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.


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: -

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!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick Update 02

Another passage on my heart recently

James 1:2-4 (NIV) - Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

Trials test faith. The idea of “trials of many kinds” suggests that there is also faith of many kinds too, or at least faith applied in different areas of life and yielding different results. 

Romans 14:1-4 (NIV) - Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person’s faith holds him/her to stricter standards, another’s faith gives more latitude. I find it interesting that even Paul refused to specify one as better than another. If he doesn’t hold up one as higher or stronger than the other, why should we?

Back to the topic of trials – the purpose of trials is to bring maturity, and that requires perseverance. That finally started making sense to me, since any virtue is flawed unless it has perseverance to back it up. For example, compassion is weak if it cannot continue in the face of adversity. Humility in degrading situations has to persevere, or else it is unable to bear fruit.

Sounds good in theory. But in real life, when trials hit, we usually don’t know what they are for and how we ought to handle them. Sometimes trials require us to use our faith, to express our faith with specific works, in order that we may achieve the outcomes God desires for us.  

James 1:5-8 (NIV) - If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. 

Here we see the most basic application of faith – to ask for and receive wisdom. We can even say that without wisdom, we are unable to achieve the purpose of any trial, because we’d just be groping in the dark about what is happening and what to do to overcome that specific trial. 

This tells me that one of the first areas a new believer has to be established in (after the Fatherhood of God and forgiveness of sin) is divine wisdom. The new believer has to be taught that God’s wisdom is above that of this world, he desires to impart wisdom to us, and what we, on our part, have to do to receive it in order to act upon it. 

James 1:9-11 (NIV) - The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. 

This passage has had me stumped for ages – humble circumstances are a high position? Riches are a low position? But it is starting to make sense to me these days. When we are in humble circumstances, the only high position we have is NOT of this world, it is in the eyes of God. 

Ephesians 2:6-7 (NIV) - And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

It is when we are in humble circumstances that we most need to remind ourselves of how highly God has lifted us up in the heavenly realms. Problem is, the heavenly realms aren’t perceived by our earthly senses, they can be perceived only through faith. Hence the need for both faith to be tested (James 1:2) and for us to set our minds and hearts on things above (Colossians 3:1-2), as I said in my previous post. 

And when we are rich we should take pride in our low position. In what way are riches a low position? Earthly riches are so transient, they can fade away so quickly. 

Proverbs 23:4-5 (NKJV) - Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease. Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven.  

Earthly riches are transient, they can be lost so quickly. Every rich man knows that, anyone who has slogged for his or her millions knows how precarious that position is, that he or she is usually just one bad decision or one financial calamity away from losing everything. You don’t need the Bible to tell you that, life tells you that quickly enough! But the Bible goes a step further and tells is to take pride in it. 

The Greek word translated as “take pride” (Kauchaomai, Strongs’ #2744) has the idea of boasting. When a rich person boasts of how precarious his wealth status is, that tells everyone not to look to him for help, to not envy him but to look beyond earthly wealth. And that means looking unto the LORD, maker of heaven and earth. 

Maybe this explains what happened to David in Psalm 30. Could it be that he got caught up in his wealth and success and thought that they were secure even apart from God’s sustenance? 

Psalm 30:6-7 (NIV) - When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken." O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

I suspect this is what God wants me to learn this season, that in the midst of my trials I have an exalted position in Christ, and even when my trials are over, any earthly success or reward I might get is transient, so fragile and able to fade away quickly. But earthly rewards are not all that I will receive when I make it through this season.

James 1:12 (NIV) - Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.  

There is a crown of life waiting for me. I don’t understand what it means, what it looks like, or if it is something I will receive in some way here on earth or only at the final judgment. All I know is that thinking about it makes my heart beat faster in anticipation and courage to arise again within me. That passage also tells me the secret to persevering under trial: love God. Keep loving God and that will ensure you make it through!

