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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Songwriting - Personal Opinion

I spent slightly more than a month on night-time gig. It was an interesting one, an eye-opener for me in many aspects. We would regularly do a particular song as an instrumental, featuring a performer on the soprano saxophone. And after our set one of the singers would get on stage and sing the same song, but poorly (it seemed like he was making up all the lyrics as he went along, and in very weak English).

Our drummer would comment, "There are how many billion songs on this planet, why must he choose that one?"

That quite sums up my attitude towards songwriting for worship and for church use. We have a crazy number of songs available for church use these days, why would we need to write more?

Of course, I know that is my personal opinion, and there are people in the body of Christ gifted and tasked to write more songs for church use. Barring any major changes, I won't do that myself, because:

1) There is no assurance what I write is worth using in church;

2) Even if it is worth using in church, it will still need lots of time and exposure to make it something usable, with the potential of becoming what I call a Fallback Worship Song. Given that there are many great songs already available and in use, should my time and effort be put there?

3) I am not in the worship music business, with a quota of albums to create, produce and market. If you are, that's great for you. Be faithful to what God has put in your hand, OK? I am not, and so I see no need to come up with more songs to add to the millions already out in the church music scene.

That said, I wrote a few songs more than 10 years ago. I might get around to recording them and putting them up somewhere. But don't hold your breath, I am no Chris Tomlin, in either quantity or quality of songwriting. I do better in taking someone else's song and making it better! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Ever felt cut off from God's goodness before? I know I have.

Sometimes I feel that way because of the current situations I am in. 

Psalm 27:11-12 (NIV) - Teach me your way, O Lord ; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.

When the threats and problems are current, right in your face, so to speak, it is easy to get caught up with the danger and trial and lose focus on the good that God has promised to us. And yet that is when we need to be mindful of God's goodness the most.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NIV) - I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.Wait for the Lord ; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord .

Sometimes I feel that way because of things I have done wrong before. When current trials hit, there always seems to be some bright spark around me who will say "If only that time you had (ABC) then you won't have to go through (XYZ) right now..." Other times I don't need that bright spark around; I remember my own failings and mistakes well enough, thank you very much!

Lamentations 3:19-20 - I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

At such times, this is THE big question - are my mistakes, sins, and failings bigger and more powerful than God's goodness?

Lamentations 3:21-26 (NIV) - Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord 's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord .

The point of the above passage, however, is that it is NOT guaranteed that we will make it through the trial. It is NOT a given that we can clear past a particular storm or crisis. In other words, there is still a chance we will go under.

What does it take to successfully make it through difficult seasons? It takes the goodness of the Lord. And how do we access it? The passage tells us "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him". How does one actually hope in the Lord? By seeking him.

"... it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord" - This tells me the deliverance of the Lord will most likely take time. And during that time, as we are enduring trials and difficulties, we have to continue to seek God. It is not for the faint-hearted or impatient. 

Seeking the Lord will also enable us to discern if he wants us to plant ourselves down long term. Huh? Check this out:

Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV) - This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
"Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you intoexile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

Remember, these are people exiled from Israel as a punishment for their sins. Humanly, we would expect that God would either take them back to Israel swiftly as they submitted themselves to God's will, and so they should not be making long term plans; or that God had forsaken them, so they would just wither, shrivel up and fade into obscurity in Babylon. 

But God chose neither. He had the prophet Jeremiah admonish them to make long term plans, and even to pray to the Lord for Babylon to prosper. I cannot imagine how much this idea messed up their minds and their pre-conceived notions of God and his ways!

Oftentimes it is much easier to stay out of trouble. God has already warned us in this Word that sin will have consequences, and we won't like them. God often gives us an uneasy feeling about people we really shouldn't associate with, as they can turn a good situation into bad. The book of Proverbs has MANY warnings that help us recognize problematic people, and avoiding them or backing out of partnership with them is a lot easier than dealing with all the grief they cause later, believe me!

