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Faith

Are you serving on empty?

by Darius Leow | 28 July 2017, 10:50 PM

“There are so many things to do,” Martha remarks.

Guest is here, but our home’s messy.

Guest is here, but table’s empty.

Guest is here, but Mary’s lazing.

She’s hosting Jesus today, and she’s already feeling flustered and forgotten. Distressed and distracted.

In recent weeks, through my quiet time and conversations, the familiar account of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42) has strongly resurfaced in my mind.

The verses resonated within me because I was feeling like Martha: flustered and forgotten. I was distressed and distracted.

As I took the effort to learn how to quietly sit by His feet once more, I heard God telling me this: don’t let your doing affect your being.

TO BE OR TO DO

Unlike Mary, I struggled increasingly to come to my Saviour’s feet and simply be His child. My heart was flustered and distracted. Like Martha, I was preoccupied with many things – fixated on the doing of things.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing or with deeds. It was only appropriate for Martha to be a responsible host, especially since she had invited Jesus to her home (Luke 10:38).

But if the doing supersedes the being, then like Martha, we may end up hearing hear God say: “My child, you are anxious and troubled about many things.”

Service – or serving – is of far less importance compared to spending time with Him.

To be clear, Jesus was not implying service in itself is bad when He said this (Luke 10:41). His counsel to Martha was that service – or serving – is of far less importance compared to spending time with Him.

Service is important. But it counts for nothing without first being a faithful child of God.

We should all be like Mary, who prioritised an authentic and intimate relationship with Him over doing works. (James 2:14-26).

Faith without deeds is dangerous for our souls. But deeds without faith – that’s mere altruism.

THE BETTER THING

Perhaps you’re also in a season where doors are opening. You may find yourself with the opportunities to do many good things for Christ.

But in doing so, we can’t forget the better thing – deep intimacy with our Saviour. Let being supersede doing. Come to His feet, before serving at the table. Pursuit over performance.

Spend time with Him before spending time with His people. Love Him first before loving His people. We are to channel His love – not merely our own.

When we walk this life at the pace of our Father’s heart, we will know how to be still and rest before God like Mary. Serving hands must be complemented by a rested heart.

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Heart of hearing

by Pastor Lim Lip Yong, Cornerstone Community Church | 13 July 2018, 4:45 PM

Over the last couple of weeks, there were several things that deeply concerned me about God’s people. These are not new problems, but somehow, I sense the Holy Spirit placing an urgent emphasis on them.

The first concern is about our ability to hear from the Lord. As a pastor, my job is not to be an intermediary between God and His people. My office as part of the five-fold ministry is to train the saints and equip them, and that includes training believers to hear from the Lord for themselves.

Unlike traditional concepts of priesthood, where the priest or spiritual leader is the channel of communication between the people and God, Christianity does not hold to such a concept. God’s will is that all His people are able to hear from Him. His desire is that all should prophesy.

Yet one of the urgent needs in the Body of Christ is for God’s people to learn to hear from Him accurately and consistently. This does not happen overnight. Instead it requires for us to pursue His voice in a disciplined manner. Let me suggest a few things that we can do.

3 HANDLES TO HEAR GOD 

1. Read the Bible regularly

I’m a strong believer of the fact that God speaks to us primarily from His Word – the Bible. In my own personal life, this holds true. By this, I don’t mean that we should randomly open the Bible and hope for a suitable Scripture for our circumstances. Instead, as we read the Bible consistently and through a systematic reading plan, we’ll find the Lord speaking to us.

It’s uncanny how your daily reading will often coincide with something you’re asking the Lord about.

… pursue His voice in a disciplined manner.

2. Make room for God to speak

All too often, we want the Lord to speak to us, but we don’t make room for it. Say for example, we’ve an important decision to make. We all want to hear from God, but all too often, we make those decisions without taking time to hear from Him.

We often place a short time limit for God to speak and if He doesn’t speak by then, we’d make our own decisions. I want to strongly encourage us not to do that.

Most important decisions in our lives are not rushed. Decisions on a home purchase, marriage, relocation to a different country – these are all decisions that will greatly impact our lives. These are decisions also that we should take time to wait on the Lord until He speaks.

It’s uncanny how your daily reading will often coincide with something you’re asking the Lord about.

