I have never been so on fire for God as I am now and the difference between this fire and the earlier ones is that it is fueled by His Word and fed by His presence. This is the first holiday that I’m not the last one to wake up, but actually the first – simply because I desired so badly (when I went to bed the night before) to spend time with the Lord in the morning. I have so many insights from the Lord that each journal entry could fill out a week of blog posts! Well, while I continue to discover and apply the truth, and reap its benefits before passing it on to you, I’d like to share the five key thoughts that the Lord has directed me to for this week.
The depth of my life is determined by how I do His commandments and depart from evil.
The divine cycle of glory is as such – God made all things to display His glory, only to put it under the dominion of Jesus; God’s creation celebrates the centrality of Christ!
Jesus came to redeem and restore us to the original requirements of intimate fellowship with God.
When we imitate Christ, we initiate salvation to the unbelievers.
We can imitate Christ for His proven example helps us to overcome sin and temptation.
I doubt that I would (or even should) do this every week but I think it’s a good way for me to commemorate my commencement of the weekly devotional system that EC shared briefly in IDMC 2010. I truly have gleaned so much insight from God simply by delighting in, devoting to and being disciplined by and to the Word! I spent the weekend reflecting on what I’ve learnt through the week and here’s exactly what I’ve written in my journal.
The imitation of Christ (into His likeness) is both foundational (of our faith) and transformational (of our fruits); the deeper you grow – the further you go, the wider you spread, the higher you soar!
God – WOW. You blew my mind this week. I can’t wait to spend time with You in a few hours when I wake up! Thank You for Your grace to help me to love You more than ever, and in such a new-found deeper manner! You were indeed the highlight of my weekend getaway in Batam. And thank You for reminding me of Your glorious presence – through one of the most amazing sunrises I’ve witnessed. I love You, Jesus, deep down in my heart!
Watching young people turn over a new leaf never gets old – it’s always a joy to see youths rededicate their lives to Jesus or give their hearts to Jesus for the first time. If we on earth rejoice greatly at a conversion, imagine the ruckus in the heavenlies! Hence I’ve always considered it an immense honour and privilege for me to gain access into a young person’s life, when he or she honestly share his or her problems with me in vulnerability, in hopes that I’d be able to dispense an ounce of godly counsel. It’s actually exciting when I come to think about it, because I know that a transformation is at hand! I could practically hold their faces in my hands, look them in the eye and tell them, from the bottom of my heart, to hang on for they are this close to a breakthrough and a change.
In my observations, I reckon that two conditions must be in place before a person can change (for the better). I speak, of course, in the context of a Christian.
First and foremost, and most crucially, they must have a genuine encounter with the Lord; this is where my life verse, John 15:5, comes alive:
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Christians must realise that they cannot make it on their own – they must have the grace of God for it empowers us to do what the truth demands. I’ve said this time and again – a lot of Christians try to sort themselves out first, in a bid to clean themselves up, before going to Jesus; don’t put on this unbiblical mindset! On the contrary, we actually need Christ to sort us out first – He is the only one who can make us pure, blameless and presentable before God. The sooner we realise we cannot do it on our own, the sooner we’ll stop depending on ourselves to make it. Therefore, unless a person is rooted and connected in Christ, no inspirational leader or wise mentor would be able to change him for good. This person will at best make temporary changes – out of fear or respect for the person who’s guiding him – but will struggle to keep the change because he’s not fully submitted to the Lordship of Christ. After all, if He’s not Lord of all, He’s not Lord at all.
Secondly, they must be surrounded by a group of people who love and want the best for them. There’s lots of scripture that stress its importance – here are two:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness… (Galatians 6:1a)
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25)
Christians must realise that they cannot make it by themselves. These are the people who will not hesitate to tell you the truth that hurts, rather than the lie that kills; these are your Christian brothers and sisters – those who are in your cell group and ministries – who, I hope, will go out of their way to point out your blind spots; these bona-fide friends aren’t afraid to become unpopular with you or afraid they might, out of their own insecurity, lose their friendship with you; these are the friends – the best-in-your-face-til-the-end-friends – whom you must keep, for they are God-sent people.
At the end of the day, you must not, for even one second, think that you can make it on your own or make it by yourself – get the distinction? You need someone far greater (than you are) working inside you to initiate the change, and you need to surround yourself with loving people who are working around you to insist (or maintain) the change. And yes, it works both ways. In this manner, you will realise that when change does takes place, you will receive none of the credit – which then keeps you humble, for you know that it was purely by the grace of God that saw you through. And you know what? God will then get all the glory for He truly deserves it. (And you and I will get none. YEAH!)