That is my prayer for myself now, that God will keep that crown of life on my heart and strengthen my love for him even during this season. Is that your prayer too? I would to God that be so! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quick Update

(personal blog post) 

Yes, I know I haven’t been posting.

Life used to be ups and downs. Ever since I last posted it has been a lot of downs, to the point when I often can’t think straight. Whenever I see all that happening, I hunker down and go into crisis prayer mode. That means – no Scripture reading plan, and if I don’t think of any new Scripture passages to look at today I relook at whatever I meditated and prayed on yesterday. 
Actually, I will usually try to relook at the previous day’s verses also, to further ram them into my mind!

The pain of this season is more acute because of how well things went last year.

Psalm 30:6-7 (NIV) - When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken."1 O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

Anyway, I am thinking of just sharing in a small way the verses that are on my mind this season. Bear in mind, there is no plan, so don’t expect things to build one day on top of another. Here goes:

1 Peter 1:3-5 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

One thing I have to put in effort into – keeping my mind on things above, especially when things below are going badly. Earthly problems have this way to shout loud in your mind in the voices of fear, anger and despair. And that makes it hard to remember the living hope I now have.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 

This is the part that grabbed my attention – suffer grief in all kinds of trials. During the time of writing, the trials the believers faced were various forms of persecution for their faith. And let’s face it, no matter how bad things are at my side, I am still not persecuted for my faith in Christ yet. 

But the passage said “all kinds of trials”. Does that include many disappointments and let-downs in my teaching? Does that include my son’s injury and all the stress and hassle that follow? 

“All kinds of trials”.  

I am very much a Word-of-Faith person, and I believe that God prospers and heals his people. So I do get tired of people who say that they bearing with sickness glorifies God. Nope, it doesn’t. It makes people wonder if the Jesus you believe in, who healed multitudes of people during his ministry on earth, is unreal, misrepresented or uncaring. Who gets the praise, honour and glory, then?

I believe we do. I believe God is the one who will lavish on us praise, glory and honour at his chosen time.  

1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV) - Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

The salvation of our souls – if we take an expanded definition based on the Greek word sozo (Strong’s #4982, “make whole, to heal”, as in Mark 5:34), this also includes the healing and making whole of our souls. This ties in with Romans 5.

Romans 5:3-5 (NIV) - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

In the midst of my trials, as light as they seem to my logical mind, my true character comes out. Eeewwwww, I don’t like what I see! And the only way to fix the character flaws and faults I see in myself right now, according to Romans 5, is to rejoice in my sufferings. Peter does not tell me just to rejoice, he says I can be filled with “an inexpressible and glorious joy”. How unreasonable! How ridiculous! How unbelieveable!

But it is just so like God, isn’t it, to ask of me what I cannot reasonably accept or do, so that I have to trust wholly in his wisdom and empowering to do what he wants of me? OK, enough of this for now. Will post again soon, hopefully. See you then!  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Is Substandard the New Normal?

I am all about encouraging people to garner their courage and take a step out to play music for their church. But over the years I have seen way too many unprepared people thrown into the deep end of the pool too early, left to sink or swim (sink, more often than not). That's not doing anyone, the church or the wannabe musician, any favours.

Even worse, I have discovered that when you get unprepared musicians playing "live" for church too soon, their bad habits usually become permanent. Something that could have been learned with 6 months of lessons now becomes a bad habit that takes 1-2 years to fix. And the unlearning and relearning process is painful (been there, done that).

Confession time - I too have contributed to such a culture. I have simplified stuff and cut things down to their bare essentials when teaching music for church. I guess that has unleashed the floodgates, sending people the idea that things can be simplified even further. And after some time music foundations (which take a long time to build) get short shrift in the quest to churn out "servers" for church, who feel better about their playing than they ought to.

The only way to get some semblance of music skill from such servers is by feeding them cheap, simplistic music formula. But if they believe too strongly the cheap music formula they are given, they become unable to pick up mistakes in their own playing.