3. Be still

One of the most important keys for hearing from the Lord is to quieten ourselves to hear His still, small voice. Too often, our minds and surroundings are filled with too much noise for us to hear from the Lord. Since we’re listening for a still, small voice, we need to lean in and be silent so that we can catch what’s being said.

I suggest waking up early before the needs of the day press in on us. Alternatively, do it at night when everyone else is asleep. The instructions from the Lord is to find a secret place.

The second concern I have for God’s people is the issue of offences and bitterness.

Bitterness comes as a result of offences that are not dealt with in our hearts towards people. I don’t know how I can emphasise this in the strongest manner possible except to compare it with the most aggressive type of malignant cancer.

Bitterness absolutely destroys us. It results in terrible barrenness in our lives and is highly infectious. It’s a spiritual disease that the infected person often will not realise they’ve contracted. It clouds our perspective, impairs our judgement and fills us with negativity. In our own eyes, we’re the victims.

In our own eyes, we’re the victims.

How then do we deal with bitterness? The key lies in looking at the Cross.

A deep and full appreciation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross makes it clear that Jesus alone is the victim. The most horrid injustice was done to Him. All the penalty of sin was placed on Him. Despite all that, Jesus forgave and gave His life willingly as a ransom for us – the ones who crucified Him by our sins.

You see, the Children of Israel came to Marah and found bitter waters. Moses was instructed to cast a tree (the symbol of the Cross) into the waters and the bitter waters became sweet. Can the most bitter experiences of our lives actually be transformed into the sweetest moments of victory? Yes, indeed.

There’s grace sufficient for us to overcome every offence and every bitter experience. I pray that we’ll take a serious examination of our own hearts on these matters.


This article was first published on Cornerstone Community Church’s blog, and is republished with permission.

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In the face of persecution

by Zeke Gao, Deacon of YCK Chapel | 13 July 2018, 4:16 PM

“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Around the world, many Christians are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially the case for those living under severe religious restrictions experienced by nearly three-quarters of the world’s population. Just think about the May 13 suicide-bomb attacks on three churches in Surabaya which killed 15 people and wounded another 57.

Living in Singapore, it is often easy to forget what religious persecution really looks like, or take for granted the harsh realities faced by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. However, studies by Open Doors USA revealed that the persecution of Christians is higher today than at other points in history.

Each month approximately 66 churches are attacked, 225 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, and 160 Christians detained and imprisoned without trial. The persecution of Christians will likely remain a permanent feature of humanity until Christ comes again.

… if we truly desire to live a godly life and follow Christ, then persecution is to be expected …

Even at home, you may face persecution as a result of your declaration of faith. At school, at work, or even among your friends, your faith may be challenged. Those who like you may begin to have second thoughts about you, or see you in a negative light because you believe in Jesus.

How then should we respond to Christian persecution? Here are three ways to prepare and respond to persecution.

3 POINTS IN RESPONDING TO PERSECUTION

1. Expect it

Jesus and Paul warned that if we truly desire to live a godly life and follow Christ, then persecution is to be expected (John 15:20, 2 Timothy 3:12).

This is because we do not belong to the world but to Christ, and it is that very separation from the world that arouses its animosity. This trial of faith develops endurance, maturity and strengthens the character of believers (James 1:2-4) to make an impact for the Lord. So it is no wonder that the spread of the gospel often flourishes in the face of persecution (Acts 1:8, Acts 8:1).

Hence, when persecution comes our way, we should not be surprised. Instead ask the Lord for the courage to face it, and seek His purposes and wisdom for your specific circumstances. This way, acting on what the Lord impresses upon you will enable His truth and love to be communicated to others even in the most dire of situations.

… we do not belong to the world but to Christ, and it is that very separation from the world that arouses its animosity.

2. Lend support

Persecution also provides a direct opportunity for us to show appreciation, support and brotherly love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ both at home and abroad, in ways which we may not have otherwise known.

Amidst the hardship that our brothers and sisters face, we should resolve to comfort them and lift them before His throne in prayer. We can also take the initiative to partner with various missions organisations to take action where it matters most, or lend other means of support like financial or material resources.

3. Pray and press on

Finally, we can thank the Lord for those we love, and stand with them in their times of distress. Thank Him for His grace and patience with each of us, and ask for the courage to press on even in the face of persecution. We can also pray for those who would accuse or abuse us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).