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.
I’m blogging from my mobile phone so posts will be short and sweet. I’ll do the tagging and categorising when I’m back in Singapore. These are what I took home from day one at the Grace Retreat 2010.
- There’s a need to be a man of the Word but it’s also important to be a man of the Spirit because the Spirit gives birth to the truth of the Word.
- I can pastor people but I can’t do their ministry. (I’ve actually written an entire entry on this but I guess I’ll wait until after Retreat to elaborate on it.)
- In Matthew 11:28, it’s almost as if Jesus was saying, “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart”. I thought that was a nice word play with nuances of truth.
- Going out of wine was the most disastrous scenario for Jewish customs; this was paralleled to being “weary”. Will read up more before I nod in agreement.
- When the enemy can’t take your heart, he’ll take your vision. That’s why it’s important that you always have vision – one of the most common and significant miracles Jesus did was to heal the blind, so they they could see the plans of God; a good analogy, but a little presumptuous, nonetheless, I’ll give benefit of doubt.
That aside, God has been speaking to my heart about certain issues I’ve been struggling with pertaining to ministry. I will continue to struggle with the Lord on these matters.
Lord, may You reveal things to me that would change my life. I love You and I need you to touch me fresh and anew. I cannot run on empty and I need Your grace in my life to help me operate and advance. Spirit, don’t pass me by…
The highlight of this long and tiring day would be the feet-washing session that took place in the early evening. I didn’t expect myself to respond so emotionally to an event that I had initially approached in a casual manner. I will only publish what I’ve written for the last hour when it’s ready – a tardy article does not do justice to a moment in my life as poignant as this, and more specifically between PL and I – I was truly humbled today.
So as the clock reveals 1:30am, and when I have little else to write about or expand, I have decided to reuse and republish old material. I hope I need not do this too often, because my writing style has evolved over the years and the only incentive that I get from reading a former entry is to see my progress and growth as a writer and thinker.
*** This following was inked on 19th March 2006. ***
I’ve always pondered on what good is. Can anyone define good or goodness? No, it is cognitively impossible because our yardstick of good has been marred by imperfection and by the sin that exists in our flesh. Therefore, I come to the conclusion that the only way to define good is by way of God – only God is good – and everything else that is not of God is not good. Ponder upon that and you may realise the truth beneath it.
The absence of good permits the presence of evil. When creation took place, everything was good until God allowed the serpent, and subsequently Man, to contaminate the world, thereby allowing sin to make its debut, under the permissive boundaries of God. I opine that God allowed this to happen for He could have simply prevented Satan from doing so. At least that’s how I perceive it.
This dichotomy of good and evil can only bring to light one issue – that God has bestowed Man with choice. If I were to paraphrase Genesis 2:16-17, it’d read something like, “Adam, your destiny is in your hands”. Now, God allows evil to still exist because He is in absolute control of the situation. A lot of people have this terrible misconception that Satan rules hell. No! God rules it and hell was created for Satan to reside in it. Eventually, Satan, his fallen angels and all the unsaved souls will perish in the eternal flame!
Therefore, with opposing forces aggressively working against each other, the struggle between good and evil becomes a perpetual and daily battle for Man until he leaves his body (i.e. he physically dies). There is evil in this world because of Man(‘s choice), but the redeeming love of God draws Man back to Him; the death and resurrection power of Jesus Christ actually makes redemption a reality and gives Man access to God once again.
God will remove evil eventually – that’s for sure – and He will do a perfect job. He even created six different hells for sin (and evil) and its partakers. I shall trust God and do what I humanly can in the spiritual realm (irony alert), by the grace of God, to find my way to heaven. There is a difference – finding your way to heaven and getting out of hell.
So, like darkness is the absence of light and cold is the absence of heat, allow me once again reiterate that evil is the absence of good, or in this case, God, since only God is good. In conclusion, God the Creator is good, and He will remove evil ultimately, but perhaps not now, for He permits it to exist in this world for His own reason.
It is with gratitude to God that I am able to declare that my G2 Shepherds cell group is growing in quantity, quality and cohesiveness. I am thankful for the new additions (KJ and BL), the ones who joined us halfway (KY and YX) and the ones who have stuck with me from the beginning (HY, JC, MF, MW, EL). Tonight we’ve completed our two-part inductive bible study on Hebrews 4:12 (theme verse for “Pierce”); it was essential that all of in the organising committee understand this powerful verse at the back of our hand, so that our basis for planning is one and the same.
