Friday, July 30, 2010

Where is our Security?

In I Kings 17, we have the account of Elijah hiding from King Ahab of Israel in the Kerith Ravine. After a year, the brook dries up because of drought in the land. Could God have caused the water to keep flowing since he had told Elijah to hide there? Yes! However, Elijah is told to go to Zarephath in Sidon. This was where Ahab’s wife, the wicked Jezebel, came from. That must have surprised Elijah because he could be sure that everyone there hated his guts since he had prophesied the current drought afflicting Israel. Why could not God send him to safer Jerusalem in Judah, ruled by good King Jehoshaphat? Further, widows were the poorest of all peoples. Yet, we see Elijah, in obedience, turn control of his life over to God and he moves, despite the drastic change.

With President-elect Obama helming the USA, we have seen him seek to implement policies to bring about changes. There is no doubt the changes have rattled departments which have been in maintenance mode or may have tangentially veered off. Further, some of his changes will affect other nations. Will all the federal servants be happy to implement the changes? Will those affected by the policy changes be happy? I may be wrong but somehow I doubt many will be. Nobody likes change especially once they have settled in.

I believe God brings changes in our lives so that we do not settle into our comfort zone and forget who he is or what we have to do. There is a Chinese saying that goes, “When you drink the water, remember the spring.” Biblically, I think that means remember not just your blessings but who provides them. Earlier, Elijah had seen the miracle of unclean ravens bringing food to him daily. Perhaps, watching the same miracle day after day can make the miraculous mundane for Elijah, as it sometimes does for us. God had a tremendous task ahead for him – to purge Israel of idolatry. To achieve that, Elijah needed the complete assurance of God’s sovereignty over all things. Perhaps it is to assure Elijah of this that God brings about this change.

We may find change uncomfortable but yet it is necessary. When change occurs, we learn to let go of what we want so that we can do what God wants. We become more dependent on the Holy Spirit’s guidance rather than people or our own resources. When change occurs, we adapt faster when we are rooted in God and not in our own resources. That is one lesson we can learn from Elijah’s life. In 2009, no one can doubt that there will be many challenges to our lives. Some of these challenges will be personal to us because of our uncertain times. Some of it will be part of our HPC journey as God moves us from where we are to where he wants us to be. These challenges will require changes, some uncomfortable, in our lives. However, let us concentrate on the end result to which we know God is leading us – our own spiritual maturity and making his glory known to the nations. When we do so, we will, just like Elijah, not be distracted by what is currently happening in our lives. When we do so, we will be walking in faith and trusting in the one who has sovereignty over all things, just as has been proven in Elijah’s life.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

True Blessing

In its December 2007 issue, Fortune Magazine subtitled its report on the Wall Street financial crisis arising out of mortgage debt as “the subprime mortgage crisis keeps getting worse—and claiming more victims.” The subprime crisis caused billions of dollars in losses then. The share prices of Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, America’s biggest commercial and investment bank respectively, dropped 35%. Many other Wall Street financial giants such as Bank of America, Credit Suisse, etc posted billions of US$ losses.

Nine months on in 2008, the statement, “the subprime mortgage crisis keeps getting worse—and claiming more victims” is still true. Mortgage giants FannieMae & FreddieMac needed US government intervention to stop going under. Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, three of Wall Street’s biggest five investment banks, sold or forced into bankruptcy. When these financial dominos fall, they send jitters through the world economy. Already we see the shockwaves in various stock markets around the world. The future looks grim indeed with financial losses and unemployment looming.

Many were affected, including Christians. As Christians, what are the lessons that we can take with us? One immediate thought is learning contentment, amidst trial and tribulation. Paul was in prison yet he was contented. (Phil 4:11, 12) “… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” What was Paul’s secret? “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). Jesus was Paul’s all-in-all. Jesus should be our all-in-all. If he truly is, we will obtain the grace to withstand the losses. We will learn to reduce our living expenses to match our income. We will learn to ask, “How much do I want before I say I have enough?” We may learn that the next car, gadget, appliance is not something we really need. Perhaps we can also teach our children that the next videogame or toy or clothes or sportswear may not really be necessary and that they could do with a cheaper version or even not at all. Then when the economy looks rosier and our living picks up, we will remember Jesus’ exhortation, “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”(Luke 12:15). This is what caused the downfall of Wall Street’s investment bankers – imprudence arising out of discontentment with what they already possessed.

