Saturday, 13 September 2014

Living in the Present: Here and Now

My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!
(Psalm 119:28)

And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest;
(Psalm 55:6)

Living in the Present: Here and Now
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (23rd March 2014)
Based on Henri Nouwen's 'Here and Now: Living in the Spirit'
A myriad of thoughts are resounding in my mind
Tired and drained; I want to leave them all behind
A thousand voices are echoing in my ears
They convey things I wish I did not need to hear

Tears gush freely like the pouring of heavy rain
They flow from a heart filled with emotional pain
I ask myself, 'Why is this flood not receding?'
'And why is this torrential storm not abating?'

If I had wings to flee from this present moment
I will escape from the hurts and disappointments
Which are left unspoken and sealed safely under
A smile, some laughter and in short - a safe cover

And yet I see the reaching out of helping hands
Through their kindness and love, they help me understand
And catch a glimpse of God's love to broken people
His grace assures and comforts me in my struggles

God will give me the strength at this present moment
To face failures, rejection and discouragement
Which hurt but are refining tools that God allows
To help me depend on Him in the here and now

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46:1)

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:31)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

(Philippians 4:13)

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Living in the Present: Birthdays

Hello All,
When it comes to remembering birthdays, there are usually two extreme groups – those who have an excellent memory and those who don’t.
But nowadays, we are blessed with Facebook and Google calendar reminders to notify us promptly on our family and friends’ birthdays; that is if we even remember to key in the dates!
When was the last time you celebrated someone’s birthday? Are you looking forward to a special birthday?
What do those birthday celebrations mean to you?

Living in the Present: Birthdays
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (1st Mar 2014)
Based on Henri Nouwen's 'Here and Now: Living in the Spirit'
‘Isn’t he beautiful? He looks just like daddy’
Some said, ‘No, I think he looks more like his mummy’
While others said, ‘He resembles the both of them’
My nephew was a small bundle of precious gems

His birth brought much joy and cheer to our family
He’ll turn two this year in June; though he looks like three
He has learnt to clasp his little hands in prayer
And tell me which television show he prefers

Birthdays are to be regarded as important
They should be remembered with loved ones and presents
It’s a time to say to a person with gladness
‘Thank you for being born and being among us’

Birthdays represent the great opportunity
To be washed clean again each time we get dirty
To be forgiven when we, from God’s ways, depart
To repent as our lives are given a new start

Our great Saviour was born in a humble stable
He came to die on the cross so that we’re able
To receive God’s gracious forgiveness for our sins
So we can now rejoice in our new life in Him

Points for Reflection:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
(Philippians 1:3-5)
·         It is good to remember and appreciate each other, not only during birthdays, but every day in our prayers.
·         But celebrating birthdays is a good way to remind ourselves to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ, to show appreciation to them and just to show them that we care.
·         What do birthday celebrations mean to you? Have those celebrations just become a predictable and annual tradition to you? How could birthdays remind you to pray and care for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Who are the people you can regularly remember in your prayers?
·         Henri Nouwen once said that to him, it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a job promotion, an academic achievement or other successes. Because when we celebrate a birthday, we are not celebrating the great things that a person has done, but we are celebrating a person’s existence, that is, simply for who he is.
·         Similarly when we come to God, we should come to Him humbled, with empty hands; for we cannot earn his favour through our good works and labour. No, even before we were born, God had already set us apart as His beloved children and gave us life.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
(Ephesians 1:3-4)
·         It is through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to come before God with a clear conscience, knowing that we can surrender the burden of our past sins to Him and find forgiveness each time we stumble in the present and future. Let us seek to do away with sinful habits, not with our strength alone but depending on God to help us live a life that is pleasing to Him. While we are sojourning on this earth, we will never be perfect but remember - we are God’s work-in-progress with opportunities to start over.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Living in the Present: Without ‘Oughts' and ‘Ifs'

Hello All,
Have you ever wished that you could turn back time and start over?
Perhaps you could have said the words that you should have said and refrained from actions that you should have refrained from.
Have you ever wished there was a time machine which could take you to the future and ease your mind from worries?
We know all too well that magical clocks and time machines do not exist.
Are the regrets of the past and anxieties of the future preventing you from seeing God’s goodness in the present?

Living in the Present: Without ‘Oughts' and ‘Ifs'
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (25th Feb 2014)
Based on Henri Nouwen's 'Here and Now: Living in the Spirit'
‘You ought to have been more careful. Look at this mess!'
‘She rejected me; I ought to have loved her less'
‘That man ought to have spoken more kindly to her!'
‘I ought not to have done that, for now I suffer’

‘You ought to have refrained from that bad investment!’
‘She hurt me; I should have paid her less attention’
‘He ought to repay her for the wrongs he has done!’
‘I should have spent more time with my daughter and son’

‘You should have spoken the truth instead of lying!’
‘She cheated me; I should have guarded my feelings’
‘He ought not to have been born; that cold-hearted man!’
‘I’ve done wrong but I can’t turn over the time sand’

‘I must get everything right; what if I do wrong?’
‘What if her affection for me does not last long?’
‘I know I must change; but what if I fail again?’
‘Should I love others? But what if that brings me pain?’