I enjoyed teaching them as much as they enjoyed receiving from the Word – I’m reveling in developing my gifts of writing, teaching and preaching. Bottom line is, I enjoy communication and it’s a boon that the medium which I’m promulgating is God’s word. We’ve gone into a fair bit of details through our study and one may need to be in the cell to fully understand the following summary. Nonetheless, here are the seven truths (in context of the Word of God) that I’ve left with them in my conclusion of this short, one-verse series:
- Our lives are changed when the Holy Spirit uses the scripture (which we first must have hidden in our hearts) to reveal specific truths to us.
- One biblical truth is infinitely better than countless worldly wisdom: revolution trumps inspiration and permanent trumps temporary.
- In spiritual warfare, Satan’s weapons do not stand a chance against the only offensive piece in God’s armour, which is the sword of the Spirit.
- God is the master markman and expert archer who never misses the target with His arrows of truth: for every occasion, everyone, and always relevant.
- If our life was an assessment book, then the Bible is the answer sheet hidden in the back pages: turn to it periodically for personal evaluation.
- The Word of God doesn’t just last forever; it never fades in brilliance too: think stars, matchsticks and torchlights that diminish with time.
- You criticise the Word because the Word criticises you: do not shun correction for judgment is a neutral word that merely determines outcome.
After youth service today, I found myself presented with the opportunity to share the Gospel with two pre-believers, in the presence of two other R-AGE youths who are believers. It wasn’t these guests’ first time in our service, so I was a little surprised that no one has taken the effort to formally share the Gospel with them. I enjoyed the 45-minute conversation with these youths because it has been a while since I presented the Gospel in such an informal manner; it was refreshing to remind myself of my own salvation.
As I shared, the Spirit started to bring back to memory on exactly how to do it in a systematic manner. The sequence, scriptures, truths and probing questions all arrived at the right time. I was a little rusty but I thought I managed to deliver the message clearly while interweaving my own testimony into it as well as involving the two christian youths to share as well as inviting the pre-believers to ask questions. Interestingly enough, on my way home after sending HY back, JP’s sermon on Romans 1:16 was the first track on my shuffled playlist.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
In the very short message, JP compared the shame of the 60’s against the shame of the 90’s. In the 60’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing the Gospel to be the truth. In the 90’s, a believer would be ridiculed for believing that there’s even a truth. Isn’t that postmodernism in a nutshell? I realised that youths today are a lot less receptive to the truth (regardless of whether it’s biblical truth or moral truth), and would much prefer to define it for themselves, according to their terms and what works best for them. No wonder we have more and more free-thinkers and pseudo-intellectuals thinking that they know everything. (I don’t even dare to say I know anything, hence my personal pursuit of knowledge and prayer for wisdom.)
I’d like to think that believers these days, as many are second-generation Christians, are becoming slack in their knowledge of the Word, hence they are unable to put up a defense for their own faith. I’m not talking about big-time apologetics; I’m talking about the simple justification of why they are even a Christian to begin with. Faith is never a hand-me-down commodity. It has been well-documented and preached by many pastors that “God has no grandchildren”. I firmly opine that one must own and be responsible for their own faith!
Faith is becoming a poisonous element to skeptics. It is precisely due to the subject of faith, their lack of and non-subscription to it which prompted their skepticism. No wonder the Word declared it clearly in Hebrews 11:6, as if it preempted postmodernism, that, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” I’d like to think that one reward of having faith in God is that we have the peace of God that reigns in our hearts forever, in the face of skepticism and postmodernism, rendering our faith to be unshakeable (by God’s grace).
In future posts perhaps, I’ll share my other thoughts on my faith issues. But for now, I’d like to exhort all serious Christians (who naturally should be compelled to be passionate about evangelism) to be prepared to present the Gospel and their testimonies at any given time, for any given occasion, simply by ensuring that they have:
- Memorised the necessary scriptures for sharing (John 3:16, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9 etc.)
- Practised the chronological sequence of themes (Creation, Judgment, Sin, Redemption etc.)
- Written and rehearsed their own testimonies of how they came to know the Lord or how the Lord has been real to them
- Familiarised themselves with frequency asked questions about the Christian faith
May I also encourage you to engage the Holy Spirit and rely on Him to direct the session and to do the convicting; this is crucial because we must remember that our duty is evanglism, not salvation – we leave that to Jesus. In closing, note that these above four factors are in past tense. I firmly believe that we must be in state of readiness, not preparation. Perhaps it’s time to have remedial sessions for Gospel-sharing.