Faith comes by hearing — a practical application

I was listening to a sermon a few days ago and it generally didn’t sit well with me. Nothing sank in at the end, and in fact, I was more distracted with the pastor’s flaws showing themselves while he was preaching than I was really listening to the sermon itself. I was unable to take his message seriously and left with complete lack of conviction to any form of thought or action.

We have a phrase in Malay, “tak puas hati”, which roughly translates to being unsatisfied, and wanting more. I felt that.

So I decided to listen to it one more time.

Fortunately, in our generation we often have the privilege of having recordings, so I gave it another go the next day. I was still distracted, but it was slightly better. Some words sank in but I wasn’t quite ready to give up and decided to give it one final go the next day. The third time around, I was convicted multiple times during the sermon, despite the broken vessel. One of my biggest takeaways was that indeed, faith comes by hearing. And perhaps, sometimes, in all practicality, it takes hearing it over and over again before we actually listen.

Romans 10:17. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” 

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Just keep swimming

Life stinks.

It’s hard. It’s draining.

But it’s a training ground.

I’ve got reasons to complain but hey I’ve got plenty to be grateful about too.

Choosing to do the latter and patiently waiting to be pleasantly surprised by the future newer versions of ourselves.

I pray you find strength to do the same too.

Have an awesome day!

Of Benjamins and Josephs

Genesis 43:33-34; 44:30-34
33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

30 “So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!’

33 “Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”

Genesis 43-44 tell us how Joseph, upon having recognised his brothers in Egypt, tested his brothers on their attitude towards a brother who was favoured : Benjamin. It was their envy and jealousy towards Joseph in the past that led to Joseph being sold as a slave to Egypt.

And in Genesis 44:33, we hear such a change of heart! Instead of allowing Benjamin to be left behind and take the blame, one of the brothers actually offered himself in Benjamin’s place. Joseph had made it so easy to for them to put the blame on Benjamin this time. He had stated that it was only fair to punish only the perpetrator in whose sack his silver cup was found. “The silly boy, he should have known better than to covet one of Pharaohs chief ministers cup. We had no choice but to leave him behind,” right?

But somehow, something had changed them over the years. They couldn’t do this to Benjamin, no, not this time. Perhaps it was the very experience of selling their step brother Joseph off in a moment of anger, watching father mourn the loss of his favoured son, bearing the guilt of the lie they told father — of the “wild beast” that had taken his beloved Joesph away from him, the regret that they could have stopped themselves — and each other — from getting so carried away with teaching their tactless, show off, tattle tale of a brother a lesson he would never forget.

And perhaps you find yourself being one of these “experiences”. Someone is mistreating you, and while your acknowledge your wrongs, you find it a little too much, a little unacceptable. Take comfort, brothers and sisters, that perhaps, just perhaps, you are part of an experience that God is using to change that person.

Thank You, Father for the times that we are Benjamins, when we reap the blessings of those who have gone before us. We choose to thank You too, Father when we feel more like Joesphs, unjustly wronged, because we believe that You see the entire story whilst we only see a portion. Help us, Father to remain hopeful and to love as You first loved us. Thank You for Your grace, that is sufficient for us in every situation. Thank You, in Jesus name we pray, amen.

Genesis 50:20

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

I would have been obedient, but I press on

To be honest, I’m not too sure if what I am sharing is right (I hope I’m not misinterpreting Scripture!) but it encouraged me today.
————
2 Kings 2:1-14.
When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”
But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”
 
4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.
5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”
“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”
6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.”
And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.
7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
 
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
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Three times Elijah told Elisha to stop, and he would carry on alone. If were Elisha were to stop any of those times, he wouldn’t have been disobedient. But he wanted more.
And perhaps he didn’t know what he wanted yet at that point, but  he wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to his master. Whatever it was, he wanted more, and he stayed.
In the end, he received a double portion of Elijah’s spirit — something he may not have received if he had not pressed on.
In my daily walk, sometimes I feel pressured to stop “running” after God. There are people, godly people, around me who I might tell me it’s enough.
I struggle within myself too — don’t I need to also focus on my career, my family, even taking time to relax or enjoy some hobby? Do I really need to give more?
How could I turn away? For now, I choose (or try) to press on. Lord, help me to.
Lord Jesus, help us to discern. If it is really time to let go and rest in You, help us to be wise and do so. 
You understand our struggle, Father. We want to please You, but help us understand Your purpose for us in this season.
For those of us who indeed choose to press on in our individual seasons, we believe that there will always be blessing in serving You in the end. 
Thank You Jesus for watching over us, and for enabling us to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Takeaways from Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

 

Three of my main takeaways from the book:

  • Gender equality empowers men too.

Let´s change the expectation that it´s natural for men to be less involved in the family or in raising the kids. Men should be given the equal chance to bond with family without being pressured by society or be seen as “weak” if they do.

  • Let your partner be a real partner.

In the home and, might I add, outside of the home as well.

  • Women need to stop “maternal gatekeeping” to allow their partners to be real partners.

“As women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home. I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical. Social scientists call this ‘maternal gatekeeping,’ which is a fancy term for ‘Ohmigod, that´s not the way you do it! Just move aside and let me!’ When it comes to children, fathers often take their cues from mothers. This gives a mother great power to encourage of impede the father´s involvement. If she acts as a gatekeeper mother and is reluctant to hand over responsibility, or worse, questions the father´s effors, he does less.”

“Now we know that women can do what men can do, but we don´t know that men can do what women can do.”

Side takeaway on parenting and life in general:

  • Reflecting someone´s viewpoint becomes a starting point for resolution.

