sermon recap: attack and counterattack!
I’m back from a four-day planning getaway and for me, there’s nothing better than vision-casting and planning for the future. R-AGE @ GII, if you’re reading this, you ought to thank God for a team of dedicated shepherds who stayed up til 3am and spilled their dreams on an 18-month calendar. It’s gonna be a mind-blowing 2011 and we must certainly rise up to the challenge, to move from involvement to commitment. We’ve been working hard for you; we don’t ask for a lot, only that you can return the favour and pray hard along with us. Remember, revival will come not when we pursue programmes, but when our people pray.
I shall resume my writing by posting the key points of the sermon I preached last Sunday. (Do note that I omit illustrations and analogies in my sermon recaps.) A guest speaker will be speaking this weekend and I will return to the pulpit next weekend to tackle the next portion of James. Let’s continue to be conscientious in our own reading of the Word. (Anyway, I think my sermon recaps are getting longer and longer!)
Don’t push the blame but take responsibility instead
- You naturally know how to push the blame without actually being taught how to do it.
- Trials are usually external situations that strengthen you while temptations are internal struggles that shatter you.
- God tests you to bring out the best in you – He desires for you to grow spiritually; Satan tempts you to bring out the worst in you – to cause you to sin.
- God wants you to grow up but Satan wants you to go down.
- Temptation springs out of your own evil desires (v14). Hence, do not blame God (or Satan or Man) when you are tempted and when you sin; no one made you do it – you made you do it. Take responsibility for your own sin.
- God doesn’t contradict His own character; if He is holy and hates sin, why would He tempt you?
The ATTACK – how temptations work
- To deal with sin, understand how temptations work. Adam and Eve demonstrates this perfectly for they were, after all, the first perpetrators.
- James 1:14a – It begins with a DESIRE. Satan knows your desire and what you are tempted by so he plants exactly that in your heart to entice you; temptations always begins on a small scale that is almost unnoticeable – that’s why it’s dangerous. Sin always begins with something as small and harmless as stealing $1.
- Satan tempted Eve in Genesis 3:4-5 with, 1) “You will surely not die”, 2) “You will be like God” and 3) “You will know good and evil”.
- James 1:14b – Desire spirals into DECEPTION. You probably have a tendency to convince yourself, rationalise your thoughts and justify your actions until it feels like whatever that you had intended to do is right. To be deceived, in Greek, literally means, “to be led down a wrong path”.
- Eve convinced herself in Genesis 4:6a, that the tree was “good for food”, “a delight to the eyes” and could “make one wise”. God certainly didn’t describe the tree that way.
- James 1:15a – Deception transits into a DECISION. This marks the beginning of sin; Eve lost the battle here as she decided to succumb to her desires.
- In Genesis 3:6b, Eve saw the wrong thing, entertained the wrong thoughts and experienced the wrong desires. She went ahead to eat the fruit (and even gave it to Adam!).
- James 1:15b – Decision leads to DEATH. The result of sin meant that Adam and Eve, as well as the rest of us before we knew Jesus, were eternally separated from God. That explains why the world is a messed-up place and needs a Saviour to redeem it from eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).
- Know how sin and temptation works if you want to overcome it – and the only way to overcome it is to depend on God to help you.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 – God’s real role in temptation is to help you get out of it. Temptation is a way you trap ourselves, but God provides us with a way out. Each time you are tempted, you are tempted within your ability. It is your job to find that way out of the temptation.
The COUNTERATTACK – how to overcome temptations
- The problem isn’t in the temptation but in the desire that is within your heart; sin will always look good at the start for it appeals to pleasures but it always ends up as a disaster. Before yielding to temptation, count the cost of its destruction. Would you rather the blessings that God gives or the lies and hurt that Satan brings?
- James 1:17a – TRUST GOD’S CHARACTER. When you trust the goodness of the Father, it will help you to remain unmoved by Satan’s temptations. You yield to Satan’s temptations because you cannot wait for God’s blessings; remember that it is God who blesses you with good things, not Satan.
