Sunday, March 12, 2017

Reverence for God





This morning, I was late for service and was running hard from the UberPool car to the hall (part of my exercise regime, perhaps). Thank God that I didn't miss much because my pastor cut short the worship at the beginning of the service to start his message earlier and left the worship right to the end. When I went in, it was one last song, the offering and then his sermon.

My former and current pastors are not pastors who preach soft doctrines to tickle our ears. They lay out the hard truths that sometimes make me squirm in my seat. 

I miss my former pastor a lot because of his humility, love, directness, grace and the powerful anointing of the supernatural in him. God probably has a different season for my church now because he sent a Word-based teacher-pastor to succeed my former pastor. Along with that came a different focus and the inevitable departure of some parts of the congregation; however, I am seeing some new faces appearing in my church and it is becoming more cosmopolitan.

This morning's message reminded me why I also like my current pastor a lot. It was hard-hitting. His main message was that true worship is giving glory to God. 

He referred to the tabernacle of God that included three areas: the outer court, the inner court and the holy of holies. To get into the holy of holies, where the glory of God dwelt, there are two main keys: purification and sacrifice - a stripping down of everything that hinders us from God and an offering of ourselves to God. What can we offer to God? My first thought was a visual image of my heart in flames on the bronze altar of burnt offering. That’s what I would give.

In between, he said some things that made me laugh in my seat because they were so reflective of the modern church. 

He noted that sometimes people will come up to ask him why the worship team didn’t play their favourite song or why the worship team today was not good and so on and so forth. He told us that “please... they are not singing for you, you know? They are singing for God.”

People always wanted to see him but that 99% of the time, they wanted to talk to him in order to get him to do something for them. He was wondering if God felt like that sometimes. He added that it was like a relationship where the guy wondered why the girl would want to be with him, only to realise finally that the girl was with him because of what he can give her.

True worship does not anticipate some benefit. Rather it anticipates the pleasure of God.

He ended his sermon and then we just went into such a long period of praise and worship and before he dismissed the congregation, he said “we don’t have such moments often when we can sense such a strong presence of God. I hope that this encourages you to keep persevering and going into the holy of holies because that is where God’s presence is”.

PS: I felt ministered and chastened by his message because oftentimes, I’ve sauntered into the presence of God without being serious and reverential about entering into the holy of holies, and taking the worshipping of Him lightly because of complacency about His grace. It was a timely reminder to me to be serious about worshipping God. 

After the service, I think I was on a “sermon and worship were so good” high because I said “everyone, have a good day ahead” to my UberPool passengers as I alighted at Paragon and then proactively engaged in a conversation with an elderly couple while buying cakes at Chalk Farm at the basement. Totally out of character but it felt so good. :-) 

Reference verses:
1 Peter 4:7-11
John 16:13-14
Leviticus 10:1-3
John 4:23-24
Genesis 22:2
Matthew 26:39
2 Chronicles 6:41
1 Corinthians 6:19

Picture credit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/robertcrosby/2012/05/what-the-wilderness-tabernacle-reveals-about-intimacy/



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

We can curse the darkness or we can light a candle

We had such an amazingly honest guest speaker at the recent weekend service - Pastor Bill Wilson. I was scrambling to record his soundbites. I love it when very experienced pastors (he has been in ministry for more than 30 years) say seemingly politically incorrect statements. I don't want to hear prim and proper statements; I want to hear battle-hardened truths from those who have been in the dirty trenches for a long long time. In their words, I sense their hearts.

Bill Wilson's soundbites:
"We can curse the darkness or we can light a candle."
"I wish I was living in biblical times. Instead, I've to live today where idiots run free and I can't kill anyone without a penalty."
"I was asked if I wanted a hearing aid. I told the doctor that I've been in the ministry so long that I've heard enough. I don't need a hearing aid."
"There is no superfluous banter in the Bible. Every word in the Bible is in there for a reason."
"Don't miss the profundity that is in the simplicity of the concept."
"Jesus glows in the dark. When it gets darker, the light gets brighter."

His background: Wilson's mother abandoned him on a street corner in Pinellas Park, Florida. She said, "I can't do this anymore. You wait here, I will be back." Bill stayed on that street corner for three days, but his mother never came back. Dave Rudenis, a local mechanic and committed Christian, found him there and took him to his home. Rudenis offered to pay this young man's way to a Christian summer camp. It was during this camp that the 12-year-old Wilson committed his life to God.

He now runs America's largest ministry to children. Every Christmas eve, he goes back to that corner where his mother left him and spends the night there because he wants to remember where he came from and how a stranger came to him with God's love.

In an attempt to remain in touch with the people attending his congregation, Bill Wilson still lives in a building adjacent to his Church. He continues to walk through the often dangerous neighborhoods of Bushwick in an effort to carry on his work. Over the years, Wilson has been shot, stabbed, beaten and hospitalized numerous times and is adept at raising millions of dollars for the ministry telling stories of hardship. Yet he remains committed to the work. Bill Wilson still drives one of the hundreds of buses utilized by his ministry each week, when he is in town.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Wilson_(pastor)

Fare thee well

A prayer and well wishes for a former colleague who is going to travel the world for some time to come. May the Lord protect and guide her, and send her angels along the way when she needs them. May she treasure the people, places, things, roads, streets, oceans, lakes, waves, birds and all she experiences because all those make up what we call life. May she update her Facebook ever so regularly so that we know she is safe and sound somewhere.
An old Irish blessing for her:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bits & Pieces (28 December 2016)

Epiphany: Playing YouTubes mixes of Hillsong, Maranatha and Hosanna music at night instead of surfing the Internet or being on Facebook.
 
