Monday, October 14, 2013
I missed church yesterday, in both senses of the word.
Jess was unwell ever since Friday. He had vomiting and fever. It seemed to go away by Saturday, but by evening time it resumed. So on Sunday I brought him to the doctor.
Along the way he kept puking. He just couldn't keep any food down, whether fruits, regular food or even clear soup. He also complained of giddiness, so every once in a while we would have to stop and rest before continuing to the doctor.
How about faith and healing and all that?
I gotta admit, I did pray, and got mixed results. Whenever the fever got worse I put my hand on his head and spoke out Psalm 91 twice. And the fever would clearly, obviously recede. But that didn't seem to stop the vomiting, and besides, I couldn't keep that up the whole night. So in the end I brought him to the doctor.
Not an epic testimony of faith and healing, right? It's OK. God is still secure on the throne, my worry does not diminish his power one bit and he doesn't need me to lie to protect his reputation! :)
So I missed church. It just happened that I was not scheduled to serve that week anyway, so the rest of the people didn't have to scramble to find a replacement. But I was looking forward to being at church, being a normal congregational member, just one of the crowd.
Ah well, life happens!
A friend of mine asked me (via Facebook chat) "A test from God?" I was actually thinking a lot about that recently. Ever since I came back from Japan life has been getting tougher. And at the same time I have been feeling this burden ("oracle"?) to write down my thoughts and musings on Malachi. I am not done with chapter 2 and the whole thing is already about 8 pages. Maybe it will get to 16-20 pages when I am done?
So all these struggles ever since I came back from Japan, a mountain-top experience for me, could be because of spiritual opposition to my writing. The thought of that puzzles me, because what I have to write doesn't seem as important as my Invisible Worship Musician.
And besides, what authority do I have to write on Malachi anyway? I am not some Old Testament professor, just a worship leader/musician who has things to say about the book. *shrug*. When it is done I will probably ask around for people who would like to read it and give feedback. Wanna volunteer? :)
OK, gotta get back to my sons. Elder one on medical leave, younger one on school holiday, and I have to coach the younger one on his school work. Be blessed!
Monday, September 23, 2013
saving money, living simply and things like that. That is most
likely because I have to provide for my two sons (life in Singapore
is expensive!!!) and so I pay more attention to securing the
That very much carries over to my goals and ambitions in life. I am
a father, and fathering takes a serious time commitment. So I tend
not to pay much attention to other matters than work, my sons and
ministry at church.
Do I have personal goals, interests and hopes? Of course I do! But
since there is a limit to my time, budget and energy, these tend to
get put on the back shelf. “I’ll get to them later” I always tell
myself. But the later never comes. Know what I am talking about?
Luke 5:1-3 (ESV) - On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in
on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of
Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen
had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one
of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little
from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
I can identify with Peter in this incident. He was caught up with
day-to-day survival, making ends meet, business as usual. Even
though I already know Jesus and want to live my life for him, the
fact is, like Peter at that moment, I am only giving God leftovers.
Granted, more and better than Peter’s (since the Holy Spirit has
been working in me for decades), but leftovers nonetheless.
Luke 5:4-7 (ESV) - And when he had finished speaking, he said to
Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!
But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done
this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were
breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come
and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that
they began to sink.
Peter and his partners were experienced fishermen. If they could
not consistently catch enough fish, they would have gone out of
business a long time ago. Did he ever wish to have such a huge
catch of fish before? Of course! But he would have dismissed it as
idle fantasy. Come on, let’s be realistic. He’s human, with human
limits, and there are all the limits of nature, like how many fish
are there in the lake itself and whether they would do the
equivalent of committing fish-suicide all at the same time.
Very unrealistic. Quite impossible. But it happened!
Likewise for me. I had a hope and achievement I wanted but didn’t
dare believe I would get. It was pretty much my teenage dream
(albeit better than Katy Perry’s), and just as useful, which is not
at all! To top it all off, when the money actually started to come
in to finance this, I spent so much time and effort into financing
this achievement and settling the logistics (who is gonna take care
of the boys when I am not around?) that I pretty much forgot to
prepare myself. It’s like taking a long trip to take an exam but
forgetting to actually study for the exam. Come on, let’s be
realistic. How am I going to pull off a stunt like that?
Very unrealistic. Quite impossible. But it happened!
Luke 5:8-11 (ESV) - But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at
Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O
Lord." For he and all who were with him were astonished at the
catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John,
sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to
Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything
and followed him.
So when God gives me my desires, and it is obviously God because I
was woefully unprepared and unready, what do I do now? Ever since I
succeeded I have been on my knees daily thanking God for it. What
touches me deeply is the fact that what God did for me is purely
for me. I dare to expect good from God when it comes to provision
for my family, or when it comes to success in ministry, because it
isn’t selfish, other people benefit, not just me.
