Monday, July 27, 2009

Always Hold On To What You Treasure

Facing Your Giants



















Numbers 13, 14 chronicles one of the most tragic moments of Israelite history. The Israelites were on the verge of crossing into the Promised Land. As commanded by God, they send in twelve men on a reconnaissance mission. After 40 days, the men return with a promising report of an abundant land overflowing with mild and honey. However, the men also reported that it was impossible to conquer the land because it was inhabited by giants who would surely destroy the Israelites if they attempted this. This fearsome report caused them to grumble and murmur against God and invited his wrath. For their sin of unbelief, God judged that none of that Israelite generation over 20 years old at that time would cross over into the Promised Land, except for Joshua and Caleb.

In the movie ‘Facing the Giants*’, American football coach Grant Taylor, the main character, is facing some ‘giants’ in his own life. His high school football team is perennially losing on the field. His house and car is breaking down, he cannot become a father and, even worse, he discovers a conspiracy to kick him out of his job. In his moment of despair, he asks his wife, “What’s God doing? Why is it so hard?” Yet, as the movie progresses, we see him overcoming his ‘giants’ of fear and failure and inspiring the people around him to do likewise.

What made Coach Taylor overcome his circumstances where the Israelites could not? In a pivotal scene, Coach Taylor walks in a field, praying the promises of Psalm 18 back to God to be his rock, his fortress and his shield. In his adversity, Coach Taylor turns to the promises of God’s Word. This is in stark contrast to the Israelites who turn away from the promises of God’s Word. They forgot God’s promise in Numbers 13:2 “send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites…”

More than simply being a guide to living well, the Bible is literally the promises of God to us. For this reason, it is important to read his Word, memorize it and reflect on it. When we do so, God’s Word becomes personalized to us and we can talk to God about it in our prayers. By doing so, we allow it to penetrate into the deepest nooks and crevices of our person, so that it becomes rooted within us, awaiting the Spirit’s bidding to bear fruit. Such a process of growth does not come overnight but it will come as long as we remain responsible to doing our part of reading, remembering and reflecting on Scripture. Let us return to this discipline of memorizing Scripture so that we may echo what the Psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11)

Judgment Day? Really?


So why are we still here?

When God Seems Silent

































When Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the Bible tells us they also took twelve stones from the Jordan’s river bed. These stones were piled into a memorial to be a testimony of how God has worked for them. Joshua told the Israelites “the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God" (Joshua 4:23-24).

Testimonies and memorials are wonderful reminders us of God’s unchanging faithfulness to his children. As the line from ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ goes “As thou hast been, thou forever will be”. Reminders of his past faithfulness strengthen us to keep going in the face of adversity. The reality of our Christian life is that there will be times when our world falls to pieces yet God is silent. We cry out to God but we seemingly get no answer. We feel ignored. Situations like these are not unique to us although we tend to believe and make it so. The Bible tells us that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years before being delivered in the Exodus. This means whole generations of Israelites cried out to God for deliverance but faced God’s silence to their needs. Wang Ming Dao, with other fellow Christians, suffered greatly at the hands of cruel captors for many years during the Cultural Revolution. For many of them deliverance was long in coming and for many of them, not at all.

They remind us of our own adverse times when God seems silent – the only difference between theirs and being the degree of adversity. In moments like these, we should turn to past victories and recall God’s blessings. Recalling those victories will produce renewed confidence for our lives because they are testimonies of God's faithfulness. The Bible itself is a track record of God’s accomplishments in his people’s lives. Therefore, we should read it to commune with him so that he may remind us of his faithfulness in the past and his promises of hope for the future. The Bible also reminds us that God has already delivered us from the penalty of sin that we deserved. This testimony of God’s greatest act of deliverance is our strength. This is our assurance that he will also deliver us from the presence of sin and evil one day. Let us then be faithful to him because surely he is always faithful to us.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Is Our Worth?




















The funeral of Michael Jackson recently was attended by thousands and watched on TV by a global audience of millions. I am sure you saw the many people, many not even born or were just babies when Michael was at his peak in the 80s, declaring how much joy he brought them through his music and dancing. Amazing isn’t it? He brought joy to me too at that time. I remember playing “Beat It” on my walkman (no Discman or mp3 then) and watching the videotape over and over again. I could sync with its street-life impressions.

Yet despite bringing happiness to millions of people, sometimes I wonder if Michael had full happiness in his own heart. In his last decade of life, Michael made many bizarre decisions. He went through operations to whiten his skin and change his features to look Caucasian. It looked like he really wanted to be Peter Pan, never growing old. To this end, he built a sprawling mansion and called it Neverland, the fictional name for Peter Pan’s homeland. In it were all sorts of amusement stuff to amuse the many children that he invited to have fun there. Perhaps, the happiness that was found in making these children happy could replace the happiness lost after he dropped out of the entertainment scene. This, making others happy, could well be the reason that drove him to tax his 50-year old body in training for a grueling 50-city tour.

Many of us are like Michael Jackson in this sense. We seek our security and purpose in things of the world - personal success, status, beauty, wealth, and the approval of others. These may fulfill but if our worth is only found in them, we will feel empty and purposeless after enjoying them for a while or when they are taken away. Ultimately, such things being temporal, we will again give in to the drive to set higher goals for success or seek the approval of others.

This is not something new discovered by psychologists of our time. It is a timeless truth dating back to Eden. Adam and Eve found their true security and purpose when God demonstrated his love for them by meeting all their needs. It was their relationship with a loving God that proclaimed their actual worth. When Adam and Eve abandoned this relationship in disobedience, they also lost their sense of worth. They began feeling ashamed, worthless and attempted to hide from the true source of their worth, God.

We must always base our self-worth on who we are in Christ. The Bible tells us, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Our worth is not derived from what we achieve but because of who we are; people bought with the price of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. Since that kind of worth is tied to the very nature of God, it can never change. If we apply this truth in our lives, we will profit by gaining real freedom. This is because in allowing God to control our lives and developing us to conform to his Son, we need not worry about gaining the approval of others or how they interpret the way we live our lives. This is worth reflecting on isn’t it?

(The introduction here is not meant to denigrate Michael Jackson in any way or his achievements. It is my prayer that his memory will be left in peace and that people will forego the hunger for sensationalistic news about his death so that we may always remember him for the person that he was – someone whose joy was in bringing joy to others)