The other is to avoid ill-gotten gain. One news article described the crux of the sub-prime crisis was because these banks “bought each other’s debt and erased one another’s risk by dealing with one another in a giant chain letter.” It was paper wealth that was unethical if not downright illegal. Wealth per se is not a sin. It is our security in adverse times and it has the power to influence things for good. I believe God expects us to work and, at the same time, be a good steward and prudently handle the wealth and resources that we accumulate from our labour. But I also believe our means to attain wealth as well as the ends to which we use our wealth matters to him. Wealth, ill-used or ill-gotten displeases God.

Let us learn to live life by the standards that God expects of us. When we do so, we are blessed and “the blessing of the Lord brings wealth and He adds no trouble to it” (Prov 10:22).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Effect of Overwork on Children

Today we read of many teenagers who roam the streets and get into trouble because they are too free after school. At the age when they need attention most and are trying to discover who they really are, they are left on their own and so they drift to the wrong people and learn the wrong values. Imagine the children coming home, looking forward to spending time with mom and dad. However, dad’s brought a whole briefcase of work home again and mom has a meeting with her colleagues again. The children get to spend their quality time with the maid instead in front of the TV or with the Sony Playstation. James Dobson once said this “crowded lives produce fatigue, and fatigue produces irritability, and irritability produces indifference and indifference can be interpreted by the children as lack of genuine affection and personal esteem.”

One biblical example of a good leader who failed to raise his children well was David. He became king over Israel at the age of 30 and made a great king. He won all his battles, reunited Israel and brought prosperity. However, in the second half of 2nd Samuel, we see a lot of dysfunction in his family. His oldest son Amnon rapes his own stepsister and David does nothing. After 2 years, Absalom takes justice into his own hands and kills Amnon. He escapes and years later he returns home but David refuses to see him. The rejection causes Absalom to rebel years later and David is forced to flee into exile. A writer once said that all this happened because David spent too much time at the office. What we see here is parental neglect. The failure to instill godly values leads to the rape of Tamar. There is also failure to rebuke and discipline Absalom’s murder of Amnon. The failure to cultivate a loving and respectful child-parent relationship leads to Absalom’s rebellion. David was just too busy at work and he reaped a harvest of bitter fruit because of the little time he sowed with his family.

In conclusion, I think we all agree that family should have a higher priority than work. The problem is in applying it because that demands sacrifices like career adjustments. We may have to give up that fast track we are on. We may have to work less overtime or maybe even get a new job. We have to overcome our pride and ambition to resist the lure of more money and accolades. There is a good chance we may earn less when we make this choice.

However, I also think there is a promise of a richer life to it. I believe those who align their vision of what success is with God’s vision of success will have a happier and more stable marriage. They will have a closer relationship with their children and they will have more time to nurture and train them. I am also very sure they will find little to regret in their twilight years.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Desire - by Matthew Teoh

Life is all about desire. And desire is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a passion that drives us towards a purpose. Life is full of wants, wishes, and cravings. Money, food, physical pleasure, studying, good grades, success (for ourselves and our children), girlfriends/boyfriends, technological gadgets, branded clothes, watching TV, Korean dramas, Facebook, MSN, respect, and love are just a few things humans enjoy and desire. It is not wrong to want or enjoy these things. But when we desire these things beyond what God intended (outside the boundaries set by God, basing our identity on them, obtaining them at the cost of people, etc.), we want unhealthily more than is necessary.

While reading the first chapter of James, I was struck by verse 16, which says: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” I spent some time reflecting. The verses prior talk about desire, temptation, and sin resulting in death. The verses after speak of God’s good and perfect gifts. I think that James was warning his readers to not be deceived by their sinful desires, because God is much better.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” Galatians 5:16-17

Because we were born into this world, we were born with its desires. Yet, we who have been born again should no longer crave earthly things because the “old has gone” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We know that the desires of the flesh and desire of the Spirit are in conflict. Thus, if we choose to live by the Spirit, we will not live according to the flesh. Desire becomes dangerous when our eyes are affixed on worldly things.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

On the other hand, when our eyes are fixed on God, the things of earth grow strangely dim. And it is peculiar because it is natural for humans to crave earthly things! However, we shouldn’t be trying to stifle our worldly desires because we no longer live for ourselves (Galatians 2:20). Our cravings for worldly pleasures will fade away when we long for something greater: God. Do our souls thirst for the living God (Psalms 42:2)? Is our delight in the law of the Lord (Psalms 1:2)? Are we experiencing His joy (Psalms 28:7)?

