Ordering Dark Soy Bean Curd at Thai Express and watching my wife dive into her Seafood Sukiyaki Vermicelli Soup must have been the lowest point of my Pescatarian diet decision in my Lenten journey thus far.
But it made me give thanks for the food in a new perspective – that is, to remember Christ before I partake in dinner.
From my understanding of Lent, it’s up to me to set the rules. And each luxury I abstain from is meant to remind me of Jesus. It’s working so far, I must confess. And man, I kid you not about the energy levels – I’ve never felt so physically exhausted (and it’s not even the peak month of December). I’ve slept earlier and enough but I still feel fatigued.
I am really not used to going through my day with such low energy levels… So I’m hoping this will be worth the effort.
As I delivered the sermon today on the importance of prayer and how that involves God in our everyday efforts to be a witness, I am reminded that Lent is a spiritual journey; the physicality of it should point me towards my spiritual pilgrimage.
I’m not sure if prayer can change God’s mind considering that He already knows all things (like what Lent would do to me) but I do know that (the) prayer (of a righteous man) can accomplish much. May prayer change me and cause me to know the heart of God.
Open my spiritual eyes to see Your will for my life in this season, O Lord.
Ask any serious Christian out there and he’ll tell you he’s hoping for a revival in his life, family, church and workplace.
I try to be a Christian who’s serious about pursuing Christ. After all, I need to be considering what I do for a living. (I can’t help but hear “Don’t let your uniform stick to you” from Tahan ringing in my ears…) It’s not easy though – I’ve been praying for a revival to happen in my church and youth group ever since I joined the church in 1999. I believe generations after and before have as well. I have tried every method I know how: fasting, praying, leading worship, reading the Word, preaching my heart out, organising massive events, discipling young leaders, sitting at the feet of spiritual giants…
And yet… There is no revival – not in the way that I imagine, at least.
I was semi-distracted for the revival meeting tonight, where Ps Philip Lyn spoke at. I’ve listened to his sermons, I’ve read about him and I even share the same mentor as him… Well, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more Word-based teaching tonight, but I did catch his heart… And I thought what he shared made a lot of sense.
According to him, revival is made up of three components:
- Repentance through the blood of Jesus
- (Power and) authority that’s being released, and
- The unknown factor, which is the grace of God
I will use that thought process in the remaining 37 days of my Quadregesima. I’m game for anything that may work; I’m really desperate to meet Christ. I mean, I’m so desperate I’ve even called spiritual retreat centres to ask if I could check myself in. But it’s been difficult to find God – my energy levels are significantly lower, my workload is relentless and I have basic functional responsibilities just like everyone else does. (I have though in the last three days, quickened my spirit to be mindful of what I say…)
O God, highlight all the areas in my life that I need to repent, help me to release Your authority in every domain of my life and please let me walk in the path of Your divine grace…
If the height of revival is hidden in the heart for revival, then please position my heart in a place for revival!
It’s not too far-fetched an idea to suggest that my Quadregesima is best experienced only if I am unemployed.
But alas, I’m not.
With responsibilities, obligations and duties demanding my time, it becomes increasingly challenging to spend time with God and even more so to think about Christ at all times. Something has to go. Something has to give in. I need discipline.
And as I had expected it, I gave in to something I wanted to give up – entertainment. It sounds trivial but I couldn’t resist reading the Naruto manga today. Ha-HA! The new release was out yesterday and my futile resistance lasted all of 24 hours until Keith Yeo mentioned it over a chat. Okay, I’m a drama king, but hey, at least I’m honest. Well, next week I will pass the test.
Without social media vying for my attention, I find myself with more time at hand to pursue what’s more worthy of my time. However, without coffee, I find myself fighting to stay awake and alert. In times like these, I keep challenging myself to depend on God’s strength to be strong in God, but that’s easier to say than do.
And as I’m keeping off all kinds of sugared drinks (only water and green tea), anything naturally sweet becomes something I look forward to – be it cereal with milk in the morning or a late night honey mango. Now if only I pine for Christ like the way I pine for pleasure in my taste buds…
On a separate note, I cannot imagine mentoring others without the help of the Holy Spirit. May I continue to depend on Him for knowledge and wisdom as I invest into people’s lives – I desire to say the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.
Argh, I’m incredibly restless and impatient. I want to see results now. But I need to be still first. This is an incoherent entry.
In the same breath of the excellent play I watched tonight, called “Tahan” (thanks Stella Cheung, for blessing me), I’ll sign off with…
I struggle to pray, not just today, but everyday.
It is impossible to stay on the path of holiness unless I have the enabling grace of God; and yet so often I depend on my strength to become strong in God – what a tragic paradox. Perhaps my carnality compels me to do that instinctively because I do not understand the grace of God intimately and experientially.