- Be wary of the microwave generation that demands immediacy and instant gratification. Sometimes, your impatience causes you to make your own miracles instead of waiting for the only Miracle Maker.
- The battle with temptation boils down to a battle of faith. Who do you trust? God, Satan or ourselves? If you really submit to the Lord in all aspects of your life, then you will receive the ultimate protection against temptation; you can trust God because He is constant and never changes.
- James describes God as one who doesn’t change like shifting shadows. God is like the sun – it doesn’t change, it doesn’t move. The “shifting shadows” don’t come from God but from you; you shift, but God doesn’t. This makes Him a trustworthy God and someone you can trust wholeheartedly.
- James 1:18 – TAKE IN GOD’S WORD. Truth will set you free. Read the Word of God – understand, internalise and memorise it. Make it a part of you for you cannot be apart from it. Don’t just depend on pastors and leaders to teach you the Word – know the Word for yourself. To break out of the cycle of temptation, you need the truth to be recycled in you.
- 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 2 Timothy 2:22 – TAKE OFF AND FLEE. When you are tempted, don’t even try to deal with it – just run.
- James 4:7b – TACKLE THE DEVIL. Don’t fight temptation and flee the devil, but flee temptation and fight the devil.
- Remember biblical truths when you fight the devil. Do not be afraid of the devil for you are God’s dear child and that Christ, who is in you, is greater than the devil who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
- The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war. Temptation is a battlefield and a war-zone in your head. During peace time, when you are not tempted, fill your head with truth, so that when the battle begins, you will emerge victorious and overcome the devil not by might or by power but by the spirit of God.
- James 4:7a – TURN BACK TO GOD. Balance the pressure inside you and ensuring that it is equal and opposite to the pressure outside. Instead of just combating external pressure – which is to flee from temptation and fight the devil – you must also build internal pressure, which is to focus on God. Submit yourself to God first before you resist the devil – make that your goal.
- Memorising the Word is biblical. Psalm 119:9-11 instructs young men to store God’s word and hide it in their hearts. The blood of Jesus cleans you from committed sin but the word of God keeps you from uncommitted sin. Hence, focus on God on the inside and fight the devil on the outside, while at the same time flee from temptations! So that when temptation comes, the Word of God will come. In order to overcome lies and deceit, be filled with truth. Scripture memory is not for impressing others but for insulating yourself.
Boast of your weakness and receive the power of Christ
- While God is a holy God who doesn’t tolerate sin, He is also a loving God who wants to help you overcome sin. Only the grace of God can prevent the sin in your life from being “full-grown and gives birth to death”.
- 1 Corinthians 12:9 – God gives you His grace, which is sufficient for you and through that, His power is made perfect by your weaknesses. Your response then, is to boast all the more gladly about your weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on you.
- Hebrews 4:15-16 – Jesus understands what you go through because He has gone through it Himself; He sits on the throne of grace and He is able to give you undeserved favour; you know that you will fall and keep falling, week after week, so that’s why you need His grace again and again. You know that you will be unable to withstand the pressure of sin and temptation. You know that you cannot do this on your own.
- Ask God for His strength to help you overcome temptations. Come before God and to confess your sins to Him. Confess it to a brother or sister whom you trust for James 5:6 encourages us to confess your sins to one another and to pray for each other.
- Ask God for His grace to help you to trust His promises, memorise His word, run away from temptations, fight the devil and to fix your eyes on Him. Come to the point where you know that you can’t do it on your own and that you are sick of depending on yourself.
day three – arise, faith, arise.
On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead; on the third day of this Retreat, my faith rose to another level. These are the thoughts of a man with little faith and was gently rebuked by God, for He has certainly proved His faithfulness to me, not that He needed to.
