Sunday, September 28, 2008

Experiencing God as a Witness

Eagles RendezvousI have just attended a Bible Study seminar organized by Eagles Communications on 'Connecting Hearts: Sharing Christ Winsomely' which aims to equip Christians to become effective witnesses for the Lord.

The following is a summary of what I have learnt from the first training session on 'Person: Experiencing God As A Witness'.

The Bible study text is based on 1 Peter 3:8-17, which verses are set in the context of four worlds:

  • Blinded World
  • Boring World
  • Brief World
  • Broken World

Blinded World (1 Peter 1:14)
A story is told of a rich financial trader about how after he has bought his Ferrari, met a car accident which destroyed the Ferrari. In his unhappy state, he complained to the police about how his car has been wrecked, only to receive a reply from the police that he is too materialistic not to see the greater lost - the lost of his arm. On realizing the lost of his arm, the rich financial trader instead of expressing concern for his arm, was more concerned about his missing Rolex watch with the missing arm.

Boring World (1 Peter 1:18)

An illustration of how this world sees life as being boring is shown on the following video clip.

Brief World - Empire Come & Go (1 Peter 1:24)
The rise and fall of empires: Persian, Greek, Roman, and Byzantine.

Broken World - Terror of Bitterness (1 Peter 1:22; 2:13ff)
A world of broken ruler-ruled relationship, broken social and familial relationship.

How should we live among pre-Christians?
Above all, live Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 1:15) to make Him the center of our lives because Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.

Better Than I Know Myself (by Cliff Richard)
You were there - at the moment I began
When the child became a man
Saw my future in the making - saw
the path my life was taking
You saw a million things I'll never understand

You know me better than I know myself
Better than I know myself
Time after time you've shown it to be true
That no one loves me like you

You are here so let it rain or let it shine
You are with me all the time
When I'm waking - When I'm sleeping
In the secret thoughts I'm keeping
You know everything about this heart of mine

You know me better than I know myself
Better than I know myself
Time after time you've shown it to be true
That no one loves me like you

You'll be there - when the end of time has come
And I know you'll take me home
So I thank you for tomorrow
All my joys and all my sorrows
And I thank you for the greatest thing I've known

You know me better than I know myself
Better than I know myself
Time after time you've shown it to be true
That no one loves me like you

Eagles Rendezvous

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Song Lyrics: I Will Lift My Eyes

I Will Lift My Eyes - Bebo Norman
Written by Bebo Norman and Jason Ingram
From the album Between the Dreaming and the Coming True

God, my God, I cry out
Your beloved needs You now
God, be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt

Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can’t climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

God, my God, let Mercy sing
Her melody over me
God, right here all I bring
Is all of me

‘Cause You are and You were and You will be forever
The Lover I need to save me
‘Cause You fashioned the earth and You hold it together, God
So hold me now

© 2006 Appstreet Music (ASCAP) / New Spring (ASCAP). All rights for the world on behalf of Appstreet Music (ASCAP) administered by New Spring (ASCAP). / Peertunes, Ltd./GrangeHill Music/J Ingram (SESAC)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Life is Not a Game

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Game Some people think of life as a game, a stage play where a person fights his or her way through different stages in life to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming rich and successful. Some, however, see life as a meaningless journey beginning from infancy and ending with death, where nearing the end of the road is a status of non-entity and the dependency on others for support before dying. Yet there are others who believe life is all about having fun while one is alive, to eat, drink, and be merry.

As Christians, our perspective of life should be completely different from the world, because we have been set free and redeemed at a price. Our lives are not our own, and we have been called by God to live our lives for His purpose.

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (Romans 14:7­8)

Jesus, in the Gospel of John, said He has come that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). What do we understand by living an abundant life? Is it living a life of riches and abundance, or is it living life abandoned of riches?

In Matthew 19 and Luke 18, Jesus seemed to suggest the abandonment of riches in order to live the abundant life when he told the rich young ruler to sell all his possession and give to the poor before following Him (Matthew 19:21-22; Luke 18:22-23). Some Christians, however, believe that Jesus, in abandoning His riches to become poor for our sake, has through His poverty granted all believers to become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9), and they believe this is what John was referring to when he used the word ‘prosper’ in his epistle.

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)

Not withstanding these arguments, there are some Old Testament verses that advocate abundance of wealth and prosperity with obedience.

Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, (Deuteronomy 30:9a)

Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD commanded Moses concerning Israel. (1 Chronicles 22:13a)

It is therefore reasonable to expect blessings to accompany obedience to God, and many Christians see this as an underlining truth. Some, however, go a step further to advocate that living the abundant life means living lives with riches and prosperity.

