A couple of days ago, my parents celebrated their 45 years of marriage. I praised the Lord for giving them the opportunity to enjoy these 45 years of togetherness! Here are what I have learnt from their marriage:
It amazes me that even 45 years of marriage, my parents still share with each other the little details of their daily life: the news, a funny video clip someone sent to them, the details of their conversation with my 3 year-old niece. It was such a lovely sight to see them talking and enjoying each other’s company. I guess the ability for them to keep their conversation interesting after all these years make them life partners as they navigate through life together.
Words are powerful (Proverbs 18:21, James 3:5-6). I am so glad that when my parents talk to each other, they choose to use words that build each other up rather than tearing each other down. By choosing loving words, words that build up, appreciate and encourage (1 Peter 4:8), my parents continued to deposit into each other’s love tanks.
2. Forgive and move on
Even when my parents get into a quarrel, they apply this rule in the Bible: “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV), or in other words, “don’t go to bed angry”. They have their disagreements but will not hold on to grudges. I couldn’t even remember them having a cold war and not talking for 2 days or more. My parents show me what it meant to forgive and move on.
3. Do things together and give each other personal space
My parents do a lot of things together. They eat every meal together every day, attend online Sunday service (due to pandemic), bathe the dogs and enjoy some television shows together. But they also give each other space to enjoy their hobbies: my dad in the garden and my mum watching her favourite Korean dramas.
4. Small things count
Small things matter. Catch opportunities to compliment each other. My parents know each other’s favourite food and drinks. They always think about the other. By watching their examples, I realise that love does not have to be “expensive”. We do not need bouquet of roses or exquisite fine dining on special occasions, but happiness is where the family can sit down peacefully and enjoying a simple meal. “A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.” (Proverbs 15:17, NLT)
A lasting relationship takes a lot of work and effort from both parties. Both have to be equally committed to the other. Love is more than just a feeling as feelings come and go like waves at the sea. Love is committing to one another even during tough times when we do not feel like it. I am thankful that my parents are showing me the example of what it means to be loved and to love.
We may spend a lot of time and efforts working or studying. Working are necessary as it provides for our livelihood (Proverbs 16:26). It is equally important to seek wisdom as it leads to life.
How is it different from knowledge, understanding and discernment?
Knowledge is the ability to comprehend a topic. It is on the intellectual side.
Understanding is the insight into the nature of a thing. For example, an airplane engineer may have the understanding of how an airplane works, but people who are not in this field will not understand it.
Discernment is the ability to distinguish one thing from another and often involves one’s moral sensitivities: what is right and wrong. The person will then make the decision which seems best.
Wisdom is making sound judgment based on all these: knowledge, understanding and discernment so as to take a certain course of action.
The Old Testament has 3 sections: Torah, Prophets and Writings. The theme of wisdom is found throughout the Bible but there are wisdom books in the Bible namely: Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. There are 2 distinct types of these wisdom books:
(1) reflective wisdom. Job, Psalms and Ecclesiastes reflect on the nature of this world, God the Creator and our roles as the created beings.
(2) practical wisdom. This is the book of Proverbs and epistle of James that gives instructions for living our daily lives.
A proverb is a poetic saying that conveys truth in a few words. They are observations about life. The purpose of proverbs, according to Proverbs 1:2-6 is:
-For gaining wisdom and instruction
-To do what is right and just and fair
-Giving knowledge to the simple and young
According to Proverbs there are a few ways that we can get wisdom:
Personal Mistakes (Proverbs 26:11)
Each of us had made mistakes: the things that we say, something that we did, which we regret so terribly. Things might be different had we not say those words, or did certain thing but mistakes help us to gain wisdom, if we take time to reflect on it and is willing to learn from it.
11 As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
Proverbs 26:11-12 sounds quite gross but it is an imagery of us returning to our foolishness and not learning from it. Just as it is disgusting for a dog to return to its vomit, it is the same for someone who repeats the same mistakes again and again.
When we sinned, God in His mercy will discipline us so that we would not return to the sin but will turn back to God and walk on His path of righteousness. A wise person will learn from discipline and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Is there something you have “vomited’ out of your life but are always returning to it? It could be bitterness, a complaining attitude, a habit of not telling the truth and so on. May the Holy Spirit grant us wisdom and strength so that we will not return to our own “vomit”.
Friends (Proverbs 27:5)
Spiritual companions are important to us. They tell us the truth even when they see us making mistakes with the sincere aim that we will not repeat them or else we will head for destruction.“Better is open rebuke than hidden love”(Proverbs 27:5). “Open rebuke” is honest and straightforward, but it is done with love. Love that is hidden is not beneficial to the recipient.
Proverbs 19:20, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”
Be wise in choosing our friends. Be wise in choosing those whom you call your inner circle. The right friends will give you good advice in life, and you can also learn from their wisdom in life: how they live their life, how they manage their time, their relationships with others. You too will be considered a wise person if you listen to advice by those trustworthy people who have your best interest at heart.
Discipline from God (Proverbs 3:11-12)
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in (Proverbs 3:11-12)
God’s discipline is good for us because He disciplines those He loves. God’s instructions to us are a lamp to our feet, they light up our path (Proverbs 6:23). The reproofs of instruction are the way of life. God disciplines us to bring us back to the path of life.
Discipline and correction is painful but it is ultimately good because they make us grow to be more like Christ. God disciplines us so that we will share in His holiness.
As Proverbs 15:31, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” We will be wise as a result of heeded discipline.