As you read this, would you take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters in Surabaya? Let us never grow cold or indifferent towards the persecution of Christians that is intensifying around the world.


This article was first published on YCK Chapel’s website, and is republished with permission.

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Lessons on discipleship from a little dog

by | 12 July 2018, 11:47 AM

Over a recent public holiday, I hung out with a few good friends at one of our homes. There, I met my friend’s new dog, Taurus, an adorable mongrel who’s painfully shy.

As we spent some time trying to connect to him — which was proving rather difficult — my friend said something in particular that really made me think: Raising a dog is really like discipleship.

MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE

I’m a tall man, so for one reason or another, Taurus was afraid of me. He would skitter past me whenever I walked near, and when I stood up in the living room he would not want to come out of his little indoor kennel.

My friend speculated that maybe while Taurus was a stray, a tall man once kicked him. She also mentioned that he’s a year old – so in dog years, he’s pretty much an angsty teenager.

After I made a few jokes about Taurus being cooped up in his room writing poems, I knelt down to Taurus’ level. And he immediately came out of his hole to eat out of my hand. I had brought myself down to his level, and engaged him with something he was interested in — kibble!

“To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” (1 Corinthians 9:20)

It’s not that far a stretch to say that the real-life equivalent would be to initially engage a disciple on their terms, based on what they’re interested in. Baby steps before bigger ones. Just as my friend knew Taurus’ condition well, we also should know our flocks’ condition in caring for them (Proverbs 27:23).

MANAGE THE ATMOSPHERE

“Sometimes when I come back from work, I’ll run around the house and let him chase me, repeatedly yelling his name to get him excited.

“He’s only as excited as you are.”

That was what my friend told us about training and spending time with Taurus. Well, I tried that for a little bit before Taurus began growling at me — so maybe a bit more of Step One first!

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)

If you lead a cell group, or mentor someone, you’ll know that the temptation is to fall into a routine. Eventually you’re just performing a role, and that’s really dangerous. Leaders are responsible for the holistic atmosphere of the group, similar to how mentors are in charge of shaping how interactions play out each time they meet a mentee.

So will it be an “Oh, hi” kind of thing, or will we actually show up excited to teach our kids new tricks? And even as I was thinking about this, my girlfriend, who was playing with Taurus, said to me: “It’s caught, not taught.”

LOVE IS TENDER AND TOUGH

My girlfriend was having a lot of success with Taurus getting him to go through some of the tricks he’d already been taught. Armed with a handful of kibble, she would speak him to sternly, but reward him at the end of it.

I, on the other hand, was really only good at the rewarding part. I couldn’t bear to be firm with the little guy and I would just reward him regardless. So it came as little surprise when he didn’t really listen to me.

One truth that was reaffirmed for me was this: Discipleship that is “soft” love and sayang all the way will get you nowhere fast. There is definitely a time and space for soft love, but if you spend all your time listening — never speaking life into the person’s life — the person will stagnate. And that failure would be on us as leaders (James 3:1).

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” (1 Thess 2:7b-8)

As we left my friend’s place, we said goodbye to her and Taurus from behind the windows of the bus. When I saw how patient, kind and affectionate she was with Taurus, it really drove one simple truth home.

It starts with love.

Without love, all these things we know about discipleship are just processes or tips. Without love, there’s no point. In the first week that my friend got Taurus, one of the sweet (or morbid) thoughts that she had was of how Taurus would die in about 15 years. I think that the brevity of life has a way of making our love swell for our neighbour when we contemplate it in a healthy way.

Think of the faces in your cell group or those of your mentees. Start with the end in mind: What if you only had a year with them? Let this urgent kind of love be the fuel for shepherding them towards God.

/ gabriel@thir.st

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.

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The mask he wore to church

by Oliver Kuek | 11 July 2018, 5:47 PM

You know what it’s like being attracted to the same sex as a Christian?

I certainly don’t. And for a long time I lived without knowing what that tension was like – that double-life of fear and shame our brothers and sisters go through. I remained blissfully unaware until a few years ago, when one of my mentees from cell group texted me saying that he needed someone to talk to.

That was nothing unusual. Jonathan* and I had been having regular meet-ups so I figured he just had something a bit more pressing to share that night. We agreed to meet at a park after cell.