- To proclaim that the kingdom is at hand is to do the three things Jesus commonly did – to save, to heal and to do miracles.
- Biblically, there are three types of faith – desperate, believing and persistent; regardless of category, we ought to depend on God as a newborn babe would depend on his mother, for without faith we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).
- Faith is not about praying harder, longer or louder, and is not about begging or pleading with God, but focussing on God and how big He is, and not on our faith.
- Contrary to popular belief, faith isn’t based on feeling, emotion or circumstances, but on facts; didn’t Jesus rise from the dead? That’s a fact and that’s healthy faith; you can’t get saved without the Holy Spirit filling you.
- The mustard seed illustration is not about the size of our faith but the size of God, that we may see who He is and how circumstances yield to His power.
- Faith is to be exercised and activated, after it is taught and learnt; it is the currency in the kingdom of God and the absence of it renders you invalid.
- The Holy Spirit is the key to revelation and the grace of the Holy Spirit does the recalibration and reorientation. Conviction is not condemnation.
- Don’t try to get something you already have. Instead, we should keep the Spirit dripping like a tap intentionally left turned on slightly, so that whenever we require Him, He will be there, ready to flow.
- We’ll worry lesser about what others think of us when we realise how seldom they actually do. May this free my young people to relate with others.
- In my full-time calling, I should never worry about the money factor or even allow it to be a consideration because God will always make a way.
- Always pray in the Spirit, for when your body is out, your spirit is still praying. Praying in the Spirit means that you are always praying the will of God and hence you will always be on target. Lastly, praying in the Spirit is a decision – so make it, “I will decide to pray in my spirit”.
- The three primary purposes of speaking spiritual language is for praise, intercession and edification.
- After you learn to speak the language, you will learn to live the lifestyle; operating by the Spirit is to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh and hence it should naturally lead to a fruitful life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In my time with God in the morning, He spoke to me through Psalm 126:3 and it’s a reminder of His steadfast grace, unmerited favour and unfailing love in my life. HY and I have picked out our top 20 choices but we have a feeling that we’ll end up with that particular unit that we set our eyes on from the start.
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” God is good, He really is. Oh me of little faith. I should learn to step out of the boat!
“My son, you don’t need to prove anything to anyone because you are already fully-approved by Me and Me alone and that’s enough. Be secure in who I’ve created you to be and don’t get tangled in meeting the expectations of men.”
a personal appeal to adults on behalf of young people.
Previously, I wrote an article on the dangers of meritocracy – especially in the Singaporean upbringing and way of life. While we are all aware that we live in a society where our best is unfairly and unnecessarily juxtaposed against someone else’s good, we need to realise that there will come a point where we’ll just have to say “No” to the sickening and extremely poisonous repercussions of comparisons. I mean, seriously, if a young person is already giving his or her best, what else do you expect? One day, you will either drive him up the wall or out of the house. Is that it?
To combat low self-esteem and the unhealthy habits of pegging ourselves against others, I’d recommend that we employ the power of encouragement in our daily ins and outs. Indeed, a pat on the back pushes out the chest! I’ve said it time and again, that encouragement is to put in courage, where there is none. Never underestimate and neglect the necessity of encouragement – you can really empower someone with simple words of affirmation – eloquence is not required.
I believe that young people, when they come to a certain age, are actually smart and self-aware enough to make their own decisions and be responsible for it. Like it or not, one day we will have to stop treating them like they are still children. This is for their own good as well as for ours. The least (and most) that we ought to do as adults is to give them the benefit of doubt because I believe that youths do know their personal limits and they are doing. Yes, as mature adults, we probably would have experienced more than they have; and so our job is to warn them of the consequences of their decisions and to encourage them to be responsible for it. Look, we must know that we cannot protect them for life and shield them away from making big decisions. This is harsh, but we’ll be crippling them, really. Nothing is more powerful than telling a young person that you believe in him or her and actually following up your words with actions.