But for this personal goal, no one else benefits. Just me. And God
granted me success anyway. So what comes next? For Peter, Jesus
called him to the full-time service very quickly after that. But
how about me? What is a fitting response to God’s tender mercies
and kindness in my life?
Psalm 116:12-14 (ESV) - What shall I render to the LORD for all his
benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the
name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of
all his people.
Blindingly Obvious Lessons
First, such blessings do NOT fall into our lap without any effort
on our part. For Peter, he had to obey the immediate instruction –
launch out into the deep and let down the nets. In my case I had to
believe that God was leading me to take the necessary steps, and I
had to put myself in the place where I can receive a supernatural
Second, our God is often more generous than we give him credit for.
He richly gives us things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Of
course don’t be irresponsible with the resources and provision of
God, since as stewards we have to give an account to God of our
stewardship. But at the same time recognize that sometimes God just
wants to leave us totally awestruck at the depths of his goodness
God just did that for me. I pray that he does it for you too. Be
Monday, September 09, 2013
Joshua 1:9 (ESV) - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
I now know for sure I am NOT courageous.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV) - For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103:1, 103:22, 104:1)
2 Chronicles 6:41 (ESV) - "And now arise, O LORD God, and go to your resting place, you and the ark of your might.
Numbers 10:35 (ESV) - "Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you."
John 6:63 (ESV) - It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 16:33 (ESV) – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."
Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) - do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Daniel 1:3, 6 - Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility… Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.
This is the very first mention we have of Daniel. We know he was of the tribe of Judah, and was of noble or even royal blood. Nebuchadnezzer did something radical in his day; instead of totally wiping out the remnants of the leadership of conquered nations, he incorporated them into the running of his empire. By doing so he secured their loyalty and reduced the hassle of having to deal with uprisings and rebellions. He also got a civil service that already knew the customs of the conquered people, and could begin administrating them with minimal disruption.
Sounds smart to me!
We don’t know anything about Daniel’s life before the downfall of Jerusalem. Was he a devout believer who mourned the wickedness of his people, prayed for the deliverance of Jerusalem from her enemies and who was heartbroken when God judged them still? Or was he a hedonistic, pampered young man, used to the life of luxury, and shocked to the very core of his being by the hardships of war and the Babylonian invasion? The Scripture doesn’t tell us, but of one thing we can be certain: he saw horrors that most of us cannot even imagine. And I suspect that was what drove him to seek the LORD God of Israel, even in a foreign land.
Now that was a VERY difficult environment. He was smack in the centre of foreign nation, with the state religion firmly entrenched in power. I can imagine the sneers and jeers from the native Babylonians. “Those Jewish boys are so quaint, holding on to their powerless gods even here. Oh, you mean, they only have one? Obviously it didn’t work very well, maybe they should have taken a few more as back-up!”
In the midst of all that, Daniel and his friends chose to remain faithful to the LORD. And they expressed their faith not through maintaining the morning and evening sacrifice, the burning of incense or even through the songs of Zion.
Daniel 1:8 - But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
That was all. That was how he got started. The Bible did not say he had an active, vibrant prayer life at that point. All we know for certain was that he was serious about God and he chose to express his faith through his eating choices. How about us? What is that small measure of obedience we can offer unto the LORD first?
My Story - When I was 20, I wasn’t serious about the things of God, nor did I have a prayer or worship life worth speaking of. But remembered one day, I decided that I would at least read the Bible. I loved reading ever since I was a young kid. So reading the Bible itself wasn’t that difficult for me, and I knew it. I remembered praying, “God, I don’t believe all of what is written in there, I don’t understand much of it, and I am certainly not going to promise to obey it. But I can just open the pages and at least give it as much attention as my favourite fiction novels. God, will that do?”
Daniel’s small gesture of obedience to the LORD did not come without objection.
When he told the steward in charge of their meals that their little Jewish fellowship did not want to eat the same luxurious food as everyone else, the steward was worried that Daniel and his friends would look less healthy than the rest. And that was a legitimate concern. I have met people who only eat vegetables, as Daniel did, and those people looked really scrawny. Daniel and his friends took a small step of faith, God answered them in a small way by keeping them healthy, and I am sure that encouraged them to see that their small act of obedience did not go unnoticed by the LORD.
Small Start, Big Test
Starting small is always great, but sooner or later, a big test would come. Daniel’s test came when Nebuchadnezzer had a dream that really perturbed him (Dan 2:1). Showing unusual insight, he insisted that the astrologers and magicians tell him his dream first to prove that they had the supernatural insight to interpret his dream (Dan 2:6). When the astrologers and magicians objected, Nebuchadnezzer ordered that all of them (including Daniel and friends) be executed (Dan 2:12).
Daniel tactfully asked for more time (Dan 2:16) and then started praying fervently with his friends (Dan 2:18). We don’t know if he had a serious prayer life before this crisis, but we know he certainly had one now! And God answered him and gave him wisdom, knowledge and revelation.
