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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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.
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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.

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.

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.

Giving Up Donkeys and More

Luke 19:28-34

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.”
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And just like that, the donkey owners gave up their unridden colt to be used by the Lord. As I read this I feel so challenged. I wonder how the donkey owners had so much faith.

What would an unridden colt be in this day and age?
A brand new car that has never been driven, maybe?

How would I feel if God took something of so much value away from me? Would my heart be stilled when I hear His words “The Lord has need of it”?

God, I pray that You increase our faith and sensitivity to hear from You. What You would have us give up for the sake of Your kingdom, let us not hold on so tightly. Help us to love the Giver, instead of being distracted by the gifts. Thank You for using us, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Learning to love right

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads towards heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

 Job 2:11-13. (emphasis added)

I never really realized how much Job’s friends loved him. What I always remembered was how wrong and insensitive I thought their message was to suffering Job. But when I think about it now, I realize that when they told Job that he must have sinned for God to allow such calamity to happen to him; when they told him he must repent — that came from good intentions. The message was wrong, but it came from good intentions.

It humbles me to know that I have made such mistakes before so many times. I offer advice, but sometimes I don’t stop to think “What would God want me to do/say in this situation?” And I end up pushing my friends away from God, instead of allowing them to see His love for them.

Lord, thank You for Your grace to my brothers, sisters and I. Sometimes we forget, we immediately offer our most intuitive advice without really considering what You would have us say. Help us to love, and to love the right way. Thank You God, for your grace covers our wrongs. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Struggling with (and for) those we have not met

“For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” 

Colossians 2:1-3 (emphasis added)

On Easter Day, I found myself watching World Trade Center, the movie (2006). I remember watching the movie earlier when it was first released, but at that time I had not yet been to the States. I was sad watching the movie the first time, but things were different this time around. Having now had the experience of living in the States, I felt much more connected to those affected by 911.

But in these verses Paul addresses the church in Colossae — a people he has not met, a church he did not plant — out of sincere love, care and concern for the people who have started to become confused with false teachings. I pray that God will continue to increase His love in us and so stretch our limits to love others even more; to those we have not met, to those who seem so different and far removed from us. Because He loves them.

Lord, thank You for making us more like You every day. Let this change come from inside out. Let our concern be genuine, not forced. Let us rejoice in our brothers and sisters’ successes, and mourn and intercede with them in their sufferings.Thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Humbled

Job 42:3

“… I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know.”

As I grow older I realize certain things. I realized today that my mother does not know how to “Save As” a pdf file. It took us a lot of time (and laughter) and I finally ended up just sharing screens over Skype and letting her read the document while I scrolled. I realize my father’s stamina in hiking has decreased, but I still remember that when I was younger, dad would carry me up the hill when I was too tired to hike any further.

I miss the times when I could truly say “Mum and dad can do everything!” with conviction. I was confident that they knew best, and that they would always provide for me and be there for me.

And sometimes I feel the same way with God. I am disappointed because I feel like God is not able to do everything anymore, the way I used to believe He could. “You just don’t get it, God,” I say. I wish I did not have those feelings.

Reading this verse today struck me that I have uttered what I do not understand. God is not a parent the way our earthly parents are. He does not “grow old” or weary. He is the same powerful, amazing, awesome God as He has always been, and He will always be.

Lord, I come to You humbled. I acknowledge that I do not understand many things. Your ways are too wonderful for me, and I do not know or understand it. Help me to have faith to believe that You are not bounded by earthly principles of growing old, weary or weak. Forgive me God when I question You and think that I can comprehend all of Your ways. Thank You for Your grace and love for me despite all this. I love You Papa. In Jesus’ name, Amen.