(On a side note, it is unfortunate that Singaporean guys pick up negative habits like acting ignorant, avoiding responsibilities and not taking ownership of themselves during their national service days. If a guy decides to adopt that attitude while in uniform, he wouldn’t just throw away two years but may actually cause more damage to himself as he unlearns the good habits honed during his teenage years prior enlistment. No wonder the girls are so outstanding nowadays. I genuinely hope that our boys would stand up and be counted like real men. But I digress…)
We should give our youths the opportunity to learn from their own decisions – both good and bad ones; when they knock into walls, they will be convinced of their folly and will make their own comebacks. Trust me on this – they will regret their decisions more than we ever think they will. I remember saying this before, that while we cannot stop someone from falling, we certainly can stop them from crashing.
I’m unapologetic for my repetition, but all we really should do as older individuals, is to believe in and encourage the younger ones. Already our society is telling them what they cannot do instead of what they can do – what an oppressing environment to dwell and develop in! Don’t add on to their existing pressure! Don’t do to them what everyone else is doing to them. If we love them, then we ought to tell them that they can and will make it, not how they cannot and would never get there – what good do these damaging words do, really? We need to learn to trust that they can make decisions and take ownership of their choices; there is greater value there than curtailing their liberty.
I’m not being a renegade or encouraging any young person to rebel – I’m merely sharing my honest opinion of why I think that our young people are more stifled these days than they ever are. We ought to help them to become complete and mature individuals, not hack them into pieces with our destructive words. Don’t be surprised at how outstanding our young people can become. I think they only need two ingredients – 1) time, and 2) someone to believe in them. Would we dispense these freely?
So from the bottom of my heart – hear me, please – let our young people live their lives, not relive yours. Let them chart their paths, not walk yours. Let’s guide them, not dictate them. The best form of encouragement is when it’s loud and repeated. May your face appear in their heads whenever they think about someone who believes in them and may your voice resonate in their hearts as the one who says, “I believe in you”. That, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is the greatest gift you’d ever give to them.
top ten reasons why i’m thankful i’m a guy.
The time has come for the weekly top ten. It’s somewhat enjoyable and a challenge to write within ten points because it coerces me to concise my ideas as well as to surface the first decathlon of my thoughts; sometimes I have an abundance and other times, insufficient. With homosexuality becoming increasingly rampant (and the scary thing to me is, it’s also becoming increasingly acceptable) in our society, I’d like to write about why I’m thankful to be a guy, in the conventional context of what a guy is designed to be. I don’t know another more politically correct manner to phrase that sentence.
I’ve deliberately decided to keep this list fun and politically indifferent but the harsher radicals would find the controversial overtones in-between my lines; radicals always do anyway when their senses are heightened and acutely sensitive to their forte topics. So here it goes, as light-hearted as I can be, the top ten reasons why I’m thankful I’m a guy.
1. I spend lesser money on clothing and accessories simply because I have lesser parts to cover. And for those parts that require coverage, it’s a fuss-free affair. Walking into a ladies’ shop is an overwhelming experience; I haven’t the faintest clue how girls just know what to purchase in the plethora of choices. I’m inclined to believe that the material world was created for the ladies and would collapse in their absence. I mean, just undergarments alone, my choices are limited to only boxers or briefs (thank goodness!), of which both serve the same purpose, and cost a lot lesser than bras, panties and lingeries! And I haven’t even gotten started on make-up! *phew*
2. I am physically stronger and naturally more athletic. Of course, I do not compare myself to a professional woman athlete. Having physical advantages is blessing that men should not take for granted – that we can run faster and last longer than the average lady, as well as to carry more weight and endure more bodily hardship than most ladies. However, while I believe that guys have better endurance, girls’ threshold for suffering is without a doubt higher than their counterparts.