My Story - My big test came in the middle of my university days. For some reason I was not able to cope with my studies. It wasn’t that I was trying and not getting it, my mind would totally shut off once I opened my books. I would fall asleep, I couldn’t help myself. So I faced the real possibility of flunking my exams.
Since I was a typical Asian, that was a BIG crisis to me!
At around that time, I came across the idea of meditating on the Scriptures, which by Hebrew definition meant not reading them silently but actually chanting them aloud. I remembered being very unsure about it. No one in my immediate circle of friends did it that way, I never heard it preached by my pastor, and it seemed too mindless. And besides, I was already reading the Bible silently, you mean that wasn’t good enough?
I did it anyway. What did I have to lose? I spent an hour a day in the book of Psalms (30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening). At the beginning I felt stupid, but soon after I started experiencing a strange kind of energy, as if another dimension of me was waking up, as if I had senses that were being activated.
All this affected everything I did in university and at church. It gave energy to my prayer life and fixed up the problems with my school work. When interacting with people, I started saying the right thing at the right time more often, and I found myself making wild guesses about something, getting it right and looking as if I was REALLY smart.
Important – all these benefits took time to manifest, and they were not permanent. They would gradually fade off if I did not maintain that kind of time in the Scriptures. But the important thing was that now that I had tasted that kind of life, I knew it was possible for me, and I knew exactly what I had to do if I wanted to live life that way.
If you are new to the things of God, start small, but start somewhere. Remember the principle in 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing." Whether it is just turning up for church, praying a few minutes a day or reading the Bible like a novel, if you have been doing nothing, start by doing something.
But remember, when the crisis seasons hit, odds are the little things aren’t going to be enough. When you need God in a big way, you need to seek him seriously. I am not talking about epic deeds to purchase your own salvation or to deserve God’s love. We know Jesus did it all for us on the cross. I am talking about walking with God, facing the trials of life the way he wants us to, receiving the power he has ordained for us, by the Spirit and the Word of God.
And also, don’t face your trials alone. By the time Daniel and his friends faced the crisis of chapter 2, they had at least 3 years of fellowship and encouraging each other to stay faithful to the Lord. Daniel called on them to seek the LORD with him (Dan 2:17-18), and they did. We, likewise, need to invest our time and effort into a community of believers NOW, that we may receive support from them during our trials and that we can encourage them during theirs.
I hope this sharing has encouraged or helped you in some way. Be blessed!
Monday, June 10, 2013
Monday, May 06, 2013
Genesis 50:20 (NASB) - As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
So people disappointing us is no excuse. So what if your pastor is a hypocrite? So what? So what if your church people don’t love you as God commanded them to? So what? I mean, if love was so easy, God wouldn’t need to admonish us to love one another, right? Obviously, divine love is not nature to us in our fallen nature. Did God ever promise us that the rest of the believers will love us properly, as he desires? I don’t think so. So why let yourself be stumbled just because people in church let you down?
My Faith Crash
I had a massive faith crash years ago.
It was so painful. I was experiencing the presence of God in worship and the Word. I had answered prayers and many significant signs that hinted that I was on the right track. I was returning back to serving God in ministry, and re-discovering the joy of setting my hand to the plough for the Kingdom of God and being fruitful in ministry.
And then the crash came. What I prayed to God earnestly for, I did not get. Even worse, I got the opposite of what I really believed God would give me. He brought me so far, why would he not complete it, right? I clung on in prayer, stayed faithful in ministry and in my own personal time of seeking God, and continued to experience his presence and even answered prayers.
Yes, God continued give me what I asked for. Except for what I wanted the most, desired the most and had reasons to expect the most. For this part of my life I still have no answers, no resolution, no completion. I cannot come up with some spiritual-sounding lesson and say that I now understand why God did things that way during that season. I still don’t.
So what do I have? I still have God with me. Nudging me forward when I totally doubt that he was going to lead me where I am supposed to go. Answering prayers still. Meeting with me in my own personal prayer and worship time still. There is just only one matter, over which I wanted nothing but his will, worked out his way. And when I had finally come to believe I knew what it was, and that I was going to receive it, I didn’t get it. And the shame still remains. Did I ask God for the wrong thing? If so, how could I have missed it so badly?
Isaiah 54:4 (ESV) - Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
What kept me going? It was the eternal life of God. It was continuing to experience God, even when in one matter I was disappointed. I did get one lesson I can share from that season though: You don’t need trust when someone does what you understand. You need trust when that someone is doing a whole lot of things you don’t understand. That is when you have to decide if you will trust that the person knows what he or she is doing, and has your best interests at heart.
And when it comes to people, your trust can be misplaced. But not with God. He has shown his faithfulness to me many times before and many times ever since. Will I stumble and be offended with God over one matter, or will I look at his past faithfulness and trust, even when I don’t understand?
I know this is really long, and I have shared some personal stuff. But I hope that some of what I shared here will be useful to you or to those around you, who are struggling with God offending them. Be blessed!