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day four – i am what i think.

HY and I had to miss the final evening service of the Retreat for an important task (more on that in a separate post) but the morning service was such an amazing spiritual buffet that it was more than enough food. These thoughts fed my mind on day four of Grace Retreat 2010 (and I feel so full).

  • God may not empower you to choose but He will empower your choices; you need to quit waiting on God to prod you into action.
  • It’s not what we consume that defiles us but what leaves our mouth that does; the mind is not godless, it’s what we do with the mind that makes us godless.
  • The pleasures of sin don’t last forever, and the Devil knows that we’ve given our hearts to Jesus, so that’s why he is after our mind; hence the manner in which we deploy our mind is of paramount importance.
  • Proverbs 23:7, paraphrased – “I am becoming what I’m thinking”. Life follows thoughts – that is why we need a resurrected mind, for attitude influences behaviour and thoughts determine future. Therefore, we ought to keep our brain strong for it controls the heart.
  • Psalm 26:2 – “Test my mind” – to test is to examine so as to purge or clean out; you go to a doctor to find out what’s wrong (to fix it) and not what’s right: I’ve always believed that “judgment” is a neutral and necessary word, for evaluation.
  • The mind is naturally set on the flesh which leads to death, so you should set your mind on the Spirit, which gives life and peace.
  • Psalm 1:1-2 – Exercising the mind is like training the body – it takes effort! And so we should remember that memory work comes before revelation; if Jesus memorised the Word and practised spiritual disciplines, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t or are exempted from it.
  • My destiny is not heaven – that’s my destination – my destiny is to fulfill my purpose on this earth. I don’t wanna miss the whole point of life on earth!
  • What am I feeding myself? All that we intake are seeds, and one day these seeds will bear fruit; my fruit will be and is determined by my seed.
  • Philippians 4:8 – We should train our brain by conditioning it to think about the right things; rubbish in, rubbish out.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 – We are instructed to “gird up” our minds for action, so we must nourish and feed it. As a result, the training of our thinking should lead to our acting. How? By thinking through things, memorising and meditating, as well as dwelling and pondering on Scripture.
  • Digging deep into God’s Word is like a dog devouring a bone; it never relents until it goes deep enough to get all the remaining flesh, oil and the best bits of the bone; almost as if to “suck the marrow out of life”.
  • Romans 8:6 – Revelation is most powerfully experienced when it speaks to your mind, moves to your heart and flows through your life.

To my surprise, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ZA’s and JA’s preaching. They were, for a lack of a better way to phrase it, typical pentacostal preachers, but their teaching is biblically sound and to a certain extent, Word-based. Not the expository style of EC, BH or JP that I’ve always preferred, but still solid preaching. One thing I prayed and asked God for during this Retreat is to make me both a Word-based teacher and a Spirit-filled preacher.

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i love you, i do.

After this June, I’d be one of the last amongst my peers to get married; I can’t rush it of course, since HY is not at the right stage of her life to get married yet – I was already aware of and prepared for this situation when I decided to court her years ago. Although I’m not the one tying the knot, I’m surrounded by people who are and I’ve been involved in enough weddings to understand every nook and cranny of an event like that.

One of the most important and significant thing that couples do on their wedding day is to exchange vows; it is, after all, the penultimate item of the entire day’s event and the climax of the years of courtship. Therefore I think there’re very good reasons for them to say “I do”, instead just “I love you”. We should be aware by now that love is a verb and not an emotion, and so I think by saying “I do”, you perpetuate the action of love. When we truly understand what love is, we’ll realise that “I do” is a vow of commitment not sentiment.

This got me thinking about our relationship with Jesus. We say and sing “I love You” but are we able to say “I do” to Him? Do we dare to do what our words demand? Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” – that’s a very high calling that not many can fulfill!

The question then, isn’t whether you love Jesus or not – I believe most of you who read my blog do. Instead, the question is, “If Jesus is truly of the utmost importance in our lives, then why aren’t we doing all that is required to please Him?” Often we shortchange our love for Jesus simply by settling for whatever’s more convenient to accomplish. I don’t know about you, but I wished I could love Jesus a little more each day and that I can say “I do” want to partake in the suffering that comes with following Him.

May I learn to deny myself more each day and to acknowledge His presence and power in my existence. I desire to prove my love to Jesus by my actions!

sermon recap: stephen the formidable forgiver.

I think my face is finally showing signs of aging and I do not relish losing my youth. While it has been thoroughly satisfying so far, I must be honest and say that it has also fatiguing to preach the last three consecutive weeks (so I salute RY who has been doing that week-in, week-out for the last decade). Preparing a sermon excellently is indeed a labourious challenge; I spend 15-20 hours on average with each one. The bigger challenge however, is to wait upon the Lord as I allow the Word to saturate my heart and mind – I try not to write a sermon academically; the biggest challenge is to hear from the Lord the word in season for my congregation. I find it easy to deliver a generic sermon, so it is vastly gratifying when I preach a sermon that speaks specifically to my people. I always pray that the Holy Spirit will do His work of revelation in my youths’ hearts as they receive the Word.

I am thankful to God for the generous encouragement and plentiful affirmation that I’ve received over the last three weeks; I never take any for granted – these pats-on-my-back spur me on to preach even sharper and deeper sermons! As I conclude Part III of Facebook with the Newbies, I embark on the preparation of the final installation. I pray that this series won’t just end on a climax, but it’d end in a manner that the Spirit leads. In the meantime, do check out the slideshow below to refresh yourself on the two main themes that Stephen leaves with us – managing anger and overcoming unforgiveness.