Let me share my experience:

When I was a teenager, I started learning drums. I played in the school marching band, and so had a decent idea and grasp of snare drum rudiments. But when I shifted to the drum kit I had no one to teach me how to play rim shots or cross-stick. I made up my own approximations. When my own approximations did not sound like the professionals I assumed it was because the professionals had sound engineering to make them sound better, so if they gave me the same sound engineering and mixing I of course would sound just as good.

In the end, it got so bad that I thought my “boom pat” on the kick and snare was on par with the professionals’ “boom THWACK!” I heard my playing as the same as theirs. Looking back I cannot believe I had THAT much hubris!

This doesn’t just apply to musicians. It can also apply to singers. I worked with a singer who was not very fluent with English, but did her best to sing English songs because her church needed her to lead worship in English (God bless her heart). Whenever I pointed out to her any pronunciation mistakes she made, she would say that’s what she heard from the video/MP3. I tried my best to ignore those mistakes, but I had enough when I heard her sing the song “Worthy is the Lamb” by Hillsong. There is one line that is “crown him now with many crowns” and she sang it as “clown him now with many clowns”. No, I doubt Hillsong sang it like that!

But that is the problem when mistakes become habits. After some time we can’t even hear them anymore and we think our music/singing is doing just fine. We mentally tune out any extra high G notes on the guitar that clash with the B minor chord, or we play a pad sound on the synthesizer, hold it down with the sustain pedal, and leave it there even if we played the wrong notes in the first place or it no longer fits the chords of the song. When I was taking music lessons at Yamaha we used to laugh at a one-chord-fits-all kind of playing. I never thought our little insider joke from all those years ago would ever be seen as acceptable playing in a church…

To sum up what I am saying:

Proverbs 28:19 (NIV) - Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Don’t fantasize of waking up overnight and suddenly having musical skill and ability you did not work for. Don’t dream that amateur bumbling and noodling around will lead to skill that people who have put in proper work will envy. There are some shortcuts to certain aspects of music skill, but don’t ever let yourself think that practice and training will always be fun and easy. It is always fun and easy only for boring children’s music. The Levites in the Old Testament initially started serving from 30 years old onwards (1 Chr 23:3) and that was later changed to 20 years of age onwards (1 Chr 23:24). Even then I don’t think they played kiddie music in church!

OK, I am going to chill now and get on with my regular life. Be blessed!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

In His Presence We Are Equal

This has been burning in my heart recently.

I have been going through a tough season recently ("again, JJ?" Yes, again). And the past few times these happened I have been looking at others with envy. Some people just don't have the responsibilities and challenges I have. Others cope with them so much better, either because of natural ability, wiser decisions in the past or help from supportive friends and family.

Whichever case it may be, it pains me to look at their lives and see how they do better than me. Facebook is NOT your friend at this point! I find it difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice these days, as the Bible admonishes me to.

And yet on the other side, I am sure there are people who envy me. I have decent music skills and I am quite effective in using them in the service of God. I have two healthy sons, and despite the different challenges they give me in parenting them, they are good kids. They are turning out better than I have reason to expect, and for that I really have to thank God for his grace and mercy.

This is before I start comparing myself from people who are less well-off than I am.

Over the years I had people sign-up for my mailing list and every email I sent on worship ministry was an excuse for them to ask me to send them money. :) The fact is that there are believers from the poorer countries that look at Christians from other countries as money-channels to be tapped and exploited. They will always say that they are serious about serving God, have no support from their own churches, and want me to go over and hold worship concerts for them. Then they expect me to pay my own way and give them money too, while they use the concert as a chance to raise funds from their fellow church-mates and countrymen. They get to keep all the money they raise of course...


It's tempting to be judgmental, but I have experienced extended seasons of lack and know firsthand how much it crushes the soul and affects the thinking. After some time you will start getting bitter and think you are entitled to help from others. Once you start thinking like that it is VERY difficult to breakout of that mindset and start trusting God to bring us to maturity and to make things work. So I sympathize with them. Not enough to do what they want, but enough to at least not name and shame them publicly.