Being God-centered is not about giving up my “Facebook” or “TV” time to read the Bible. It is about desiring God and His Word so much that Facebook and watching TV becomes secondary (it doesn’t mean that using Facebook is a sin). It isn’t about us sacrificing our stuff for God. It is when our yearning for God becomes so great and overpowering that there is nothing else we desire but Him! Don’t be deceived by earthly pleasures. If you don’t desire to live by the Spirit, you may be willfully choosing to live by the flesh. If your mind isn’t being filled with scripture and Godly things, what are you filling it with? If you don’t desire God, then what are you desiring?

I earnestly pray that God will fill us all with an overwhelming and irresistible desire for Him, a soulful longing and incredible hunger for His Word, and an intense, fervent, and zealous passion for His glory.

Matthew Teoh is with Powerhouse+, HPC's Youth ministry

Saturday, July 17, 2010

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. In the coming weeks and months, we will be returning to the discipline of memorizing Scripture in our Memory Verse of the Week (MVW). Let us give our best to God in this exercise 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)

* The DVD movie ‘Facing the Giants’ is available in the HPC library. In it, there is also a study guide where eight scenes from ‘Facing the Giants’ are selected for study to challenge us to think through how God would have us live. I like to recommend HPC CGs to consider this study for their meetings.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house.
Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.
Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, You know, 0 God, I am yours!

Poem by Dietrich Boenhoeffer,
March 4 1946

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sharing Your Testimony

Many Christians are intimidated by the idea of sharing their faith. Jesus never intended for the Great Commission to be an impossible burden. God meant for us to be witnesses of Jesus Christ through the natural outcome of living for him. We make it complicated. We think we must complete a 10-week course on evangelism and apologetics before getting started. God designed an easy evangelism program. He made it simple for us. Here are some practical ways to share our faith simply by being an example for Christ.

Faith for Me - Then You - In That Order
There's nothing worse than somebody trying to preach to you about something going on in your life when all you can think about is finding a way to fix it. At that moment, the last thing you want to see is somebody carrying a Bible, acting like they know exactly what you need and how you feel. And truth be told, when they ask you to read from their Bible, you're thinking you'd rather hit them over the head with it!

This is the very scenario that makes the concept of sharing your faith so intimidating. Most people would like to help others, but knowing what to say and how to say it stops you in your tracks. So how do share your faith without making people run and hide from you?

People can spot a phony from a mile away. The absolute worst thing you can do is say one thing and do another. If you aren't committed to applying Christian principles in your own life, you will not only be ineffective, but will be seen as insincere and phony. People aren't as interested in what you say, as they are in seeing how it's working in your life.

Here are some practical things you can do without having to say much at all:
1. One of the best ways to share your faith is to demonstrate the very things you believe by staying positive and having a good attitude even in the middle of a crisis in your own life. Remember the story in the Bible about Peter walking out onto the water when Jesus called to him? He kept walking above the water as long as he stayed focused on Jesus. But once he focused on the storm, he sank.

2. When the people around you see the peace in your life, especially when it seems like you're surrounded by storms, you can bet they'll want to know how to get what you got! On the other hand, if all they see is the top of your head as you sink into the water, there's not a whole lot to ask.

3. Treat people with respect and dignity, no matter the circumstances. Whenever you have the opportunity, show how you don't change how you treat people, no matter what. Jesus treated people right, even when they mistreated Him. People around you will wonder how you're able to show this kind of respect for others. You never know, they may even ask.

4. Find ways to be a blessing to others. This not only plants amazing seeds for a harvest in your own life, it shows others that you're not a phony. It shows that you live what you believe. Saying you're a Christian is one thing, but living it in tangible ways every day is something else. The Word says, "They'll know them by their fruit."

5. Don't compromise your beliefs. Situations happen every day where compromise is not only possible, but many times is expected. Show people that your Christianity means living a life of integrity. And oh yes, that means you tell the sales clerk when she undercharged you for that quart of milk!