The psalmist beckons me to depend on God to:
- Give me life
- Teach me His statutes
- Make me understand
- Strengthen me
- Put false ways far from me
- Teach me His law
- Let me not be put to shame, and
- Enlarge my heart
Perhaps this is only possible if I:
- Tell Him my ways
- Meditate on His works
- Choose the way of faithfulness
- Set His rules before me
- Cling to His testimonies
- Run in the way of His commandments
Holy Spirit, please help me to quicken my spiritual senses; I need You to help me pray unceasingly. I desire to seek the Lord before I embark on every task so that I can regularly reorientate my focus. I boldly ask You to help me by reminding me, so that I may respond by remembering to pray, and eventually relying on You becomes a required routine of my life.
No Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? No problem. No Football Manager? No problem. No unedifying words? No problem. No air-conditioning? No problem. No meat, sugar, snacks and tidbits? No problem. But no morning coffee? Oh I felt its absence as early as the second hour into the lecture.
I have three lists: start doing, stop doing and still doing. It’s easy to stop, hard to start but hardest to be consistent.
I know it’s only the first day, but I’m ultra-Sanguine about what I want to achieve and I need the Lord to still my heart in pacing myself. Am I disappointed because I failed to do what I had set out to do today? Perhaps. But what I want to be disappointed about is that I didn’t, couldn’t and haven’t met Christ today. I am reminded that it’s not about accomplishments for Christ but about alignment to Christ.
God is faithful – what I had contemplated upon this past week was confirmed in the first lecture on spiritual direction; I am certain that my maiden Quadregesima will alter my spiritual life forever. I go to bed tonight with a plethora of expectations soaked in optimism but littered with potentially prideful intentions. Oh may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing unto You, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.
Jesus, I’m here to meet with You, won’t You come and meet with me? I want to taste a morsel of Paul’s experience when he said, “For me to live is Christ!” May You be centralised in my life all over again.
Also known as Lent.
(Latin for quadrāgēsima, or the fortieth.)
In my pilgrimage as a believer, this will be my most serious observance and longest period of a spiritual discipline thus far — though prayer, fasting, penitence, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial — to imitate the example of Christ.
Starting today and ending on Easter Sunday.
I will have limited access to just about anything that might prevent me from being in the presence of God.
Lent has historically been seen as a time of serious self-denial. In denying ourselves we are able to catch a glimpse of the cosmic self-denial made by the second person of the Trinity for the salvation of mankind… …[T]he 40 day period has been influential in the lives of countless saints to redirect our affections toward our Savior. Lent predates every denomination. In whatever way your local church celebrates Lent; let this season break you, wound you, destroy you, and humble you so Jesus can be the center of your life and not you. — Tim Kimberley
Can’t wait to meet and hear from You, Lord. I need Your help through this.
I am constantly amazed at how much the Holy Spirit is willing to teach me when my heart is open to God’s Word. In case you’re wondering, I do not use any devotional materials (since 2008 anyway). In my daily time with Jesus, I’m accompanied by an NLT Bible, a black Staedtler pen, a yellow Staedler highlight and a trusty ol’ journal. I use a variety of methods to get deeper into the Word: including mechanical breakdown, SOAP (Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer), word studies and of course unstructured incoherent scribblings. And since these observations are birthed from my journalling, they obviously make more sense to me than you.
When you feed your roots, you grow your fruits. (:
7 Jan // Mark 4:1-20
My observation is that a farmer (aka preacher/teacher of the Word) has a seven-fold responsibility:
- Firstly, he must faithfully plant (seeds). If he doesn’t scatter them, there is zero chance of plants growing.
- He must pray that birds don’t prey on his efforts of scattering seeds and eat up those that fell on the footpath.
- He must (re)position the plants growing on rocky soil to fertile soil, so that their shallow roots will grow deep.
- He must purge out the thorns and weeds in his farm that prevent the plants from producing fruit.
- He must prune the plants that are not growing too well, and this painful process usually involves patiently taking one step back (but two steps forward later).
- He must persist with the plants that fell on fertile soil by cultivating the ground and not getting complacent.
- Finally, he must press (in) and entrust the growth of the plants to God, and patiently wait for them to produce fruit in season in multiple folds, and then be ready to harvest them.
Thankfully, these roles actually have many limitations. It teaches me to be rested in the Lord who grows people and not get restless in wanting to grow them by my (enthusiastic but unnecessary) over-exertions. When I am rooted and rested, my life will be radical (back to basics).
8 Jan // Mark 4:21-34
“Secret” is a neutral word. I’m inclined to link it our sense of security. And those with nasty secrets live in fear; either it haunts them from time to time, or the fear of it coming to light makes them live defensively.
“Exposure” too, is a neutral word. And those who live righteously have nothing to fear. On the contrary, the good things executed and the bad things endured in secret receive commendation and vindication respectively.
That’s why the ideal but toughest part of your life to surrender God and let Him dwell in is your heart. No one but the Holy Spirit knows what’s truly meditating in the deep recesses of your heart; after all, who can hide from God?
The call to live out the kingdom of God isn’t just an outward show for men but an inward submission to the Master. If you allow the Word of God to purge you and the Holy Spirit to purify you, “secrets” and “exposure” might just become your allies.
Lord, grow the Word planted in me in secret and at the right time by Your loving grace, have the Holy Spirit expose to me my known and unknown sins so that I may become more like Jesus. In my secret time alone with You, reveal to me Your kingdom and help me to pay close attention to what You are saying so that I will understand You and receive even more from You.