In His Presence We Are Equal

One thing I realized: when we worship God and experience his presence through the Holy Spirit, we are equal. I don't get any less of God's presence than the people I envy. And I don't get any more than the people who envy me. I might be better able to perceive it and recognize it, because my heart may be less cluttered with worries and the things of this world (notice I said "less"), but God is with us the same.

Let me make it even clearer - when we worship God we all have the same access to his presence manifested in our lives. The guy with a divinely-blessed family and earning more in one month than I do in one year gets as much of God as I do. The guy with sick kids and struggling to pay his bills or even feed his kids gets as much of God as I do. The woman with a great career and less family responsibilities gets as much of God as the bereaved widow struggling to stay strong for her kids.

So what?

When God is with us, he can bring help to us in our troubles.
Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV) - God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

 and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

But we cannot expect things to happen automatically without any action on our part. We have to prepare the way for God to act, to show that we are humbly trusting in him and depending on him.
Psalm 50:23 (NIV 84) - He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.

Every time we enter the presence of God through worship, there is that divine potential. It may be seen as the power of God present to heal the sick (Luke 5:17) or God delivering us from our adversaries (2 Chronicles 20:22-23). Every time I worship God I don't know what he will do for me that session. Sometimes I get wisdom and insights, sometimes I receive comfort and strength. I won't know what to expect. I only know that God is worthy of my praise regardless of what happens, but as I praise him I can expect good to happen.

And I trust him enough to let him decide on how and when he wishes to bless me. As long as his presence goes with me, I know everything will work out.

Most Importantly....

... His presence is with YOU.

The same God that is with me is with you, if you are a believer of Christ and a child of God (John 1:12). And you get the same presence of God that I get. Can I just encourage you to make full use of this privilege? Be found in his presence worshiping him and praising him, he will take care of you! Be blessed!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Crisis and Loss – What is your reflex action?

I hate to sound negative, but here is a harsh truth: sooner or later we will face loss, crisis or grief.

Whether losing a loved one through death, being forsaken by the person who promised to marry you or even the loss of a job position, it is only a matter of time before crisis hit us. The exact problem may differ, but the emotional upheaval, the shock, fear, anger and aching sense of loss that hits us will be the same.

When that happens, we will not be at our emotional and mental best. We will most likely find our emotions running away with us, if not at the moment then some time later.
1 Samuel 30:1-2 (NKJV) - Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way.
This was the crisis David faced. We must remember that David had no guarantee his wives and children were safe. He didn’t find their corpses at the ruins at Ziklag, but that meant nothing in an era when human life was cheap. He could only hope his family was safe. His men had no such hope, but gave in to despair immediately.
1 Samuel 30:3-6 (NKJV)- So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep… Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
At first, David reacted as any one of us would, he wept until he had no more strength to weep. But after that he strengthened himself in the Lord his God. Notice that this was NOT an automatic thing. David had to make the decision to strengthen himself in the Lord. Other translations say “David encouraged himself in the Lord”. He did not wait for God to come and zap him out of his grief. At that exact moment David HAD to take the initiative, to make the first move in approaching God.

This is NOT what I see from other people going through crisis or grief. At the most I see them grieving, but not going on from there to encourage themselves in the Lord or seeking him. Does God owe it to us to blast all the negative emotions out of us without any serious action on our part? I don’t think so!

When the crisis or loss hits, what we do will be the result of all the preparation we have put in during the peaceful seasons, when we seek God in prayer and the Scriptures. Whether we will seek God properly when the storms of life hit depends a lot on if we seek him before the storms. Whether our minds and emotions will react well to the trials depend a lot on how much we let the Scriptures renew our minds before the trials come.
Matthew 7:24-25 (NKJV) - "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”
Let’s look at some people who reacted well to the storms.
Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) - Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job had just received news that he had lost ALL his wealth and ALL his children. And yet his first reaction was worship. Some Word-of-Faith people (like me) are uncomfortable when Job said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away”, but we all can agree with what he said next: “Blessed be the name of the Lord”!