6. The ability to forgive quickly is a very powerful way to show how Christianity really works. Become a model of forgiveness. Nothing creates division, hostility, and turmoil more than an unwillingness to forgive the people who hurt you. Of course, there will be times when you are absolutely right. But being right doesn't give you a free pass to punish, humiliate, or embarrass someone else. And it most certainly doesn't eliminate your responsibility to forgive.

The best way to share your faith is to be an example.
People will want to know how you can be peaceful in the storm, why your kids are doing so well, why your marriage is so great, and how you know for sure about your purpose in life. And when they ask, you'll have all kinds of great stuff to share.

Source of Article unknown.. From the Internet

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Making the Impossible Possible

The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospels is a captivating one. One lesson we can learn from it is that little becomes much when Christ is in it (Mark 6:43, 44). The Bible has many examples telling us that when the smallest, most insignificant things are surrendered to God, they become of great worth as he uses them.
  • Gideon's 300 men routed a great host of the Midianites.
  • Daniel was in exile but rose to become adviser to four kings in his lifetime.
  • The widow's two coins were a greater offering than that of the rich Pharisee.
  • The boy's lunch was enough to feed more than 5,000 men.
When we work in partnership with God, our little plus His power and provision becomes abundance. I read this story about a Christian who lived in a small town in the US and ran a provision store. One day a family moved in across the road and because the shop was nearby, the father, who was a non-Christian, would come into the store to do his shopping. After one year, he went to the pastor of a nearby church and said, "The store-keeper is a trustworthy and honorable man. I want to be like him." And so the pastor explained to the man about Jesus and how Jesus can change his life. The man accepted Christ and then he opened his home to the church to use. Two of his daughters became missionaries. So many wonderful things happened because one simple man was faithful with his life. All he did was influence one man with his Christian life.

There is a hymn that we sing regularly "All to Jesus, I surrender. All to him I freely give". When we do that sincerely, we enter into partnership with our mighty God who will then be able to use us. Therefore let us not say, “we have nothing to give or we have too little to give.” Rather let us be like the little boy with the five loaves and two fish who said, “I only have this but I will give it to the Lord anyway.”

Jesus performed the miracle of feeding ALL the people, even though it appeared that there was NOT enough to go around. This impossible feat became possible only because one little boy was faithful in the small things that he had with him. I know when we have little, it can be hard to share with others but I believe that what we give to God is returned to us many times over in the joy and satisfaction that he fills our hearts with. What we give to our Lord in time, energy and resources will give us far greater fulfillment than if we were to use them for ourselves.

So that is the challenge before us today. Let us not struggle and lament at what we are unable to do for God in the church today. Let us learn from this miracle that tasks that look impossible with our own resources are opportunities for God to manifest his glory. Miracles are possible if we perform our part faithfully first and commit what we cannot do to our Lord who is sovereign over all things.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Responding To Hurt From Others

In John 18, we see the incident where Peter denies any association with Jesus after Jesus had been arrested. Before this event, Jesus had been sold out to his enemies by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas, like Peter, been a close companion for the last three years. At the time of Jesus’ arrest, all his disciples ran away out of fear. After investing three years of his life in some people, we see a sad picture where Jesus finds none of his friends faithful. Here he was, the most powerful person in the universe, and yet, he had no support while he was tried on unjust charges, whipped and abused. What would we have done if we were Jesus? What would we do? It was an unfair situation where Jesus was concerned and when life is not fair we do everything within our power to make it fair for us. At that moment, Jesus could have called down 10,000 angels to defend him and show his power but yet he did not do so. This scene, despite its gut-wrenching context, is a wonderful picture of God’s grace and mercy lavished on us. If Jesus had defended himself with all his might and power, we cannot deny his right to do so. But had he done so we would be still lost in our sins. If he did not shed his blood on the cross, salvation would still be out of our reach, leaving us to face eternity in Hell.