Jon was unusually quiet during cell. Not like he was one of the louder ones, but that night he was observably unresponsive – withdrawn almost. And even more so when we sat down to talk after that. By then, his face had taken on the pale and anxious look of a person about to throw up.

So I said, “Hey man, it looks like this is something that you’re finding pretty difficult for you to say. So, take your time alright? Don’t worry about the time, you can share whenever you’re ready and when you want to.”

Even with that word of assurance, we continued to sit by the river in silence. Jon’s eyes were fixed downwards to his shoes the whole time. Some minutes later, he began tearing.

I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with.

“Hey. What’s wrong, Jon? You can tell me,” I said. Nervous words started to stumble out as he began sobbing: “I don’t even know how to say this.”

“I’m … Attracted to the same gender.”

Bombshell. For some stupid reason I had never thought about how to respond meaningfully in such a situation. My eyebrows might have raised for a split second before I caught myself and prayed as fast and as hard as I could. God, what do I say?

Seconds later, the words came. “Jon. Thank you … Thank you for telling me.”

I remember saying something along these lines: “That was incredibly brave of you to do, and thank you for trusting me. I can only imagine the pain you’ve been experiencing this whole time, not having anyone to share this with … Your secret is safe with me.”

Jon didn’t have any more words after I spoke. He looked so alone in the dim light which seemed almost to shroud him. I hugged him as he cried hard into my shoulder.

After Jon’s “confession”, we became closer as brothers in the faith. I know he knows I don’t judge him, but I bet he knows I’m just as clueless about this whole thing as he is. I’ve never really had to think about the perpetual tension he lives in: How the heart wants a person, and yet that same heart knows deep down it isn’t the right way forward.

And how do you live as a Christian with same-sex attraction? Unless you’re out of the closet, you basically have to put on a front and lie your way through questions about your relationship status, or just be single and celibate and hope no one asks too many questions.

How tiring it must be to live with these masks. And I believe there are ways we can do better in caring for brothers and sisters like Jon.

Why have I written this? I guess I want to say to the Christian who’s struggling with same-sex attraction, that I probably understand only a fraction of what you live through on a daily basis. From the strained hope of long having asked for this cup to be taken from you, to the not knowing of why God made you with these attractions – I can only imagine what it’s like being in your shoes.

To see how you have not been faithless in striving towards the godliness and self-restraint God has called all of us to compels me in my own journey. And if I’ve acted out of ignorance or entitlement, forgive me. I am not better than you. We all come from the same fallenness. As such we are all offered the same grace.

How then can we offer each other this same grace as Jesus Christ offers us, whether the struggle be same-sex attraction, anger management, addiction, pride, body image, illness, grief or loving others not like ourselves?

In my view, we can always do better as a Church, one body of Jesus Christ. We are one family, and if we love the family as much as we say we do we have to stand together, with each other; nobody gets left behind.

There is a Jon in every Church – possibly even in every cell-group. I think it’s not so much about how we can change him, but how we can bring each other closer to Christ.


Names have been changed for confidentiality.

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Would you give up what you love most?

by Darius Leow | 11 July 2018, 1:12 PM

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of surrendering. I like to be in control, I like to call the shots, I like to plan and chart my future. I would rather hide God in the unseen corner of my heart and call Him out only when I need Him to bail me out of trouble. Surrender to Him? Whatever for?

It’s almost as if God wired us to find surrender incredibly difficult to swallow – because it is – except that He didn’t. What if I told you we were made to joyfully relinquish control and allow God to lead us in holy partnership? Does that thought make you uncomfortable?

THE MOST PAINFUL REQUEST

The Greek word for surrender, paradidomi, means to give into the hands of another, and to give in to another’s power or use.

When God tested Abraham in Genesis 22, it wasn’t just a test of obedience, but one of sovereignty. Who really sat on the throne of Abraham’s heart? Would Abraham surrender to the will of God, even to the ultimate request of his beloved son’s life?

“Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.’” (Genesis 22:1-2)

From God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, to the numerous rehashing of God’s covenantal promise to make him the Father of all nations (Genesis 13:14-17, 15, 17) – surely it must have been so difficult to say yes to God, especially to this seemingly absurd request that followed it all.

I don’t know about you, but I can imagine how difficult it must have been for Abraham to relinquish control when God said, “Give me Isaac.”

“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand.

“The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous.