But once we are already mired in the problems, however, getting out of them, and more importantly, achieving God's purposes in the midst of them, takes a lot more wisdom to manage. We really can't see the big picture while we are caught up in the storm, so all we can do is listen to God and have him guide us one step at a time. We have to discipline ourselves to not give room for the flesh, the carnal nature, to rise up and goad us into doing things we will regret later. And we need to keep our hearts and minds on God. 

Romans 8:5-6 (NKJV) - For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

May God continually guide and navigate us through life, and even more so during the difficult seasons! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Scripture Snapshot - Thinking About Politics

Thinking in the long term, I care about politics because I care about the country and environment my children grow up in.

Psalm 103:17-19 (NIV) - But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children -- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. 

But it is God's government that is truly important, no?

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV) - For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

And God's government will only be fully established in Jesus. No point looking to men to establish it or make it work. In other words, put your hope in God, not men!

Psalm 94:20-23 (NKJV) - Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?
They gather together against the life of the righteous, and condemn innocent blood.
But the Lord has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge.
He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness;
The Lord our God shall cut them off.


Over where I come from, Christians care more about what is legal than what is right. The above passage tells us that God cares about what is right. Condemning the innocent is an abomination to God...

Psalm 75:6-10 (NKJV) - For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.
For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red;
It is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth
Drain and drink down.
But I will declare forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
“All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.”

... and eventually there will be a reckoning. We may see evil men in power now, but God will bring them down and raise up other people. So anticipate that process with much prayer!

Psalm 107:39-42 (NKJV) - When they are diminished and brought low
Through oppression, affliction, and sorrow,
He pours contempt on princes, and causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way;
Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock.
The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth.


How does God judge princes? By how well the common citizens fare. That is God's heart for the people. Again, we see God's purpose and intent. But it is up to us to pray for it into reality.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV) - “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

May this be the acceptable year of the Lord. May your Kingdom come and your will be done, Lord, on earth as it is in heaven!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

After Resurrection Musings

One problem with trying to understand the prophets:  the sequence of events and themes isn’t always clear. After I looked at Isaiah 53, the next logical step would be to look at Isaiah 54. Here is what caught my attention.


Isaiah 54:9-10 (NIV 84) - "To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. 

If the punishment for all my sin and transgression has been borne by Jesus on the cross, then logically speaking, God has no more reason to be angry with me ever again. I believe this applies in the sense of my relationship with God being secure. Of course my fellowship with God is NOT secure, and should never be taken for granted. If I choose to ignore God, neglect my prayer time and let dust gather on my Bible, I am out of fellowship with God. 

Imagine, not hearing the voice of God, being deaf and blind to the leading of the Spirit, while being weak in the inner man because of not feeding on the Word of God. That is a very dangerous state to be in these last days!


Isaiah 54:11-15 (NIV 84) - "O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace. In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 

So what or who is this afflicted city mentioned here?

On one level, it refers to the city of Jerusalem. We see the LORD speaking to Jerusalem in both Isaiah 51:17 and in Isaiah 52:1, and he does not address any other group of people until the start of Isaiah 55. That means that Isaiah 54:11 refers to Jerusalem. 

For us this can refer to the physical city of Jerusalem, or also the New Testament church


Hebrews 12:22 (ESV) - But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect 

One mistake to watch out for – do not let the spiritual meaning negate the physical meaning. There will be people who think that this prophecy can apply to the spiritual Jerusalem, therefore it does not apply anymore to the physical Jerusalem. That would be like saying because this verse: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh“ (Gen 2:24) applies to Christ and his church (Eph 5:33) it does not apply to our earthly marriages. And Eph 5:33 shows that idea is clearly not Scriptural. 
  
Two thoughts from this passage:

1) Move beyond an individual-based faith to a community-based faith.

Our individual, personal faith-walk with the Lord is the foundation. We need to seek God for our own lives, to see his working in our day-to-day experience, to experience his promises fulfilled for us. If not we end up like some people I have seen, who spend more time praying for the church than for themselves, sound very spiritual and mature, and yet fight losing battles with their problems and addictions in their personal lives. 

But after that foundation is laid, we must swiftly move on to praying for the community also. We can find many prophecies for Jerusalem in the Old Testament and prayers for the churches in the New Testament. If spiritual maturity is defined by how much the Bible reflects our lives, attention and priorities, then ignoring the community (Jerusalem or the church) is a clear sign of immaturity.