I myself have lived a relatively good life before, with more than enough material abundance to satisfy my wants and occasional indulgence on luxuries. God, however, has a higher calling for me to live a different kind of abundant life, not of the riches of the world, but of riches built on the foundation of solid rock (Luke 6:48).

After going through different stages in life, I have learnt that abundant life does not mean to live in riches, neither does it mean to live in deprivation, but rather it is to live for the Lord in all circumstances—for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health—to stay faithful and be a good steward of God's providence and resources. This, I believe, is the true meaning of living an abundant life, a life dedicated for the purpose of God, where only by serving Him can we truly be satisfied, not according to the measurement of riches in this world, but according to the providence of God in living a life of contentment and sufficiency.

Teach us, therefore, O Lord, to understand the true meaning of abundant life, not as the world sees it, but as divine providence for us to live our lives according to Your will. Help us, in all circumstances, put You first above all else, in riches or in poverty, to be a good steward of Your bountiful blessings, resources, and wealth. Grant us the ability to serve You faithfully in all we do, knowing that only in You can we truly live our lives abundantly.

NOTE: All scripture references in this article are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life's Entanglements

Life's Entanglements Life's struggles are a part of God's way of molding us for His purpose, therefore, we must not despair. God wants us to live our lives abundantly, not as the world measures abundance, but according to God's grace for our lives, to live for the Lord in all circumstances and to stay faithful always. Only by living in Him can we be truly satisfied (Hebrews 12:1).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 NAS)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Memories Past

"I just can't seem to snap it out of my mind. It's been so long time ago, yet it still hurt at times. I don't know why God has allowed it to happen."

Memories Past If that's what we are saying within our hearts, it means we've still some work to do before we can move on with our lives. Memories of unpleasant past tend to linger on in our minds long after the event has taken place, and if we fail to snap out such bitter memories, they can affect how we live our daily lives. Whether it be the lost of someone we love, the prolong caring for someone disabled, a broken trust, or a failed relationship, all these memories of painful times can haunt us if we do not handle them properly.

Let us take a few moments to examine ourselves. When we reflect upon our past, do we harbor bitterness or unhappiness within us? Do we still question God as to why it had happened? If the answer is yes, then it means we need help, because harboring unhappiness in our minds and hearts is not good, and the way we handle unhappy memories will determine how our lives become in the future, of joy or sorrow, of victory or defeat.

A good example of how we should handle unhappy memories is to follow Joseph, the son of Jacob. Instead of blaming God for all the unhappy things that happened in his life, Joseph chose to see circumstances as God's way of leading him to the right path in fulfilling God's plan for his life. This may be seen from the way Joseph revealed himself to his brothers while in Egypt.

Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. (Genesis 45:5 NAS)

Joseph, in forgiving his brothers for selling him into slavery, did not blame them for what they had done, because he knew it was part of God's plan to lead him to where he was to preserve the lives of many.

If we, like Joseph, can see our lives the way he sees his, we will be able to understand that circumstances in life are one of God's ways in molding His chosen people for His purpose. Understanding this, is the first step to realizing God’s guiding hands on our lives, and this should help us learn to let go memories of our painful past, to let it be just memories, without the pain. We will not question God as to why certain things happen the way it happened, but we will be assured that whatever had happened or will happen is part of God's plan for our lives. Once we understand this and follow how Joseph handled unpleasant memories in his life, we will then be able to put in perspective how we should view our unhappy past, and move forward to live our lives abundantly, according to the will of God.

In seeing God as playing a part in the circumstances of our lives, therefore, we should, like Joseph, view events in our lives as God's way of preparing us for His work, in leading us to the paths He wants us to go, to fulfill His purpose for our lives. Knowing this will help us see circumstances from the correct perspective, and begin the process of healing within our hearts and minds in snapping out bitterness from our memories.

Forgive us, O Lord, for harboring bitter memories of our past and for continuing to question You as to why unhappy events happened in our lives. Teach us Lord to see those events as part of our training for your service, and direct us in the right path to fulfill Your will for our lives, to learn to be like Joseph, to see circumstances as a way of Your leading, and snap out all bitterness from the memories of our unpleasant past.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dare to Speak the Truth

And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20 NAS)

Truth Do we dare to speak the truth if we see our fellow colleague being accused of something he or she did not do by a supervisor trying to cover up for his mistake, or do we leave our colleague to be accused by the management? Do we let that supervisor go scot free, or do we defend the righteous? What if by speaking the truth, we risk losing our jobs? Do we still dare to speak the truth when under threat, or do we stand accused of letting down our faith?

