Hope

27 February 2014

I was having a conversation with a friend this evening and we talked about the common questions people ask about suffering in the world.

I honestly have no complete answer to it if the question is why there is suffering in the world. I suppose we can account it to sin that permeates the fabric of the world. But suffering comes in many forms and there will not always be an answer to every form of suffering. That is probably one of the biggest reason why people still debate over the existence of God.

So my friend said, “What difference in terms of suffering then would there be if there is no God.” The answer – probably not much if one believes there is no God. ” What difference in terms of suffering then would there be if there is a God”. The answer – well there doesn’t seem to be evidence of God really making sure no one suffers – but then there is Hope that something better would come.

When every human effort has been made to change a suffering circumstance but failure is the only result then there is nothing else to hope for but a miracle. Perhaps that is why God appears to do “miracles” in the bible and miracles are seen as evidence of His existence.

But if miracles do not happen, when tragedies still strike, when nothing makes sense from suffering, then at least there is hope that God will one day redeem all that has been lost to suffering. If we are looking to know why suffering still exists despite the sincerest prayer, perhaps God is saying that He will make sense of it all one day, but in the meantime He is asking us to put our hope in Christ.

God is a God of Hope. Our spirits seek out hope in the midst of suffering and trials. It is our instinct, it is our nature to hope for better things. We are offended when we see hopelessness in the world, we feel offended that a God of Hope can allow hopelessness to exist. Sometimes though, it’s in the midst of hopelessness when God is found. It may not happen to everyone, but to those who have received hope in God, i believe they also become the hope for the hopeless. Just as those who have found faith in God, are to become faith for the faithless.

I do not know why suffering exists but i do know that i have hope in a God who says “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible”.  What i do know is that i am also called to be a hope to suffering and when i bring hope, i bring in God, because God is a God of hope.  Rather than seeing an absence of God in the midst of hopelessness i choose to see an opportunity for me to be a messenger of hope and a conduit by which the presence of God will fill the hopelessness.

Lord God, i pray that i can bring hope into the lives of the hopeless. I pray that the bringing of this hope, however small, will grow for Your Name. Let me be hopeful in all things and thereby invite Your presence into hopeless situations. Let me live out this hope in love and remember that love never fails, but always believes, always perseveres, always hopes, always protects.

 

Loving others

26 February 2014

One of my favourite and often re-called verses in the bible is in 1 Corinthians 1:13:

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

Sometimes in Christian circles there is a competition or pressure to be holier than others. We hear of awesome testimonies of faith and miracles and wonder what we are doing about our lives for God.

This verse reminds me that before i set out to do anything for God, before i plan, i must ask God to increase my love for Him and for others and to train me to focus on learning to love others through acts of service rather than loving the act of service itself.

Love is not easy to define and encompasses so many things. But in the context of this verse, i believe it can also simply mean thinking less about how good i look and feel when i do something and thinking more about the other person feels by receiving it.

There can be many things about living a Christian lifestyle which i can do more of and do better at, but the ultimate aim and goal is perhaps not to be a doer of things but a lover of people.

It’s telling me to stop and ask myself – why? Why am i doing this? I do not think it needs to be taken to the other extreme whereby i feel that i can only act when i feel loving. Sometimes we may not feel like doing something for someone, but when we do, it may be that a seed of love is planted both in our heart and the other person’s heart. Over time, i believe the seeds of love should grow. But if my acts were done for selfish ambition, i will not be sowing any seeds of love and it will not be producing fruits of love in my life. I suppose then, it’s ok not to always feel loving but still do loving things (and in fact, committing to do so may produce fruits of love over time), but it is meaningless to do “loving things” out of selfish gain or vanity.

Heavenly Father, you are the source of all love. All that is pure, holy, righteous and glorious. I ask that You will teach me the way of love and guide me in forsaking the selfishness and vanity. I ask that you help me to love the person in front of me, one at a time, to go slow and to go deeper. Let me draw my source of love from You, let Your endless love flow through my daily thoughts and into my heart every night as i sleep.