So pray! Pray for yourself, pray for your local church, and pray for the church at large. No one with a Bible and an internet connection can ever say “I don’t know what to pray about”, it’s handed to us on a silver platter by modern technology. We have no excuse!

2) Pray for Jerusalem

When I set out to regularly pray for Jerusalem, I soon realized that there were many Scripture passages I could use. The above passage from Isaiah 54 is only just one example. Just casually reading through the book of Isaiah yields many prophecies for Jerusalem (and Zion) for us to use in our private prayer time. But if you are wondering how to get started, here’s a simple answer.


Psalm 122:6-9 (NKJV) - Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:“May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls,Prosperity within your palaces.”For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say,“Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek your good.

Pray that Jerusalem will experience the shalom of God, the peace, prosperity and well-being of God. And pray that there will be justice in Jerusalem, because the purpose of shalom is to order and establish his kingdom, the nation of Israel, with judgment and justice. In other words, shalom, judgment and justice will show the world what the rule of Christ truly is.


Isaiah 9:7 (NKJV) - Of the increase of His government and peaceThere will be no end,Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,To order it and establish it with judgment and justiceFrom that time forward, even forever.The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

I’d better stop here before I get carried away by the Scriptures again. If so I’ll never stop writing. Chew on all this sharing for now, I need to go back to praying. Be blessed! 

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Good Friday Musings

For the Good Friday weekend, I went to relook Isaiah 53. For my night-time Scripture reading with my boys, I took the time to read Isaiah 53 to them, even though they are old enough to read it themselves. I usually will pay extra attention to these verses.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV 84) - Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

All through the rest of the year I will prize divine healing (at my age being sick sucketh, verily), but this season I wanted to really meditate on the price paid for it, and for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Then this part of the chapter grabbed my attention.

Isaiah 53:10-12 (NIV 84) - Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

“… the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand” – Sometimes (OK, almost all the time) I think the will of God is frustrated or even defeated. Let’s not look at all that is going wrong in the world, I just need to look at my own struggles with following God. It seems to be getting harder and harder, and I seem to fail more and more.

And yet in the midst of all that, the Word of God still proclaims, “… the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand”. Just as it was true in predicting the suffering, crucifying and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is true in declaring that the will of the LORD will prosper in the hands of Christ. I, on my part, need to continually place every area of my life in his hands, and it comes from specific, directed prayer. Which means listing out everything that bugs me.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV 84) - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And that, by the way, explains why I always make time to pray by myself, out of earshot of EVERYBODY in my family. My sons don’t need to know that Daddy seems to be bugged by just about everything!

“… by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

He will justify many. Even those who mock him and ridicule his name now. Even those who persecute his church. Just as he did for Saul on the road to Damascus, he can do for the evil people of this day. I have been praying for them to be judged, Jesus wants them to be saved, that his blood for them not be shed in vain. I need some major repenting here!

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”

I can’t bear the sin of others, but can I at least join my Lord in making intercession for the transgressors? Knowing that I myself was counted among them too?

So this was what I was meditating on during the weekend. Be blessed!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Faith for My Children

I haven’t been posting here for a long time. Life has been a relentless flood, problems with work, all the hassle and things that need to be worked out for changing work, and my sons’ exams. The added pressure has been testing my faith, for sure!

One day, I realized why I was so uptight, unhappy, worried and fearful: I did not really believe, deep in my heart, that God’s goodness goes beyond me and extends to my children. Now once I figured that out, the next step was to study the Scriptures to see what God has to say about it.

Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV84) - Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

This was the passage that got me started nearly 20 years ago, when I wanted to let the Bible teach me about worship. And it promises that God’s faithfulness continues through all generations. Does that include my children? The problem is that “generations” is too wide a scope for me. It makes me imagine hordes and hordes of people, but not MY kids (which is what I am really concerned about, right?).

Genesis 26:4-5 (NKJV) - And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;  because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.

