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)

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice

Hello All,
As you read the news each day, do you boil with anger at the blatant injustice displayed by corrupt authorities and wicked men?
Do you long for justice and equality in the country we live in?
Musings on Ecclesiastes: Injustice
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (17th January 2014)

‘That's not fair!' we often hear the indignant cry
Of the oppressed who see vile, wicked men get by
With their corrupted ways, malicious schemes and crimes
The court of law turns a blind eye time after time

I saw a man of high standing trialed for murder
He killed heartlessly at a higher man's order
With evidences against him, he was set free
One rose to power, the other escaped penalty

'Where is justice?!' Our cry for fairness goes unheard
Our hope for a fair government is just absurd
For power and wealth blind those in authority
The plight of the downtrodden, they refuse to see

Our quest for justice ends at the throne of our LORD
Who will bring judgment on the wicked with his sword
In His Eternal Kingdom, true justice is found
It is a Kingdom where love, peace and joy abound

Points for Reflection:
Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1)
·         Injustice is sadly an evident part of the world we live in. Those who have the authority to administer justice, more often than not, misuse their power for selfish gains.
·         There is no doubt a minority of leaders who are fair and just in their reign but they are as rare as hen’s teeth. But even the noblest of all leaders is not infallible for he has shortcomings like you and me. There would have been instances when he did not administer justice perfectly.
·         How do you feel when you see the oppressions of the oppressed by powerful oppressors? Do you feel indignant and angry at leaders who prosper at the expense of their citizens? Are you cynical and unforgiving towards them?

I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
(Ecclesiastes 3:17)
·         The wicked will not go unpunished for God will judge them, if not in this life (which the book of Ecclesiastes refers to as, ‘life under the sun’), then in the life to come. Even though they may have evaded the enforcement of earthly laws for their crimes, they will never escape God’s hand of judgment.
·         How could you learn to trust God even in the face of unfair treatment by corrupt leaders? Pray that God will enable you to cultivate patience and a forgiving spirit even for such undeserving leaders.
·         However, all men, both the good and the wicked will have to give an account to God on judgment day for every single sinful thought, speech or action. The only way anyone can be acquitted from God’s judgment is through faith in Jesus Christ, who died as a substitute for sinners like us.
·         Would you receive this gift of salvation offered to you by Jesus Christ, the perfect and just King? It is only in His Kingdom that you will find true justice.

·         Perfect justice does not reside in life under the sun but it lies secured under the Kingship of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle

Hello All,
‘Let us break out from the routine of life and live life to the fullest!’ You may have heard aspiring idealists utter this phrase before.
No matter how hard one would endeavour to break out from mundane routines, no one can ever escape the meaningless cycle of life. You were born into this world, you try your best to survive, you grow old and then you die.
Musings on Ecclesiastes: The Meaningless Cycle
By Joanne Liaw Sook Ling (14th Jan 2014)

I awoke one morning and remained on my bed
It was yet another dawn of the day ahead
The metal cog in the wheel must not cease turning
Just as the sun shall not miss a day of rising

I arose to attend to my chores and duties
The eye is never satisfied with what it sees
The hands find little fulfillment in their labour
The heart discovers little that it can savour

'You should be more thankful,' my mind whispers to me
'You're not starving like those entrenched in poverty
Life has been kind to you, why are you unhappy?
Why do you wallow in sadness and misery?'

But my heart beats in rhythm with the vain cycle
Of a meaningless world with its empty people
Where happiness is short-lived and sorrows abound
Can the true meaning of this life ever be found?

The thirst of dreams and desires remains unquenched
Disappointments and wounds leave their unpleasant stench
'Why give me desires without their fulfillment?
Why give me mere dreams without their accomplishment?'

Well, a wise man once said, 'If there remains in me
A desire that cannot be quenched by worldly
Things; This means that I was made for another world'
Within God's Word, the meaning of life is unfurled

We are but weary pilgrims sojourning the earth
Who can look forward to life of eternal worth
After death, we shall see Jesus Christ face to face
And find such boundless joy which nothing can erase

Points for Reflection:
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9-10)
·         Our world boasts of new inventions and advancement in technology. It promotes new products which serve to enhance beauty, intellect and the comforts of life.
·         But if we were to take a step back and observe those so called ‘new discoveries’, we will find that they are not new at all but are just innovations of old things in history.
·         We place such great confidence in such ‘ground-breaking’ progresses which has not made the world a better place but it has instead generated a competitive culture of selfishness, individualism, strife, animosity and even violence.
·         Have you been placing your confidence in technological advancement and ‘ground-breaking’ progresses over God? Remember that it is God who created men with the ability to invent things from materials created by God.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
(Psalm 20:7)

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
(Ecclesiastes 1:8)
·         Many of us (on a good day) would have the impression that the writer of Ecclesiastes composed his book on a very bad day. We might feel like patting him on the back and saying to him, ‘Hey, cheer up! Life is not that bad… Look at the bright side of life. You are far too pessimistic!’
·         We strive to suppress the void in our hearts by rewarding ourselves with pleasures, relationships and achievements to gain our self worth. ‘This is what life is all about,’ we tell ourselves as we place the object of our hopes in finite things. But as much as we would try to deny it, those things have never satisfied us the way we have expected them to.
·         There are times when the emptiness of life would hit us very hard. It could be just an ordinary mundane day which turns like a cog in a wheel - a meaningless cycle. You wake up, work, do your chores, socialize, relax and retire to bed. Even if you were rich enough and did not need to work, your life of leisure would be just another meaningless routine – luxurious vacations and enjoyments of life tend to lose their potency if you have too much of them.
·         Is the weight of life’s emptiness resting heavily upon your heart? Do you ever wonder, ‘What is the point of life? What am I actually living for? Why am I not satisfied? Why do disappointments and emotional hurts leave scars in my heart? Why is happiness short-lived and why do sorrows abound?
·         In his book entitled, ‘Mere Christianity’, C. S. Lewis said, ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’
·         Mankind has chosen to reject God, the source of life’s meaning, and that is why our fallen, sinful world is full of suffering and emptiness. We were made to be in a loving relationship with our Creator, whom we have often neglected and even ignored. We were made for another world – God’s kingdom, heaven itself. While we are living on this earth, we will face many trials but we can draw strength and comfort from our God who helps us to keep our eyes fixed on the precious hope of eternal life offered to those who trust in Christ.
·         What is keeping you from finding true hope and satisfaction in Jesus Christ? Do not turn to anything else in the world but look to Jesus for life’s true meaning.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
(Romans 15:13)