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Part One – Managing Anger

  • The main difference between the angry Jewish leaders who couldn’t control themselves, and Stephen who clearly was in control of his emotions, was that the latter had the Holy Spirit while the former didn’t; in short, the Jewish leaders had the presence of anger and the absence of the Spirit.
  • The greatest obstacle to forgiveness is anger – for anger kills. It gives birth to murderous intent, which is different from incidental or accidental manslaughter. The Jewish leaders didn’t kill Stephen unexpectedly – they had planned to do it.
  • Hate is a choice and the judgment of hate is murder in your heart (1 John 3:15).
  • The Jewish leaders’ answer to Stephen’s inspiring and riveting sermon in Acts 7 revealed a three-step progression of anger.
  • The first stage of anger is when you realise it with your senses, through your eyes and ears“When they heard this”. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to be your filter, to separate and sieve away the things that make you angry.
  • The second stage of anger is when you respond to it with your emotions, in your mind and heart – “They were furious“. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to help us to choose the right response in any situation.
  • The third stage of angeris when you react to it with your actions, by your hands and mouth“And gnashed their teeth”. When this happens, ask the Holy Spirit to help you do the right thing that doesn’t cause you to sin.
  • Ephesians 4:6 states that we should not sin when we are angry, but it doesn’t say that it is a sin to be angry; what we do when we are angry makes all the difference.
  • Anger is an extreme emotion that can sometimes be damaging and destructive; it is always a decision made in our thoughts and feelings, and it never happens by chance. Remember that anger is an emotion, not an action.
  • We cannot control what happens externally (situations and circumstances) but we can ask the Spirit to help us to control what happens internally (emotion and cognition).
  • The biblical remedy to managing anger is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us – that’s why Stephen was known to be a man full of the Holy Spirit.

Part Two – Overcoming Unforgiveness

  • While Stephen’s answer to the Jewish leaders was completely different from the way they treated him, his reply to them in the face of being stoned was actually quite similar to the way Jesus Christ in the way that He was crucified.
  • Stephen had an absence of anger and a presence of the Spirit; he demonstrated for us three possible approaches to overcoming apparent unforgiveness.
  • The first approach is to be filled with the Holy Spirit (“But being full of the Holy Spirit”) by exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Actively deal with unforgiveness and not passively avoid it.
  • The second approach is to look to God’s love intently (“He gazed intently into heaven”) and remember our God is One who is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Nehemiah 9:17)!
  • The third approach to know Jesus’ mission wholeheartedly (“Do not hold this sin against them”) for when we understand that the mission of Jesus is to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), we’ll understand how to honour and give Him glory in our most trying situations.
  • The glory of God is evidently distinguished and displayed when we compare manmadestructures to GodmadeWonders (pun intended); hence we should fix our eyes on something bigger than ourselves, better than our situations and more glorious. We should put on heavenly spectacles.
  • Those who are full of the Spirit are game for anything in life, be it good or bad – because they are willing to do His work and to suffer for Him.
  • Forgiving others is a natural cause of action when we are being forgiven by God.
  • When evil does its worst, God does His best; Stephen’s martyrdom indirectly resulted in Paul’s conversion. Paul became a legendary missionary and author of half of the New Testament.
  • God desires for us to be reconciled to Him first, before we are reconciled to others (2 Corinthians 5:17-19). We experience freedom to relate to others when we are liberated in how we relate to God.

I sincerely hope that was helpful for you. With that, I conclude Stephen’s chapter and look forward to the last character in this series, as well as some much-needed rest at the start of the week.

nice is never good enough.

Here’s what the Spirit inspired me to share with RL during our lunch today in the context of a boy-girl relationship (or I’d go as far as to say that this is applicable to any relationship):

“A selfish boyfriend cares for his own needs before his girlfriend’s. A good boyfriend puts the needs of his girlfriend before his own. A godly boyfriend desires God’s best for his girlfriend.”

I’ve advocated umpteen times to some of my close girl friends that “nice” is never good enough. *pssst* Girls, don’t soften your heart to a guy pursuing you with honeyed words, fanciful gifts or sweet acts of kindness because that’s exactly what he had planned to do to win your heart, isn’t it? Instead, test his christian character, question his spiritual maturity, examine his moral values and enquire about his journey with the Lord; these are more essential qualities that would set apart a godly man from a good worldly man.

In Ephesians 5, we read that wives are to “submit to [their] husbands… …in everything”. A few verses later, we read that husbands are to “love [their] wives… …to make [them] holy”. I’d like to think that wives are to submit to their husbands on the condition that husbands love their wives (although I do know admirable wives who submit to unloving husbands). While we are to aspire to demonstrate unconditional agape love, we should remember that there’s only One who is capable of showing such divine love. Nonetheless, the standard of a husband’s love towards his wife is set extremely high – as Christ loves the Church. Now Christ loved the Church to the extent of redeeming her with His own blood – that has to be the extent of love that husbands ought to demonstrate towards their wives, no?

While I may not yet be married, I think I might just be able to understand this concept. You see, I’ve had my fair share of (bad) relationship history and conduct which I am never proud of. However, with HY, I find myself drawing strength to love her not by my own efforts but by God’s grace. In fact, the only thing I tell myself is to love God more than yesterday – this is the source of my love for HY. It is due to this love that I have for God that causes me to embrace her flaws and forgive her mistakes as well as to change myself for the better and humble myself to serve her. I do not believe that I will be able to continue to accomplish this on my own merits. And because HY knows that I love her deeply, she trusts me; from this trust births the foundation of her natural submission towards me (or alternatively phrased, towards my love for her). There’s no rocket science in this Biblical model; hence I say I can comprehend what the Apostle Paul was talking about.

So in a nutshell, if I may audaciously conclude, girls should be on the lookout for boys who love God. And boys (as leaders of relationships) should just focus on loving God more everyday. I always believe that instead of searching for the right person, you ought to be the right person (and the right people will start to search for you).

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