 

A kingdom that cannot be shaken

25 February 2014

Eternity is not an easy concept for me to grasp. I understand everything relative to time and based on this, eternity is just not a concept that i can really comprehend.  Yet amazingly, i am told in advance that the Kingdom of God will reign forever.

As hard as it is to imagine a place without time, it occurs to me that there is also an uneasiness about time inherent in our being. For example, we like to cling to things of the past sometimes, or we like to imagine the future, or we wish we could turn back time, or we believe ultimately that when our time is up, we continue to live on.

What if God gave us time so that we could see how temporary things are? If God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, from everlasting to everlasting – i believe God is trying to tell us that He existed in this so called eternity before time began. God created time itself. And i believe in the so-called God shaped vacuum of our hearts, our uneasiness with time and the temporary state of things, is actually pointing our spirit to yearn for something that is beyond time and eternal. It is pointing us toward a God who rules and is sovereign over time itself.

Romans 8:19-23 says this:

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”

When time finally does pass away, what is permanent will come. And what is permanent in God will be breathtaking:

“‘ ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceivedthe things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”

We know God is preparing us for a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, one that is holy and righteous, where peace abounds and love binds everything together. What excites me is also that Scripture says, not even the human mind has conceived the things God has prepared.

Lord, as I ponder about our citizenship in heaven, i am in awe of Your mystery and Your ways. I may not understand them now but i will one day. Help me make the days of my life here be lived in preparation of eternity with You and lead me in the way that is pure, true and loving. Blessed be Your Name Lord God.

In the midst of trials

24 February 2014

Whenever we are hurt by others or misunderstood, but choose to take the high road in overcoming pain and rejection with forgiveness, love and hope, we are walking the way of Christ.

Jesus was rejected by the people he came to serve and save. He was crucified by them. In many chapters of the Old Testament, the Lord demonstrates His love for Israel time and time again without fail. But each time, Israel had rejected God.

There will be days in our lives when we feel misunderstood and rejected even when we had put our best foot forward. There will be days when the good we intentioned turns around to bite us in the back. There will be days when trouble and distress does not relent. There will be days when our strength grows too weak and hope seems very distant.

But through each and every trial, with each decision we make in the midst of trials, there lies the opportunity for great glory. For Jesus was glorified because of His obedience to God. Through obedience even to the cross, the Name of Jesus was lifted high above all things.

I certainly do not wish or hope for trials, but i know that they will come. And when they do, i know i am sharing in the suffering of Christ and that it is my privilege to do so. The apostle Paul urged us to live as citizens of heaven:

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together.” Philippians 1:29-30.

James continued:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

Father, I pray not just for myself, but for all my other Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering for your Name. No trial is too small for Your concern, and no trial is too big or impossible for You. I ask that we are all strengthened and assured by Your voice however it may be heard or seen, and I ask that our present trials are an opportunity for greater joy in the time to come.

Serving two masters

23 February 2014

I have a strong tendency to compare myself with others. I do it quite instinctively and it often happens in subtle ways.

Before i know it, i am either jealous or envious of someone or i am frustrated at my life for not measuring up in a certain way. Either way, it leaves me quite unhappy and quite restless.

James warns specifically about this kind of worldliness. He said:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions and pleasures are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions or pleasures.”

I think James hit the nail on its head. With each question he posed and each answer he gave, it almost hit the nail for my condition each time. Perhaps i do not go as far as to quarrel or fight with others but certainly there are passions and pleasures at war within me. i desire to have the comforts and pleasures of life along with all the other godly things – hoping that both will increase! Certainly, there is nothing wrong with being rich, it’s just a matter of how i use my resources when i am rich – i tell myself.