“It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

I believe God was teaching Abraham what it meant to find true satisfaction in Him – a satisfaction that comes from a posture of joyful, confident surrender. Whatever the cost, He wanted him to learn this lesson. And not just him, but many other faith heroes, and yes, even us today as well.

When the fig tree didn’t bud, when there weren’t any grapes on the vines, when the olive crop failed and the fields were barren, when there wasn’t any sheep in the pen and cattle in the stalls, Habakkuk declared, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

One of my favourite articles puts it this way: “When Job was still able to say, after losing everything, ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job 1:21), he declared the surpassing worth of God. God himself, not the things He could offer, is Job’s true treasure.”

When Abraham trudged towards Moriah with the firewood, ropes and knife needed for the sacrificial offering, the weight wasn’t on his back, but on his heart. I don’t know how long that journey to Moriah took, but I believe that God was changing Abraham’s heart with his every step.

Gradually we see that control was relinquished, because when Abraham reached the place of sacrifice, he laid down his baggage and told his beloved son, “The LORD will provide.” Abraham joyfully surrendered.

“God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, ‘It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.

‘I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that you fear God, seeing that thou has not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’

We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save.

Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)

Abraham and many other Bible heroes rejoiced not in their circumstances, but in God. They knew that their faith is not circumstantial, hence they could joyfully surrender to the One sovereign over circumstances.

They learnt the Kingdom equation: God + nothing = everything, and this must be the formula we follow. They could surrender because they have first found true satisfaction in God, and nothing could shake that conviction, not even the removal of their most precious possessions.

COME TO THE ALTAR

I have many “Isaacs”, things precious to me. I like to look good and dress well. I’ve put certain relationships before God. I’ve even put ministry success above God. I find security in a life driven by sound decisions and worldly possessions.

But the tighter I hold on to these lesser loves I hear God even clearer, over and over: “Give me your Isaac.”

He calls me to come to the altar with my Isaac, to learn how to joyfully surrender my great loves one by one because He knows that whatever I hold on to by my strength is never secure. It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in His hands.

Anything outside of God sovereign care and watch is in danger – in danger of being exalted above Him and becoming an avenue for tearing my heart apart because nothing lasts forever.

It’s not always intuitive, but there’s no safer place for my most precious things than in God’s hands.

He calls me to come to the altar because He knows that my heart is deceitful beyond all things (Jeremiah 17:9) and that only in His care will it be sealed and safe from unnecessary hurts and disappointments. And so the King of my heart calls me to surrender.

But this surrender isn’t and shouldn’t be a forceful one. Again, in Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving. Exchanging kingship brings joy, not despair. So every day I come to the altar, to learn what it means to find true satisfaction in Jesus, and nothing else.

Every day I learn to joyfully surrender my desires, hopes and wishes to Him: Those relationships, grades, finances, ministry fruitfulness, everything … And in doing so, I too declare, “The LORD will provide.”

My surrendered heart can find joy, satisfaction and rest in this beautiful truth, because this declaration has already found fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ.

SALVATION LIES IN SURRENDER

When God created man, He intended our relationship to be one where we joyfully submitted and surrendered to His sovereign and loving lead. We were created to follow and reflect our Maker from a posture of humble surrender, obedience and trust.

But when Adam and Eve shared a bite of the alluring forbidden fruit, what tasted exceedingly sweet quickly turned into bitter antagonism between God and man. That day, God’s idea of joyful surrender was contested by man’s selfish, wilful desires.

That day, Man essentially told God: “I want to be king, and You must surrender to my will”. You might ask, “Isn’t God strong enough to break the seal over our hardened hearts?” Of course He is, except He didn’t, because He always intended surrendering to be a joyful, free choice.

In Kingdom math, surrender is liberating, not enslaving.

He wants us to be like Abraham and Isaiah, who gladly, not grudgingly responded to Him: “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1, Isaiah 6:8)

We can only thank God that our story didn’t end there. For that same day, God promised a conquering King who would one day surrender the privileges of heaven just to be with us. He did that to break the serpent’s curse and help men find their way back to their Maker.

The journey to regain the rightful throne of men’s hearts began that day, and true satisfaction and joy is promised to those who gladly surrender to the One who created all things.

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Are you serving on empty?

Heart of hearing

In the face of persecution

Lessons on discipleship from a little dog

The mask he wore to church

Would you give up what you love most?