I am not saying that just because I am a worship leader. I have seen in many lives that if people keep seeking the LORD even during the storms, they come out from the storms sooner, faster and better. Worship is necessary for restoration and wholeness to take place. Job’s reflex action put him smack on the path of restoration and wholeness again. Things would get worse before they get better, but at least he was moving in the right direction!
2 Samuel 12:15-16, 19-20 (NIV 84) - After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground… David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. "Is the child dead?" he asked. "Yes," they replied, "he is dead." Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
This was just after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba. God already decreed that the baby born to them would die, but David entreated the LORD for mercy. When his supplications were fruitless and the child died, David also reacted with worship. And God showed his mercy by setting his heart upon the next child from David and Bathsheba. We know that child as Solomon, but God called him Jedidiah, “beloved of the LORD”.

Seeking the LORD, even after a grief or loss we don’t understand, is always the best thing to do!

Negative Example
Matthew 26:36-38, 40-41 (NKJV) - Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” … Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
This account in Scripture haunted me ever since I first read it as a new Christian. We are caught off guard by crisis and loss almost all the time. But this time Peter and the two brothers were warned by Jesus in advance AND told to pray. And they could not.

I suspect that during all that time Jesus was physically present, they were counting on Jesus to seek God for them. They were depending on him to hear God, relay God’s instructions to them and fix the mess whenever they fumbled. Jesus had told them of their relationship with God, the Father in heaven, but they were lazy in their prayer lives. And when push came to shove and Jesus asked them to pray just that one hour, they could not. They did not have the spiritual stamina for it.

How about us? Do we count on having a prayerful husband/wife or a pastor or small group leader, and have them do all the praying for us? I don’t want to sound alarmist or negative, but if even Peter and the two brothers, who walked physically with Jesus during his earthly ministry, could not get away with that, how can we make it without a proper prayer life of our own?

Just One Hour?

Jesus’ words, “Could you not watch with Me one hour?” also suggests to me that when a crisis or trial comes, one hour seeking God is what we need. We don’t need to spend the whole night in prayerful vigil (though that would be even better). Just one hour spent seeking God, crying out to him (not just sobbing away by ourselves), encouraging ourselves in the LORD (commanding our souls to remember God’s goodness) and giving thanks to him for all his goodness in our lives.
2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (NIV) - After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.’ As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
But it takes training and discipline. Don’t expect that you can have a wimpy prayer life and suddenly be able to pray for one hour the next time a crisis hits. We need extended stretches of time spent seeking the LORD (one hour?), not just a whispered prayer here and there during TV commercials or while waiting for the next train to arrive. We have to spend enough time in the Scriptures to renew our minds and emotions, to establish our hearts and minds in the ways of God. This won’t happen just by reading Christian books, watching sermon videos on Youtube, scanning through Christian posts on Facebook or getting some preacher who moves in signs and wonders to pray for you. If the last one would work, wouldn’t Jesus have already done that for Peter and the two brothers?

What Next?

If you know that your prayer life has been weak and you want to strengthen it, or if you are already facing trials and you KNOW that how you are handling it badly, get help. Find people you can be accountable to, and report your prayer life to them, even if you didn’t pray.

You can also join me at my Facebook Bible reading group, , follow along with the readings from Psalms and the prayers I pray for my pastors. When you read the Psalms aloud, as I do, it is like seeds of prayer you are planting into your own heart. And over time they will help you bear a harvest of a strong and vibrant prayer life. Use the prayers I pray for my pastors to pray for yourself and your pastors. Over time you will not only grow in your prayer life, you will find your spiritual maturity in other areas growing too.

May the LORD find us faithful and fruitful in prayer this year!