But then James really seals it tight and leaves me no room for selfish manoeuvre when he continues with this:

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

i believe there are true godly Christians who are not friends of the world but are wealthy at the same time. But i think to be godly also means that they do not seek after this wealth. It is the seeking that we fall. James gives me both a warning but also a way out of unceasing striving and mental torture when i buy into the lies of the world and am tempted to seek after wealth. There is a sigh of relief when i am reminded by His Word that i am not to, and do not need to seek after all this wealth. i am not out to make friendship with the world but friendship with God. And the two do not co-exist. I cannot serve both God and Money. Either i will hate one and love the other.

When i am reminded that i cannot seek after both God and money, i am for some reason comforted and i am momentarily released from a burden and strain of serving two masters. Jesus said:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I much rather serve Jesus than serve money, for i know the burden of money is heavy and hard, and i will never find rest for my soul in serving money.

Father God, help me defeat the lies of the world with Your truth and Your Word. Praiase Your Name and Your Spirit of Truth. Your word cuts through all the lies and Your Spirit searches my heart and mind. Thank you for guiding me and telling me to leave the heavy and hard load behind and follow You.

False witnesses

22 February 2014

The bible warns us of false witnesses of Christ. These people are wolves in sheep’s clothing. You know them by their fruit and you know them in your spirit.

Today I watched something that made my spirit churn and anger flare. I call out against false persons who use the Name of The Lord in vain and for their own selfish gain. I ask for the Spirit of Truth to rain upon their conscience and to turn their hearts away from destruction.

In the Lord’s mercy I pray for this wicked breed of false witnesses who lead many astray and steal from the weak. I warn again of these people because they live in this generation and prey on believers. They are a wicked and twisted people.

The Lord says:

“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Jesus warned of such people:

“Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers!”

I try not to judge and not to be quick in my assessment but when my spirit churns I cannot hold back. In the example Jesus gave, it appears that even such people did not realise or believe they were doing anything wrong and even tried to remind Jesus of their deeds which were claimed in Jesus’ name.

Sometimes we don’t know until we reach heaven and the truth is revealed. But in the meantime we can only ask for God to keep our hearts pure and spirits discerning to His will. When we are in tune with God’s heart we will not allow these false witnesses to lead us astray.

Father, give me a discerning heart and not a judgemental spirit. Lead me in the Spirit of Truth and show me the way everlasting. Teach me to do the Father’s will and to honour You with my heart and not just my lips.

 

 

 

Friends

21 February 2014

Jesus was seldom alone during His ministry. His disciples were called to him very early on in His ministry and many followed Jesus wherever He went. But Jesus had specifically chosen His disciples to be with Him and He kept His disciples within His inner circle.

Although not many of us would have “disciples” of our own, we are called to eventually model ourselves for younger Christians and to guide them. But more importantly I think Jesus showed also that we need to be in community with others and also have a trusted circle of friends who share our joy and weaknesses.

Today a lot of people are ultra connected via social media with hundreds of friends in an instant. The world has never seen such breakthroughs in communication technology before but yet loneliness prevails in hearts. Although hundreds and thousands of people followed Jesus, He seemed to always keep a small group of close people near to Him and protected that relationship.

In today’s setting we are easily pulled to different commitments and activities organised by friends. We try to keep up believing socialising with as many will keep us fulfilled. But I know friends who soon realised that it is all extremely fickle and fragile. Especially when we get ourselves in trouble, we soon realise who our “real” friends are. Very soon those who we’re praising us and sharing our social gatherings will disappear. Jesus went through the same situation when He was taken away to be executed. Those who hailed Him and welcomed Him as Saviour at the city gates days before became the ones hurling insults at Him and mocking Him.

Many inmates that I visit tell me how many of their friends stopped visiting tem or even forgot about them. Some even were angry at their pastors for not visiting them in prison. Such is life unfortunately. So we need to be careful and have a discerning heart in who we keep close in our lives and where we invest our time and life into.

The disciples of Jesus, although not perfect, went on to continue the works of Jesus and wrote the New Testament. It was this handful of faithful men who remained faithful to Jesus to the end. Not much is said about the 4,000 or 5,000 who Jesus fed.

Lord Jesus, may You give me a discerning heart to choose my friends wisely and spend my time and life with those who matter even more wisely.