3. I get to pee standing up. There is no question about this benefit for I think it’s something that girls may even desire! This means that I can answer nature’s call anytime and anywhere. And just for the record, I don’t really have to bother about the cleanliness of the lavatory as no part of my pelvic area would ever need to come into contact with a urine-stained toilet seat! I’m sure, however, that some girls do possess this skill of vertically taking a leak…
4. I can’t get pregnant or experience the pain of childbearing. This characteristic is definitive of being a woman. In fact, I know a lady who medically cannot give birth and hence is sad that in her lifetime she won’t be able to undergo this defining experience. The only ones who can experience (the pain and joy of) childbirth are women who are born women; this sets them apart from men forever. Hence, men must truly appreciate wives and mothers for they can never, ever emphathise with this aspect of a woman’s life.
5. I am rational and have better control over my emotions. Now, there are rational ladies and emotional men and there’s nothing wrong with either. I’m just personally thankful that I’m built this way because it has enhanced my ability to make decisions as well as to have a pragmatic approach towards most things in life.
6. I live in a patriarchal world. Like it or hate it, this world has always be created to favour men. I won’t go into too much detail and as much as I’m all for equality, I believe that there’s order only when the equality apportioned to women is determined and deemed allowable by men. Oh, what a contentious statement. Peace, peace, peace.
7. I determine the gender of my child(ren). In olden days dramatised by TV serials, the paternal mother-in-law always makes life a living hell for the daughter-in-law who fails to deliver an heir to the family line. Of course, we are better advised these days and know that the determining factor of a child’s gender belongs to the X chromosome that only men have. Maybe that’s why children continue their father’s family name?
8. I am the biblical leader of my marriage. I genuinely believe that most ladies, even the most independent, intimidating and outstanding ones, in the inner-most recesses of their heart, long for their man to be established as the leader of their relationship and would gladly relinquish and empower them to exercise it. I don’t have the statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised that one main reason for a dysfunctional or broken family is the man’s failure to command leadership in the household.
9. I have the privilege of influencing and raising young men. While mature women can mentor young men, there’s just something that they cannot impart simply because they are not men (and vice-versa). Young men look for role models to follow after; I had my hero figures when I was younger and I still have them now. A lack of a dominant alpha-male (pardon my lack of a better way to phrase it) is sorrowfully missing in our society and it is especially prevalent in the church, where ladies are generally more active, fervent and prolific in serving the Lord. It’s not a bad thing but it’s time for the men to rise up in (my) church! I want to play my part in reversing the alpha-female culture in my youth group.
10. And last but certainly not least, I’ve saved it for the end… I get to fall in love with girls! This has to be one of the best things about being a guy (if not the best) – for you appreciate what you don’t have and who you will never become. Opposites certainly attract, but beware, for sometimes differences complement and sometimes they conflict! As much as I am thankful to be a man, I know I can’t live without a woman. Either way, I’m thankful that my lifelong companion is a lady.
Have I missed out on any other reasons? Do you disagree with any of the above? Let me hear your opinions!
would you let go of me?
It was my turn to “teach” a lesson from EC’s outstanding handbook, “Mentoring Paradigms”. (Now, I actually don’t quite understand how I was supposed to teach a lesson that is supposed to be self-taught by simply reading the book and reflecting so) I took the liberty to teach outside of the book; after all, the book is supposed to be self-explanatory and the leaders present at the meeting are old enough to digest the wisdom for themselves.
The gist of the paradigm that I taught was on God’s efficacy. (The book is on my office desk, so I’ll update this post again and list the key lessons I’ve learnt from EC’s teaching.) And so I brought everyone’s attention to the three parables placed one after the other in the Gospel of Luke – The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. I thought it was appropriate for the leaders to see for themselves God’s efficacy at work in a dynamic manner in these three examples. In my reflection, I think it’s common to hear that nothing is wasted in the economy of God; I’d turn that around and say that in God’s economy, there’s no such thing as nothing!