‘Should I be generous? What if I lose money?’
‘What if I get hurt? I will lock my heart safely’
‘What if I could never atone for my mistakes?’
‘This task is hard; what if I don’t have what it takes?

Do you find it trying to live in the present?
Does the past hurl at you guilt and accusations?
Does the future overwhelm your mind with worries?
Does it feel like you’re bearing loads that no one sees?

The Shepherd says, ‘In this world you will have trouble’
But with His comfort and strength you will be able
To cross over the ‘oughts’ and ‘ifs’ which weigh you down
It is in Jesus that true solace can be found

Jesus says, ‘Take heart, I have overcome the world’
Come to Jesus; see his love and mercy unfurled
In His Holy Word that brings us before the cross
To see his blood spilt for us at such a great cost

Points for Reflection:
I [Jesus Christ] 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.”
(John 16:33)
·         All of us have regrets of the past and anxieties of the future.
·         While we are living in this world, we will not be free from the problems and cares of life.
·         We sometimes wish that life could be simpler.
·         Take some time to ponder upon the regrets, disappointments and hurts of your past. Reflect on the things you worry about in your future. Ask yourself, ‘Why do these things trouble me so much?’ Then come before God in prayer, freely express to Him your ‘oughts’ and ‘ifs’ and find comfort in Him.
·         Since we cannot change the past and have little control (or in fact no control) over the future, do we look to the One who has total control over our past, present and future?
·         Jesus says, ‘Take heart; I have overcome the world.’
·         The greatest problem that is staring humanity in the face is not the depressing economy, natural disasters, poverty, starvation, loneliness, violence and whatnot.
·         But it is the imminent judgment of eternal death (after the physical death) for those who do not put their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
·         It is surprising that we are more worried about our temporary problems which should be secondary to the eternal problem.
·         For those of us who trust in Christ, our greatest problem of sin has been dealt with by Christ. Have we lost sight of the significance of the cross? Have we been so focused on our earthly problems that we fail to appreciate God’s blessings in our lives? Apart from salvation, which is God’s greatest gift to us, what are the other ‘flowers in the garden’ that we can thank God for?

·         If you have not put your faith in Christ, what are the issues in the past, present or future which are preventing you from doing so? Remember that the troubles you see in this life would only last as long as you are living on this earth. Have you thought about your greatest problem after death? Trust in Jesus while you still have the chance to and do not be weighed down by the ‘oughts’ and ‘ifs’ of this life.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Our Lives for Christ

Hello All,

Our Lives for Christ
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (22nd Nov 2013)
As people of the risen King
Let us lift our voices to sing
Of God’s love shown through salvation
For sinners from every nation

To a world marred by sin’s disgrace
Let us bring this gospel of grace
May we be vessels of God’s love
Shown in Christ who came from above

As brothers and sisters in Christ
Let’s gaze at Him who sacrificed
His life for unworthy sinners
May we, our lives to Him, offer

Points for Reflection:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.           
(Romans 8:1-2)
·         For those us who have placed our faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, we no longer need to bear the weight of sin, condemnation and guilt on our shoulders for Christ has nailed them to the tree.
·         We are no longer enslaved to the dominion of sin over us but we have freedom in Christ who is the Lord of our lives.
·         That does not mean that we are perfect while we are on this earth but the Holy Spirit is changing us each day to become more like Christ. We are God’s ‘work-in-progress’ on earth but we will be perfected after death when God takes us back home to our heavenly dwelling.
·         I would like to share with you an analogy which aptly describes this phenomenon. A person who believes in Jesus Christ is like a house which has been purchased at an extremely high cost (this represents Jesus’ priceless death that redeemed us from God’s wrath and judgment for our sin). As you step into this house, all you see is darkness for no light has ever penetrated into this house. Not until the new owner (which represents God) of the house throws open the windows for the very first time. To your amazement, you see cobwebs, slimy slugs and disgusting cockroaches all over the living room! So the thorough and time-consuming process of spring cleaning begins. The duration it takes to clean the living room varies from house to house; some may takes weeks, months or even years. After much intensive and persistent scrubbing, mopping and polishing, you look in triumph at your living room and say, ‘Oh how wonderfully clean my house is now! I think the cleaning process is finally completed!’ And then the owner of the house lights a candle and leads you down to the dining hall. Well, that is another part of the house infested with cobwebs, slugs and cockroaches. So the owner says to you, ‘No, the cleaning process is not completed yet. Allow me to help you clean this area as well.’ Then you ask the owner, ‘When will this tiresome cleaning and painful scrubbing ever end?’ To which he answers, ‘There will come a day when you will be perfectly immaculate… But not now. Let me continue dealing with areas that require polishing’
·         Notice that the person who buys the house does not say, ‘I will only buy the house once every corner and inch of it is spick-and-span.’ No, he buys the house in spite of all its filthiness. The spring cleaning begins only after he has purchased this house. Despite our sinfulness, God extends his grace and salvation to us. And when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, God gives us the Holy Spirit who constantly convicts us of sinful areas of our lives which God wants us to change.
·         Is the weight of sin, condemnation and guilt resting heavily upon your shoulders? Don’t let them crush you but surrender them to Christ. Are there sinful areas of your life which the Holy Spirit is convicting you about? Are you willing to allow God to help you clean up the cobwebs, slugs and cockroaches of your life?
·         Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Or are you still one of those houses which have not been purchased yet? Remember that there will come a day when those houses would no longer stand but they will be destroyed and crushed to the ground.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)
·         Since we have become part of God people, our lives are to abound in good works for God’s glory.
·         We are no longer the master of our lives but Jesus is to take precedence in our hearts.
·         Are you allowing God’s Word to shape your lifestyle or are you the master of your life? Does your life revolve around God or do you expect God to orbit around your little world?
·         We are to share the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are still in darkness and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to persevere in the faith.
·         Have you been actively looking for ways to evangelise to your non-Christian family or friends? Have you been encouraging your fellow Christians to continue trusting in Christ even when times are hard?
·         The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are so few. There is so much work to be done for God.