9 Jan // Mark 4:35-41
Of course Jesus knew what He was doing when He sailed out to sea with his disciples after dusk. Of course He was “sleeping” in the middle of a fierce storm. Of course He knew that His disciples were oh-so-full-of-faith after teaching about faith the entire day.
In the midst of a storm in your life, is your first response to Jesus about how bad your situation is and why He would let you to go through it?
But despite our immaturity, Jesus is still faithful; He first sorts out your storm, then He gently confronts you with two key questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
In life’s struggles, let’s learn to have faith in Him who doesn’t just control the situations but personally leads us in and out of them. And let’s remember that He is more concerned about us knowing “Who is this man?” than simply delivering us from shipwrecks.
Don’t put your faith in the practice of faith, but in the person of Jesus.
10 Jan // Mark 5
To “Legion” who possessed the man, Jesus represented the end, but to the suffering man, Jesus represented the beginning.
Jairus and the bleeding woman shows us that knowing Jesus requires both faith and fear. Both Jairus and the woman fell at the feet of Jesus; one overcame his reputation, the other overcame her reservations. Would you overcome these to know Jesus?
The woman foreshadowed the positive kind of faith that Jairus should have – drawing us towards Jesus. But the people at Gerasenes who chased Jesus away featured a negative kind of fear that drives us away from Jesus – what a contrast!
To Jesus, having faith is everything. Maybe that’s why He chased away those who laughed at Him when He said Jairus’ daughter was asleep – not because He was embarrassed, but that He didn’t want these mockers to douse the faith of Jairus, his wife and His three disciples.
No wonder He said to Jairus (and perhaps to us all today), “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”
Our response to Jesus determines our knowledge of Him. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God.
11 Jan // Mark 6:1-29
You can choose to be amazed by Jesus, or you can choose to amaze Him. If you want to amaze Him, start by scoffing Him, then by taking deep offence with Him. It’ll naturally lead you to a refusal to believe who He is and what He can do.
Holy Spirit, please guard my heart and mind against unbelief.
12 Jan // Psalm 42
Lord, make my heart how it used to be. In taking care of young people, enable me to love as a father could, intercede as a mother would and help as a brother should. For I desire to lead Your people to shout for joy and sing Your praise. May my hope in You alone anchor my soul in tumultuous days of disappointment.
13 Jan // Mark 6:30-42
Do I depend on the power of the Master or the proficiency of man when I preach God’s Word, pursue God’s ways and perform God’s will? It baffles me constantly that Jesus would choose to use human agency to showcase the Kingdom of God; that the power of Christ is made manifest through the potential of Christians. Technically, Jesus wasn’t the one who fed the 5,000. His disciples were the ones who brought that miracle to pass. Jesus could have asked the Father to rain manna from heaven to feed the masses, but He chose to involve His disciples in this logistically astonishing mission. What a blessing it is for us to be used by God to bring Him glory!
Although I shared these leadership axioms with my leaders and shepherds after turning them out at 4am (!) to clean the entire church, I believe these principles that I’ve observed over the years in my leadership journey stands true in any context of leadership.
- Leadership is not your right – you didn’t do anything to deserve this position. By faith, you were appointed to take on the privileged position of leadership, through the grace of God.
- Signing a leadership covenant is mutually bonding. This means that you remain committed even if the other party fails to be. (Context: this leadership covenant signing is Phase III of my 4-year strategy to move the leadership selection process from default, to deliberation, to decision and finally for Phase IV later this year, to desire. More on that in separate post…)
- Your most important responsibility as a leader is to stay close to God and keep growing in Christ to become more like Him and to do His will.
- Leadership = Lead Your Sheep. This essentially means four things: love God, learn from your shepherds and mentors, lead your youths in grace, godliness and growth and lay aside your personal preferences for the sake of the ministry.
- Leadership is about committing your time, talent and treasure to the Lord for the sake of the ministry and your personal growth.
- Leadership is about being a part of the solution and not adding to the problem.
- Remember that you are a leader everywhere. Not just with your youths, but with your peers in leaders’ meetings, as a student in school, as an employee in the workplace and as a child at home.
- Leadership is dirty work – get ready for unglamourous, unpleasant and unpredictable times. Through this dirty work, you will be presented with opportunities to know yourself and your sheep. It will inconvenience you – that’s the price you pay.
- Sometimes, leadership is without recognition – people may not always know what you have done for them or the extent you’d go to serve them. That’s why you must always be secure in the Lord – for He’s the one who rewards you in secret the good things you’ve done in secret.
- Sometimes, the task of leadership can be beyond your understanding. In moments like these, learn to submit, be faithful and persevere, so that you can experience the fruit of your effort and the blessings of God. We’re called not to unconditional obedience but to unconditional submission. (More on that in another post.)
- Leadership is about taking initiative and following things through. It is about clearing up after each other – even when you’re the not the one who’s at fault but got dragged into the situation.
- Leadership is about being together and exceeding expectations. It’s easier to do the latter when we accomplish the former; it’s easier when everyone plays their part.