Observe, for the lost sheep, one in a hundred went missing; for the lost coin, one in ten went missing; and for the lost son, one in two went missing – the stakes are upped dramatically. Observe again, the shepherd left ninety-nine and went out to search for that lost sheep; the owner (went in and) turned his house upside-down to search for that lost coin; and the father could do absolutely nothing when he lost his son. Actually, to better phrase it, it was his son that decided to lose him.
Now, from this juxtaposition, I’ve learnt that the closer the missing subject (a person, usually) is to you, the lesser you can do about it should he or she decide to leave you. There are some people you go out to hunt for, some you turn your ransack your house for, and for some, you are simply powerless to do anything about it – and yes, it is extremely heartbreaking because you can almost see their outcome.
Around three years ago, I experienced that with my beloved sister. I remember the two-hour conversation in the car. It was then that I had to let go of her as my younger sister so that she can become her own woman. Letting go of a younger sibling that you protect is a lot more difficult than letting go of a young person that you shepherd. Without getting into details, I basically realised that I couldn’t and shouldn’t protect her in the same manner anymore, for she was old, mature and experienced enough to make her own decisions, and be responsible for them. (Sometimes, I wonder if it’s painful because I am relinquishing my status in her life – I don’t ever want to be a redundant elder brother.)
I had to learn to trust God for her eventual outcome and while it’s painful for me to let go of my sister because I love her so much, I must remember that God loves her so much more than I do and so surely He will look after her well-being better than I ever can. Hence, I shall have no fear for my Lord is in control of my sister. Either way, God has a plan for her and already knows what He is doing with her, way ahead of me. At the end of the day, I’m actually left with no choice, but learn not just to trust her, but to trust Him, whom I’m entrusting her to.
On that note, I believe that parents put so many restrictions on their children in this generation not because they don’t trust them, but because they don’t trust themselves – they are not confident of their own upbringing of their kids. I’m not yet a father so I write this callously, but I’d like to believe that when it’s time for my children to make their own decisions and account for themselves, I will deliberately and gladly let go of them, so that they can grow in an exponential manner apart from me. I will do this partly because I trust them, but mainly because I trust the good way that I would have brought them up. I guess I’d only be able to put my money where my mouth is when my children reach that age of reckoning.
On a side, random and personal note, I am absolutely and unashamedly confident that I will make an imperiously outstanding father. And just like in RD’s “Danny The Champion of The World”, I will become that father with the sparkle in his eye. Perhaps the absence of it makes me pine for fatherhood so much more, but somehow, I have this unquenchable, untamable conviction that of the many things that I will excel in in life, fatherhood is one that I am most certain of because it is something closest to my heart.
I have no idea how this evolved into a piece on parenting but I’m glad anyway.
obedience vs sacrifice.
If you had overheard the candid conversation I had with God prior to me coming into Full Time ministry…
Me: So, I really want to obey You and go full time, instead of sacrificing, because I know you desire obedience over sacrifice.
God: What are you sacrificing?
M: I don’t know… I guess you know, like the great amounts of money that I’ll be earning, the wonderful high positions that I’ll be holding, that beautiful house that I’ll be residing in, those fantastic annual holidays that I’ll be bringing my family on… You know… All these things… Well, but I love You and I just want to obey You instead of thinking about these things that I’m going to sacrifice.
G: Have all these things happened yet?
M: [stunned] Oh, erm, well, no… But it probably will, right?
G: But it hasn’t, right?
M: [resigned] Yeah…
G: Then they are not sacrifices. : )
M: [speechless] … -_-
All right, some bits were dramatised but essentially that really happened. I guess I’ll never know how life would be like in the ministry or in the marketplace so instead of speculating all the what-ifs, I should just focus on today and perhaps ask God for a preview of tomorrow.
I truly believe that I do not have to take the paths that others have walked on. My journey of faith is mine alone and may it be an adventure for me as well as for directly affected by my decisions.