·         Are you lending a hand and doing your part in advancing God’s Kingdom? It does not matter how big or small a part that is; but what matters to God is a sincere heart that is willing to serve Him. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Persecution (John 15:18-25)

Hello All,
How far would you go to remain faithful to your loved ones?
Would you only love them when things are smooth sailing and forsake them in the storm?
How far would you go to remain faithful to God?
Would you only love Him in favourable times and deny Him in the face of persecution?

Persecution (John 15:18-25)
(Anonymous, Year 2012)

If the world hates you, remember it first hated me,
If you did, it would love you as its own easily,
You're not the world's property, for you I have chosen,
That is why towards you it displays its resentment.

The words I have spoken to you please, remember,
Never is a servant greater than his master,
 If they mistreat me, they will mistreat you,
If they obeyed me, they'll obey you too.

They'll treat you in this manner because of my name,
For it's clear they know not the One from whom I came.

My coming and speaking to them has made them guilty,
For now, they have no excuse for their iniquity,
If I had not worked wonders never before seen,
Then they would never have been found guilty of sin.

But now although these miracles they have beheld,
They have hated both me and my Father as well,
But this is to fulfill what's written in their Law,
"They hated me without any reason at all"
When he comes, the promised helper:
He whom I'll send from the Father;
When the Spirit of truth's received:
He who from the Father proceeds;

He then to me shall bear witness,
Bearing witness, he'll me confess.
And you witness likewise will bear,
For from the start, you have been there.

Points for Reflection:
 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus Christ] before it hated you.
(John 15:18)
·         As Christians, we should not be shocked at persecutions for our faith.
·         Christians from different walks of life will face persecutions at varying levels and intensity.
·         There may be some of us who face ridicule from our fellow friends or colleagues each time we do not subscribe to their priorities and lifestyle. Our refusal to compromise our moral integrity in our workplace and personal lives may raise the eyebrows of those who are too polite to voice their disapproval.
·         As followers of Christ, are we tempted to blend in with the crowd to avoid being ridiculed or regarded as ‘out of place’? In what ways have you been compromising in your faith? Do people look and you and say, ‘Well, he is not much different from us after all, although he claims to be a Christian. He is just like one of us.’? How could you learn to submit to Christ even when doing so would entail mockery?
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
(1 John 2:15)
·         Persecution is raised a step higher for those of us who suffer rejection from our family for believing in Jesus. The intensity of persecution would vary from cold shoulder treatments and verbal abuse to being disowned by our loved ones. But Jesus promises that those of us who have lost the favour of our family for Him will find comfort in Him and in our new family in Christ.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
(Mark 10:29-30)
·         Are you being persecuted by your own flesh and blood for trusting in Christ? Find comfort in the love of Christ for He understands how you feel. He himself was once rejected by his own people. If you are tempted to turn away from Christ, I plead with you not to do so but keep your eyes focused on the eternal hope that you have in Christ. Do not trade heaven for the temporary and fleeting things of this world.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.  
(Matthew 19:29)
·         Do you know of fellow Christians who have been rejected by their family for their faith? Are you supporting and loving them as your family in Christ? Or are you indifferent to their needs? Are you too absorbed in your own world to care about your brother in Christ who is direly in need of your time and prayer? Remember that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ because God first loved us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(John 13:34-35)
·         There are some of us who are even being persecuted at a national level. Legislations are passed in disfavour of those who seek to follow Christ. Violence and threats are hurled against the Church, the body of Christ. There are two extreme ways to react – one is to respond in anger towards those persecutors and the other is to be indifferent and mind our own business. Neither of those ways is right. We should be calm, respond in love, awake from our slumber and pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are under direct fire. Keeping a low profile as a Christian is the surest way to spiritual suicide.
·         How are you reacting to persecution against Christians at a national level? In anger or in love? In apathy or in genuine concern? In selfishness or in selflessness? If it boils down to it, would you stand firm for Christ in the face of persecution, even it claims your very life?
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
(1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my [Jesus’] sake will find it.

(Matthew 10:39)