As Christians, we are constantly faced with the dilemma whether to speak the truth and risk finding troubles for ourselves, or remain silent in the face of injustice. Speaking the truth is never easy, and daring to do so is difficult, but as a people called by God to be His witnesses, we should always stand up to speak the truth, because only by speaking the truth can we and the unsaved be set free (John 8:32). When in situations such as the false accusation of a colleague, therefore, we must always be prepared to speak the truth, to stand courageous for what is right, and defend the wrongly accused, to confront the accuser, and not close an eye to cover up for the accuser's mistake in order to keep our jobs. How we response to injustice in situations such as this will determine what others think of the Christian faith, and this can lead people to Christ or turn them away from Him.

Our first step, therefore, in desiring to lead people to Christ, should be to live exemplary lives, and this can only be achieved if we are willing to come clean before God in all areas of our lives, to present ourselves holy and acceptable to Him in living holy lives (Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We should also desire to practice the truth, so that our deeds may manifest our lives as having been wrought in God (John 3:21), and this will require us to live our lives for Christ in showing more of our Lord, and less of ourselves (John 3:30), not as the world shows in staging a scene for others to see, but from the innermost depths of our hearts, truthfully, genuinely, and naturally (Matthew 6:1, 5; Luke 6:45).

Like Peter and John who did not give in when commanded to stop speaking in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18-20), we should also heed God's command and not fret to risk our all in speaking the truth, even if the consequence may put us in an unfavorable position (1 Peter 3:14). Our attitudes should express no fear when we know we are following God's order, because God is with us to see us through. Therefore, in daring to speak the truth in obeying Christ, we must be prepared to pay the price, and be ready to face the accuser in standing up for the truth, and in stemming out lies, to live out Christ in our lives (1 Peter 3:16-17).

Help us therefore, O Lord, never to close an eye to help the righteous. Grant us courage to stand firm against the accuser, and as Your witnesses draw strength from You in living victorious lives, to manifest Your likeness in all we do, that man through us may glorify You.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Price of Impatience

Simeon with child Jesus Not everything in life can wait, and sometimes we grow impatient when we have tasks outstanding nearing deadlines. We get frustrated when we fail to meet our targets, and we take short cuts to make ends meet, which often fall short of required expectation. This behavior is not something new. It has happened before, a long time ago, in the history of Israel.

Now he [Saul] waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, "Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings." And he offered the burnt offering. As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; (1 Samuel 13:8-10a NAS)

Saul, in his impatience, disobeyed God and took upon himself the task of offering sacrifices to God without Samuel, which cost him his position as king of Israel (1 Samuel 13:13-14a). Although it was disobedience that cost Saul his kingdom, it was impatience that caused Saul to disobey.

Impatience is expensive and the consequence may be more than we can imagine. Frequently, impatience forces us to do things without considering the outcome, and as a result we fail to fulfill the intended purpose.

The Bible mentioned another man, who unlike Saul, waited patiently for the Lord.

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation, (Luke 2:25-30 NAS)

Although the Bible does not record how long Simeon waited before he saw the consolation of Israel which was the birth of Christ, we can assume it must have been for a period of time. This account of Simeon is a good example of what it means to wait patiently for the fulfillment of God's purpose in our lives. It does not mean, however, that we are to simply wait without doing anything. Rather, it means we should prepare and pave the way towards fulfilling the purpose of God patiently, just as the disciples waited to be "clothed with power from on high" before Pentecost (Luke 24:49 NAS).

Patience and impatience are all about setting our priorities right. Too often, we live our lives in constant rush because we are too conscious of lost time. We live our lives in frustration when things do not get done on time or when someone or something delays our time. Every minute counts in our lives, but what matters most is really what counts in our lives. Paul understands this when he said:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, (Philippians 5:7-8 NAS)

Impatience has always been a snare to human lives and sometimes even faithful servants of God fall prey. In the real world, impatience does nothing to help get things done, but does a lot in causing harm. We must therefore learn to take account of time in meeting our targets and deadlines to set our priorities right, and not grow impatient, which can harm our lives.

Keep us calm O Lord
And still our hearts to know
Your presence here with us
Wherever we may go

Help us be patient Lord
Help us keep our cool
Help us in everything
Remember to honor You

Lead us Lord in all we do
Help us completely put our trust in You
For You alone are righteous and faithful
Abounding in lovingkindness unchanging and true