Although Jesus was equal to God the father in everything, he did not cling to his rights so that he could avoid humiliation, shame and death. He willingly embraced his destiny because that would enable us to be reconciled with God, if we trust in him as Saviour. One Bible commentator once described love as a whole-hearted commitment to the other person’s well-being. This is what we see here. Jesus’ love was more than an emotional, warm feeling in the heart. It was a commitment to ensure that we would go to Heaven whatever it cost him to do so. The world says “love your neighbours but hate your enemies.” But Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The world says do to others what they do to you which can also mean if they hurt you it is not wrong to hurt them back. But Jesus says “do to others what you would have them do to you.” We are to love first before asking it of others. We are to forgive first if we want people to forgive us. Love and reconciliation is the heart of the Gospel message and it is the fruit of love for the other. It is caring for the other person to the extent that the other’s life is more important than ours. Only such a love can ever bring about reconciliation with those who hurt us. That is why if you read the Bible, you will find many instances where it teaches us, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21), “do not repay evil with evil or insult for insult, but with blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). Jesus did not just teach these things to his disciples. Instead, he lived out his teachings as we can see in Bible today.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

HPC Family Day – Experiencing God Together

The book, “Experiencing God Together” by Henry & Melvin Blackaby answers the “so what?” question after we are saved and baptized. The book begins by reminding every Christian that he is called of od and that there is no distinction between those who stand in the pulpit and who sit in the pews. To help us discern and live out that call, God speaks to us through His Word. We answer God’s call as we read the Scriptures and respond in obedience to His voice.

However, obedience to God’s call for our lives has a context and setting - a community of believers known as the church. The authors state “there is a corporate dimension to the nature of God’s purpose for each individual Christian.” We are saved to accomplish God’s purpose THROUGH the church he places us in.

The church is known as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27, Eph 4:12) where Christ is the head. Therefore, it is the church that Christ will instruct and motivate to fulfill the mission that God has willed for it. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is then enabled to carry out her mission. As we can see, everything is pure grace. We are given a purpose for our lives and we are given power to carry out this purpose as we use our Spirit-given gifts to build up the church where we are placed. I would like to recommend that you read this book “Experiencing God Together”. Whether you are a new Christian seeking God’s Will for your life or further up the Christian road of life, this book can help you to know or reinforce what you already know about God’s call for your life. It will help us to love and serve our fellow members of the Body of Christ, thereby fulfilling our mission and help the lost find Christ.

Our recent HPC Family Day on 26 June 2010 was a wonderful way for all of us to Experience God Together. The CG Committee (Vincent & Siew Beng Goh, Soong Kuan and Shirley Wong, Karen Peng and Tan Eu Gin) had worked very hard in the previous months to help this day bear fruit. The planning, logistics and setting-up took up a lot of precious resources and time. The CG leaders too chipped in by mobilizing their members to man the stalls. This gave everyone a chance to serve as well as to enjoy the games and fellowship. Finally, at day’s end, many of our people came forward to help clean the premises up so that we could return the borrowed premises in pristine condition to our neighbours, OWIS. These deeds are a testimony. They witness of how Christian brethren can love and serve each other and build up the body of Christ. They are also a witness of our call to be good neighbours to the people amidst us. God is glorified in our working together to ensure OWIS did not have a bad experience in allowing us the use of their premises.

May God’s grace continue to empower and mold us so that we can help fulfill God’s Will for HPC!

The book “Experiencing God Together” is found in READS, our HPC Library on the third floor. It is excellently-written and very-readable. READS also has many other books on Christian living, Christian Family Life as well as CDs and DVDs available for free loan. The library is open before and after our 11am service. I highly recommend that you take time out to check its resources today.

Why Read?

Being Christians, reading should come naturally to us. After all, our lives are grounded in and we grow as we read God’s written word in the Bible. Further, God’s word exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom 12:2). While God’s word remains the primary vehicle for this transformation, it is to our advantage to read other Christian books as they also help renew our minds.

I began reading Christian books about two years after my conversion and the earliest Christian books I read included ‘Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp’ by Doug Sherman and ‘The Power of Commitment’ by Jerry White. I then moved on to the Warren Wiersbe commentary series on the various books of the Bible. These books really helped me to understand and apply the Bible better. I am not sure if yours is the same experience as mine but there were times, in my early years as a Christian, when I felt I was floundering in trying to understand what each book was trying to say. Understanding verses and short passages was not difficult but understanding the book in its entirety and discerning the themes were beyond me. Reading other Christian books helped me to grapple with unfamiliar sections and relate them to other passages in the Bible. It increased my joy to realise that the Bible does make sense and that God remained the same throughout the ages.

We have often heard it said that it is better to learn from the mistakes of others than our own mistakes. In the same way, it is better to mine the riches of other scholars and mature Christians who have years of ministry experience and thoughtful reflection on biblical issues behind them. Their scholarship will help us to understand God and his mission and purpose for the world much better. This is especially so today when we are faced with a whole plethora of modern issues like homosexuality, euthanasia, workplace ethics, etc. It helps us to look at the experts and then to form our own opinion as we look back to the Bible as the final authority to confirm our stand. This is one way God reveals his truth to us. From experience, I have found that God’s truth, when gleaned this way, becomes, in a certain sense, his personal revelation to me.