God appeared to Isaac and made the above promise, that he would be blessed, and that it was because of his father Abraham. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the part “… kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws.” I know it sounded like Abraham fulfilled all the commands in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but the fact is, God did NOT speak all those to Abraham. Study what God commanded Abraham to do, and you will realize it is a lot simpler than what most of us expect!

But all that is Abraham and Isaac. How about us? 

Proverbs 14:26 (NIV84) - He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.

Me fearing the LORD will be a refuge for my children. There are many things that the Bible defines as fearing the LORD, but they have something in common: they are a refuge for my children. That means they help protect them and shelter them in days that are increasingly dangerous and treacherous for all who want to live godly lives unto the LORD.

So what am I do to? What is my part in all this?

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV 84) - Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

David gives a guideline to what that means to me as a father.

Psalm 34:11-14 (NKJV) - Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

And as I labour in that (parenting IS hard work, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise), I need a vision of my goal. “Begin with the end in mind” is the management mantra that really applies here. What is the end I desire to see for my sons?

Isaiah 44:1-5 (NKJV) - “Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen.
Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you:
‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring;
They will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses.’
One will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob;
Another will write with his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ 
and name himself by the name of Israel.

My sons are to see themselves as devoted to the LORD, in both senses of the word: I have devoted them to the LORD and their lives are given over to his loving hands, and they are to love the LORD themselves, out of their own will, and be loyal to him. And God himself promises to be devoted to them, to teach them himself.

Isaiah 54:13 (NKJV) - All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.

Conclusion:


Faith, confidence and assurance are to be based on God’s word. Now that I have received light on the matter, I have to keep the above Scriptures in front of my eyes (keep reading and re-reading them) and in my heart (keep thinking about them) until they bring me the life God promised (Proverbs 4:21-22). And if you are a parent, I hope this post will encourage your heart and strengthen your resolve to raise children glorifying the LORD. Be blessed!

Friday, October 03, 2014

Praying Daniel Style 01

Recently I have been going back to praying Daniel style.

Last year I started praying Daniel style. I take the Hebrew words used to describe Daniel's prayer and search for other verses related to those words, then use them in prayer.

For your reference, I blogged about those words here: - http://jvworship.blogspot.sg/2013/08/prayer-life-lessons.html

Here are my passages for today:

1) Bless - 

Psalm 104:1-4 (NKJV) - Bless the Lord, O my soul!O Lord my God, You are very great:You are clothed with honor and majesty,Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters,Who makes the clouds His chariot,Who walks on the wings of the wind,Who makes His angels spirits,His ministers a flame of fire.

2) Bow down - I take this to refer to humbling myself.

1 Peter 5:5-7 (NKJV) - “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

3) Give thanks (lift up hands) - 

Psalm 63:3-4 - Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
4) To gush over, to pour out - 

This is the point I bring up whatever is on on my heart. Today I prayed especially for success in my work.

5) To make supplication (implore for mercy)

Isaiah 30:18 (NIV 84) - Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

The word for "gracious" in the above passage is taken from the same root as "make supplication". So today, instead of asking God for grace and mercy, I looked at his word to see his willingness to be merciful towards me.

So that was my prayer outline for today. Hope you find it useful. Be blessed! 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Faith and Love Protect the Heart

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NKJV) - But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 
You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

---

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6 (the middle paragraph above) was brought up during the church sermon on Sunday. It made me realize that I haven't looked at this passage for a while, so I spent some time on it this morning. "Watch and be sober", it says. 

We need to be sober to put on the breastplate of faith and love. It is especially telling that Paul compares faith and love to a breastplate (protecting the vital organs, especially the heart). I have been having my heart hurt often this year, in fact, my heart is danger of becoming sick.


Proverbs 13:12 (NIV 84) - Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

So when hope is deferred, what else is there to protect the heart? Faith and love. So I have to make it a point to feed my faith by ramping up my Scripture time even more, as well as to keep myself in the love of God.


Jude 20-21 (NKJV) -  But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

How do I keep myself in the love of God? By looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Which means that I am always on the look out for mercy, signs of his grace and help even in the midst of the trials or day-to-day life. So that summarizes what my spirit man is set on these days. Be blessed!