“When we had arguments, our mother taught us – or more like forced us – to mirror each other, which means restating the other person´s point before responding to it. For example, one day my sister and I were fighting over a lollipop. ‘Sheryl ate the last lollipop!’ Michelle screamed. ‘But she had a lollipop yesterday and I didn´t!’ I screamed back, making an excellent point. My mother sat us down facing each other. I was not allowed to explain how gravely inequitable the lollipop allocation was until I acknowleged my sister´s feelings. ‘Michelle, I understand that you are upset because I ate the last lollipop and you wanted it.’ As painful as this was at the time, reflecting someone else´s viewpoint clarifies the disagreement and becomes a starting point for resolution. We all want to be heard, and when we focus on showing others that we are listening, we actually become better listeners.”

When butt kicking becomes a norm

… Pardon my English.

1 Chronicles 20:4-8

4 In the course of time, war broke out with the Philistines, at Gezer. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Sippai, one of the descendants of the Rephaites, and the Philistines were subjugated.

5 In another battle with the Philistines, Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.

6 In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. 7 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.

8 These were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.

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Remember the story of David defeating Goliath? It was THE biggest story in town! (Okay that’s an understatement, it was probably the story of the entire region!) The underdog — a man, let alone a boy, defeating Goliath the giant. Before David proved that it was possible with God, it was unheard of. Inconceivable.

But this is the story of what happens AFTER David did all that — after he defeated Goliath, after he became King. This time around David’s men were totally kicking giants’ butts left, right and center. What was previously inconceivable had now become the norm.

I mean, one of David´s men defeated Lahmi, Goliath’s brother (and I would venture to guess that they were not too far off in built and size, with the same genetic pool and all). Why, even one of David’s own brothers defeated a giant of his own! (remember how David´s older brothers chickened out with the rest of Israel the first time? Glad they broke that family tradition)

And that’s how I pray we encourage each other with our testimonies. I pray that when we hear crazy, amazing things happening, we say “wow, if God can do that for (insert name here), He can definitely do it for me too!” And pretty soon, what was considered inconceivable now becomes a norm.

Lord, thank You for how amazing You truly are. I pray that as our faith would grow as we hear from You and of the great things You have done. Thank You Lord for changing the norm, and let it begin with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friendly footnote: I do not encourage butt kicking of any human being or animal, giant or not.

from The Hiding Place

More of an excerpt than a quote:

“You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” I told her.

“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well – I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’ “

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.

As long as you are with Me

Luke 15:11-32
(v31) “And he said to him ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.'”

Spending time with a family other than my own gives me a fresh perspective to  father-son relationships.

This is a paraphrased conversation between a father and a young son :

“Dad, give me money.”
“Why, son? You are always with me. As long as you are always with me, I will always provide all you need and want.”

In the human sense, we all grow up and become independent of our parents. But in God’s family, He is always our Father who we depend on.

Lord, teach us to be comfortable depending on You even if our human minds tell us otherwise. Help us find security in Your goodness and wisdom in knowing what is best for us. Thank You Lord for being a faithful Father who provides. You withhold nothing good from us.

Romans 8:32
“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

Psalm 37:25
“I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.”

What do YOU do on a Saturday?

Ever seen a brawl go down? I’ve never quite seen one myself, but judging from kung fu movies it gets pretty scary when your leader gets defeated.

I mean imagine. You’re in the heat of a fight, punches flaying, heart pounding, and oh dear, was that the sound of bones cracking somewhere to your right?

And then you realize your leader, the Alpha Male, the strongest and bravest of your pack, has fallen. What do you do?

You run.

Honestly, I’m surprised that’s what the disciples didn’t do when Jesus was crucified. I mean, they just crucified your leader, wouldn’t you be afraid you were next?

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I wonder why the disciples stayed. Perhaps they were just so lost, they didn’t know where to go. Perhaps they were still processing that those past few eventful years of their lives with Jesus… That it was all a lie. How could it be a lie? It had to be, Jesus was dead. How could that be? It all happened so fast… Was that what they were thinking?

Perhaps there was a logical reason. Perhaps they were staying around to watch over Jesus’ mother, or family, or something. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was just because they truly loved Jesus.

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Did the disciples understand what Jesus was doing?

No. John 2:9 tells us that they did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. For all they knew, Jesus was game over. Finitto. Kaput.

Does this sound like any moment in your life?

As Max Lucado put it in his book Cast of Characters, “John did not know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph… That’s why what he did on Saturday is so important.” But because he chose to stay on the Saturday, he was able to share in the joy of Sunday’s miracle. (John 20)

Lord, I pray for my brothers, my sisters and myself that we would be faithful to You on Saturday even though we may not know when Sunday is coming. We believe Lord, help us with our unbelief! Help us when the doubts irritate, or even scream for our attention. And as always Lord Jesus, thank You for Your grace toward us even when we fail. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

You’ll hear from me

Psalm 5:3

In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
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“You’ll see me tomorrow at 7,” I told my colleague the day before. I gave my word that I would be in the office early so we could work on our project and stayed true to my word.

A few days ago, I came across this verse in my morning devotions. It convicted me. Just as for a friend, I would not make an empty promise I do not mean to keep, I was convicted to do the same for God.

Lord, we’ve failed so many times. But Father, thank You for convicting our hearts with Your word. Remind us that You personally look forward to spending time with us. Help us as we try again and again and again. One day, we, Your bride, will be perfect, blameless, faithful to You just as how You’ve been to us the entire time. We love You Lord.