Thus it is that I am very encouraged by some members of our church taking steps to foster the reading habit in our church. They have set up a library on HPC’s premises and arranged the books according to a topical index. This makes it easy for you to browse through books on topics close to your heart. They have also set up a blog at detailing the topics and book available. I must say it is a wide range of books. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sherman’s ‘Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp’ but then many of the Christian books are actually timeless and worth reading years after their publication date.

My encouragement is for you to stop by this book hub and if you are not sure where to start, I’d like to suggest Index 248 – Christian Living. I doubt you can go wrong here. Who knows? You might find the book you pick up worth your while to even give up that TV reality show you have been following faithfully.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The One Who Holds Tomorrow

I have been reading this book, “The Extreme Future” written by Dr James Canton, an American futurist. In his introduction, the writer states that one of the five factors that will define what he calls the “Extreme Future – a highly dynamic, disruptive and multidimensional future” is surprise. He further elaborates “sometimes good, sometimes difficult to imagine, surprise will become a daily feature of your life, often challenging sensibility and logic.” The beginning chapters have made interesting reading. However, these words did make me think “isn’t surprise already a daily feature of our lives since day 1?”

We live in a perishable, sinful world. It laces our lives with good and bad surprises, making life unpredictable. That is why we have the saying, “Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes” (Benjamin Franklin). Another way to look at this statement is to say that the only thing certain in life, besides death and taxes, is uncertainty and surprise. We may be resting contentedly in a good job but find ourselves surprised by the challenges posed by a globally mobile workforce that leads to our job being outsourced. We may be enjoying good health but overnight find that uncertain because of epidemiological diseases like SARS, chikungunya, etc, brought on by globally mobile neighbours. We may even be enjoying peace and harmony and yet be uncertain if it will last because of random acts of violence and terrorism.

However, although we may not know what tomorrow will bring, we know that our Heavenly Father is the one who holds tomorrow. We also know as the song goes, “he holds our hand.” Therefore rather than contemplate or feel anxious about the uncertainties of life, let us rest in the security of our position as beloved children of God. The Bible reminds us nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-38). Nothing includes things like trouble, suffering, hard times, hunger, danger, death, angels, spirits, the present or the future, etc – none of these can bring about this separation. This promise holds true even when we neglect him in fellowship and worship and fail to be true disciples. When we return to him, he is always ready to welcome us back into his ever-loving arms.

With the certainty of God’s unconditional love, in Jesus Christ, for us, we can let the God who is in charge of the universe also take full charge of our lives. You are in good hands. If there is some part of your life where God is not in full charge, something that is causing you fear and anxiety, turn them over to God because he knows best what to do with them.

The past is history. The future is in God’s hands. Therefore, what matters is for us to ensure the present counts for something. Let us live each day as an offering of worship to God, being sensitive to his beauty and grace in our lives. Let us live each day in fellowship with our brethren, being sensitive to opportunities to serve and minister to them. Let us live each day walking in discipleship, seeking opportunities to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ and to extend his kingdom. These are the things that will count in eternity. These are the things that can be achieved because of the certainty of God’s unconditional acceptance of us and his grace to uphold us. In conclusion then, we can modify Benjamin Franklin’s statement to our Christian truth – the only thing certain in life, besides death and taxes, is God’s unconditional love for us.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

God's Power Is Unleashed In Your Life When You Pray























Praying isn't just a way to comfort yourself by saying pleasant, benign words. Neither is it a way to earn God's favor by trying to sound pious. When you pray, you're making a direct connection with the living God of the universe. Prayer is powerful! So powerful, in fact, that it can have a more significant impact than anything else you do.