The spirit of giving: My first gift this Christmas was to Médecins Sans Frontières. I also decided to ask most of my family members and relatives what they wanted for Christmas to avoid heavy deadweight losses from gift-giving. It meant they would not be surprised but it minimised the losses from giving people what I liked, rather than what they wanted/needed. 
 
I also thought very hard about my gifts for friends and colleagues, weighing heavily towards practicality. Apologies if your gift was not what you had wanted. My thoughts are limited by my brain. Nonetheless, it was a good exercise in learning to give well.
 
Christmas: The season is always a mad rush for me. This year, however, my BFFs expressly stated "no gifts" although I still slipped in two gifts for two kids while half of my extended family was away or couldn't make it. I also bought vouchers for most of my family members. So that cut down quite a bit of the gift buying for me. Some gifts are still with me and at least one gift is still in transit!
To my family, relatives, friends and colleagues, thank you for your gifts but more important for your presence. Thank you for being such a big part of my life. It is the reason why I wake up most mornings thanking God. Other mornings, I just tumble out of bed, take a quick shower and rush to work. 
 
Jesus: The Alpha and the Omega. I had more time this year over the Christmas break to contemplate a few things. 
 
First, Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus, come. I cannot comprehend man's hand in Aleppo and closer to home in Myanmmar. There is so much I don’t understand about God's sovereignty and His judgment of man's culpability. But all will be judged when Jesus comes again. So perhaps not now, but definitely in time to come. 
 
Second, Immanuel. God with us. Christmas is about this good news. God coming down in the human form of Jesus to show us a way back to Him. God is holy and just. We have all fallen short. If you think that God is far apart from us, Jesus is proof of His closeness to us. 
 
Jesus came, reached out to those who needed him and suffered everything on our behalf (rejection, ridicule, humiliation, pain, grief, suffering, and finally crucifixion, with the sins of the world on him). He was resurrected, indicating that God has accepted his sacrifice for us.
 
Third, The Call. if you believe in Jesus and acknowledge that He is your Lord and Saviour, you have a way back to God and eternal fellowship with Him. When God sees us, He sees us covered in Christ. This is the good news. God already accepts us, warts and all, because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. By His grace. You are free. And you belong to a royal priesthood and you are a son or daughter of God. Merry Christmas.

Bits & Pieces (8 January 2017)

+ Important moments are moments like dinner with a BFF and her five kids at Prive Cafe. We also helped the cafe tune its guitar at the kids' corner. We chose a song to play. A Beatles song, of course. In My Life. 
 
+ No more leaving after this leaving: Following a group chat, I got to thinking about dying. We are all dying. As a new day dawns, we are ever closer to death. What, then, for us is the most important moment of our lives? The moment is now. Being aware and accepting that we will all die one day makes us treasure life and people more, adopting a "carpe diem" approach to every day. It doesn't mean that we have to seize the day as the world defines it; we have to seize the day according to what we consider important and eternal. Dare to curate our lives, time and resources so that we devote all these to all that is the most important to God and us. Invest what we have wisely for eternal returns. Be answerable to God, not man.
Ecclesiastes 12:7
and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
 
+ Raise the bar: Attended the first service of 2017. The message was hard-hitting. Avoid being lukewarm and spiritually passive. Re-align and re-adopt a right posture of running after God with wild abandon. Jump into the river; avoid walking around it and seeing it from a safe distance. Desire to always be in the inner courts. Avoid setting our spiritual bars so low. Pray. That’s the one thing that God has impressed on me in 2017. 
 
+ A storied life: “I like the etymology of the word “experience” - it comes from the Latin experentia - to try. So all that you have lived through, it is unfinished business, still waiting for you to come back to it one day and give it a story.” - Boey Kim Cheng

Heaven and hell



Have not read C.S.Lewis in quite a while. Some authors make you think; he makes you think hard. Needed to take notes as well. Sarte has this line "hell is other people" while Lewis' view, I think, is that hell is what one personally defines it to be, aside from the blibical concepts of heaven and hell. Hence, one person's heaven could be somebody's hell, in a sense.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Counting our days aright

Listened to a wise, sensitive and considered sermon by former Methodist Bishop Robert Solomon on Counting Our Days Aright, based on Psalm 90. Drawing on verse 12, teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom, he notes that all of us have expiry dates and the difficulty is that we don't know how to count down our days. Because of God's grace, we have "more beyond". Our blessings from counting down our days, that is, living wisely, are satisfaction with God's blessings, gladness, the abiding presence of God and His enduring word. If we are willing to die, then we live. We are wasting away physically as we age, but inwardly we are being renewed. All is not in vain because Jesus rules over our lives. Let us start counting down our days and use the remaining time for His glory.