Sunday, 28 September 2014

Living in the Present: With Others

Hello All,
‘No man is an island.’
This is a quotation from John Donne (1572-1631) who was an English poet, lawyer and Anglican priest.
Although many of us would agree with that phrase, we would most of the time find it easier to accomplish a task alone.
In my university days, I remember the dread that many used to feel when it came to group projects. No doubt there were some groups who worked very well with each other but there were others who fell out with their group members and thus rued the day they had to work with other people to accomplish a task.
Many of us feel that matters would be less complicated with less people involved. This is because of our sinful nature which makes us want to do things our own way.
‘No Christian is an island.’
There are Christians who think that it is sufficient to just keep a relationship with God in fervent, daily prayers but isolate themselves from the Christian community.
God has never meant for Christians to venture out into unchartered territories alone in this world. He has created a community of Christians to remind and encourage each other to live as pilgrims on this earth for His glory.

Living in the Present: With Others
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (3rd April 2014)
Based on Henri Nouwen's 'Here and Now: Living in the Spirit'
Our journey as Christian pilgrims on the road
Is not a solo travel embarked on our own
We are to bear our fellow Christians’ heavy load
In God’s Kingdom, no one ventures out alone

Do you see a brother who needs your prayer?
Do you notice a sister who needs your comfort?
Are you willing to aid your brothers and sisters?
Would you help even if it demands much effort?

The closer we come to know and love our God
The closer we come to those in God’s family
For the infinite love of Christ is shared abroad
Cutting through our barriers and diversity

Points for Reflection:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:24-25)
·         Have you been isolating yourself from the Christian community?
·         You might have literally stopped going to church altogether or pop by whenever you please.
·         Or perhaps you have been attending church faithfully but do not share your life with other Christians?
·         Have you been feeling alone even in the midst of conversations with church friends?
·         Don’t face your struggles alone but seek support from your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that God will send fellow Christians who are trustworthy and willing to faithfully support you in your struggles.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2)
·         Do you see someone who needs your prayer?
·         Have you been praying faithfully for those who are need your support? How could you be more mindful of others in your prayers?
·         Do you notice someone who needs your comfort?
·         Do you show your care to a fellow Christian who is down and discouraged? Often we are so absorbed with our own lives that we forget that comforting words and gestures can mean so much to a person going through the ‘valley’ experience.
·         Are you willing to aid your brothers and sisters?
·         Would you help even if it demands much effort?
·         Pray for God to help us to be united in the love of Christ and to look for ways to help each other fight the good fight of faith.

“This is my [Jesus’] commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

(John 15:12-13)

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Living in the Present: Our Inner Room

Hello All,

Today’s poem is entitled, ‘Our Inner Room’.

Before I present this poem to you, allow me to clarify what it means.

Because I understand that many Christians might feel uncomfortable with the phrase, ‘inner room’. So this is just in case you might be thinking to yourself, ‘Oh no! What has become of Joanne’s writing? Is she spreading heresy?’

‘Inner room’ is not a literal term taken from the Bible but it is rather a personal description of our intimacy with God expressed through prayer.

What I mean is, God is the One we can be most open with in expressing our thoughts and feelings for He understands us perfectly – better than any human being can. He knows the words we are going to say even before we utter them.

Even in our closest human relationships, there is a need to construct our sentences in a way that would best convey our thoughts and feelings to our loved ones who, in the end, would not be able to understand us a hundred percent.

And no human being is able to be with us every second of the day but God is always there for us. In the deepest hour of the night, He is there to comfort us as we pour out our grief, loneliness and sorrows to Him in prayer.

Even if the death of loved ones might have hit hard on us, may we find our solace in Christ who is the anchor that holds us steady in the raging tempest of this turbulent life.

Living in the Present: Our Inner Room
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (28th March 2014)
Based on Henri Nouwen's 'Here and Now: Living in the Spirit'
The day has been long, we are tired and anxious
Brewing problems have been cruelly spilled on us
We dread the future as it unlocks its contents
To reveal the trepidation of the present

The past reminds us of unpleasant memories
We try to conceal and hide them away safely
From the eyes of the world and the people we know
There is a need to show that we are in control

The past and future consume us with distractions
Our hearts can find no peace in such situations
But do we bring our struggles to God in prayer?
Do we lay our burdens before our Creator?

Let's shut the doors behind us and get on our knees
Tell God our sorrows, worries and anxieties
Fix our eyes on Christ, the light in our inner room
Our loving Lord will lift from us all fear and gloom

Points for Reflection:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)
·         What personal struggles are you trying to deal with? 
·         What burdens you are bearing?
·         Are you troubled by the past?
·         Are you anxious about the future?
·         Do you bring your struggles to God in prayer?
·         Who do you think is in control of your life?
·         Do you trust that God is in control?

·         How could you find comfort in Him?

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.