Here are some ways you can pray boldly, inviting God to transform your relationship with Him through prayer:

  • Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Once you have a relationship with Christ, you can ask the Spirit to indwell you. Relying on the Holy Spirit's power will dramatically help you hear and respond to God's voice as you pray. The Holy Spirit will also help you express your deepest prayers to God even if you don't know how to put them into words.
  • Believe in God's promises from Scripture and expect Him to work in your life. Have faith in His willingness and power to answer your prayers. Be persistent when you pray. Remember the power that was unleashed when people in the early church prayed, and look for God to respond to faithful prayers in powerful ways today as well.
  • Approach prayer like the exciting adventure it is -- not as an obligation. Prayer should never be boring! Be open to hearing from God during your conversations with Him, and don't be afraid to encounter Him.
  • Don't try to follow any type of formula when you pray. Just as God has created each person differently, He expects you to pray in ways that reflect the individual He has made you. So don't worry about a right or wrong way to pray. Instead, pray in the unique ways that best help usher you into God's presence.
  • Don't allow yourself to grow complacent. Pursue God with a passion and a true desire to be transformed every day.
  • Frequently read the Bible, think about what it says, apply it to your life, and speak portions of it in your prayers to affirm and claim God's promises.
  • When facing a decision, ask God to show you the direction in which He's moving, then commit to following Him.
  • Regularly confess any sins that are hindering your relationship with God. Ask for God's grace to help you live a pure life.
  • Intercede for people who don't yet have relationships with Christ, standing in the spiritual gap for them to ask God to work in their lives.
  • Be humble. Remember that it's Christ's work on the cross that is the ultimate source of power your prayers have.
  • Pray often in private, and when you do pray in public, don't make a big show of it. Be sure that your motivation to pray is to commune with God rather than to impress others.
  • Don't let your prayers become just laundry lists of requests. Praise God for who He is, confess your sins, and thank God for His work in your life during your prayers as well as asking Him for what you need and want.
  • Fast when God leads you to do so. Fasting can help you focus more on your spiritual appetite than your physical one.
  • Be willing to make sacrifices for God. For example, God may sometimes ask you to give up some social time with other people so you can spend some time alone with Him.
  • Know that God will always hear and answer your prayers in the way that's best. Wait patiently for Him to act in His timing.

Adapted from Contact with God: The Amazing Power of Prayer written by Jeanne Wilkerson with Brent Olsson.

Source of article unknown.

Friday, July 2, 2010


One thing we can evidently say about Nehemiah – he was a man totally attuned to God’s agenda. We see this as his story unfolds in the book of Nehemiah when he hears of how the walls of Jerusalem are in ruins. He must have been a good and sensitive listener because Nehemiah responds with “when I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh 1:4). But his is not a mourning of passive despair. Instead, he is filled with what Billy Hybels calls ‘holy discontent’. Such ‘holy discontent’ is not contented with merely crying and wringing the hands helplessly but a spur to do something about the cause of his mourning. Nehemiah gets a vision of how he can use his life purposefully for God’s Kingdom – by restoring the ruins of Jerusalem’s walls. And we know how Nehemiah’s vision ends – in a great work which sees Jerusalem’s ruined walls and gates restored in 52 days.

As we go about the activities of our spiritual life, we too will hear stories of people with shattered and ruined lives. In fact, every church is filled with them – people with errant and wayward children, non-believing and absentee spouses, life-threatening or terminal medical conditions, self-destructive habits and behaviour, etc. Do we listen sensitively and pray to God for them? Do our prayers move us to examine ourselves rigorously, to see if there is any part we can play to restore their lives?

Even if we have no tangible resources to offer for the alleviation of another’s distress, we can still offer time and ourselves. When we cannot “do” for others, at least let us “be” there for them. Just being there and listening to them is already doing something for them. Over time, this will make a difference and translate into authentic and trusting relationships. Many of us have heard the maxim, “people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.” I have found to this to be a tried and true maxim in that almost all afflicted people are able to come up with solutions to their problems or the strength to live with it. What they need most is just someone with whom they can articulate their grief and pain and have the assurance that they will not be judged at all. Over time, our steadfastness in caring will build a trust within which growth and change can happen.

Time - that is something we find hardest to give. We are often tempted to “quick-fix” the other’s problem and then get frustrated because the other person will not move at our set pace. We end up hurt and forget the hurting person is not us but the one we are helping. In these situations, it is important just to accept the person unconditionally. After all, is that not how Christ acts with us too? I am sure we all have occasions where we stubbornly cling on to our wayward ways despite knowing the fallacy of it all. Does Christ’s love decrease on those occasions? I am sure it does not, so let us pray for the grace to be likewise with the people whom he points in our direction for us to help. Let us hold on to the promise of Gal 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”