The Bible gives us the 10 Commandments. From the 10 Commandments, we know the boundaries of what we can and can not do. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to stay within the boundaries of God’s commandments.
However, the Bible does not tell us whether we should move to another country or stay put here, or which job to take. The Bible does not tell us whom exactly to marry, although we are clear that we can not marry someone of the same gender. Yet, if we are not wise in making these decisions, it can bring serious consequences to our lives.
If we marry the wrong person, our marriage will not be God-glorifying. We will get hurt, frustrated, angry, our children will suffer. If we get the wrong job, we may not be putting our gifts to the right use. We will get frustrated and angry.
In day to day living, we need wisdom too. We need wisdom to use our time wisely so that we can still have time for our family and ourselves despite having to work. We need wisdom in this pandemic, now that we are seeing our family more, we need wisdom to guard the words that come from our mouths. We also need wisdom in managing our finances in this pandemic: how much to save, what are unnecessary spending, how much to give to the needy. All these things in life need to be taken care of because without wisdom when we make these decisions, life will come to a ruin.
So, remember, we gain wisdom in life by making these decisions in life: (1) reflecting upon our mistakes and refrain from repeating them, (2) think about the open rebuke from people we trust and how we should apply it in our lives, (3) accept discipline from the Lord when we have sinned, though it is very painful at the moment.
May God give us the wisdom and the grace to live our lives which are pleasing to Him.
The best thing I love about being a pastor is that I get to study God’s Word, and even get sponsored to study God’s Word in seminaries! I am also blessed with opportunities to lead prayer meetings and pray with pastors and friends from other denominations. Going for silent retreats yearly is also something I look forward to. These are wonderful blessings of God!
2. The ability to walk with families through times of joy and times of sorrow
Being a pastor, I am privileged to walk with church members in their life journeys. From church members getting married to having babies and seeing their children grow up and go to school, I had been invited to different stages of their lives. There are also times of sorrow too. I got to spend time praying with the elderly, helping their families to say goodbye to them and then conducting their funerals. Being a pastor gives me access into their lives.
3. The love from church members
The love and support from church members warmed my heart too. They show their love by taking me on holidays, sending me food and warm my heart with heart-felt messages.
4. Seeing transformation of lives
I had witnessed transformation of lives: breaking of sin patterns, restoration of relationships, or see someone being more committed to serve the Lord. It is a privilege and a joy to see transformations through the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. Seeing young people making impact wherever they are
For many years, I have the joy of serving in the Youth Ministry. Seeing these youths transformed by God and being used by God wherever they are is such a joy.
6. Seeing my family walk closely with the Lord
Since becoming a pastor, my family has been walking closely with the Lord too. It is such a blessing to see my family fervent for the Lord.
It has been such a great blessing to serve the Lord and His people! I thank the Lord for you too. Thank you for reading my blog posts!
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. I must confess the celebration was “mild” in comparison to what she has done for me all these years. I guess I would never understand the depth and breadth of a mother’s sacrificial heart.
We had a delicious cake and our friend ordered a steamboat feast for us! We are so blessed!
Jesus Christ showed us how to honour our mothers by giving us examples of how He honoured His. One example was during Jesus’ final moments on Earth. He was crucified on the Cross, bruised and bleeding —a scene that no mother wanted to witness— yet, in His pain and sufferings, He remembered His mother. He made sure that she was taken care of after His death. He entrusted her to His disciple, John.
From that moment on, Mary stayed with John. It was believed that Mary accompanied John all the way to Ephesus when he served as a bishop. Most probably she was buried in there.
Remember our mother in our daily prayers. Sometimes they fight battles which they do not tell us about. May God protect her from harm and danger. Ask God to grant her joy in her identity as the daughter of the Almighty God and that she will experience God’s presence and love daily.
Encourage her to deepen her spiritual walk with God. Encourage her to hold on to Him especially as we are navigating through the pandemic.
Encourage her to attend Bible classes to be nourished and refreshed by God’s Word.
Encourage her to get to know other ladies of character from the church so that she will have friends to walk on the journey of faith together.
Spend time with her and keep her company. Before the pandemic, my mum and I would go shopping together and enjoy bonding over a cup of coffee and desserts on Monday afternoons. Now that the Covid-19 cases are spiking again, we are spending more time at home. We do not share the same hobbies or have the same interests in movies but we can still talk about other things. Find something to do that you both would enjoy.
Ask her what she needs. Rather than giving her things she does not appreciate or need, I asked my mum what would she like to have as a gift for Mother’s Day. She does not like surprises. She does not like massages or the latest fashions as much as I want to pamper her. Communicate with your mum so that both of you will enjoy the relationship instead of holding secret grudges or resentments.
As she is getting older, take a look around the house to make sure that it is safe for her to walk around. Replace things around the house if it is falling apart or not safe to be used anymore.
Our mother may not be able to move as quick as she used too. Her taste buds may change but let us honour her and be patient with her.
Encourage her to get healthy! Eat balanced diets and make sure that she gets enough rest and sleep.
There are many things that we can do to show our love for our mother. May God grant us wisdom and love to provide for our mother so that she can live comfortably and healthily. May God be honoured and glorified as we honour our mothers.
When wicked people suffer, most people would be thrilled because they deserved it. However, when righteous people are suffering, one would wonder: Why would a sovereign and a lovely God allow His beloved to undergo suffering and pain?
What were Job’s characteristics in adversity?
Reverent awe before God
In the prologue, after losing his wealth and all of his children, Job “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). Job understood that everything he had come from God alone and God rightly had every right to remove them from him as He saw fit. Job also understood that he could not take his riches with him when he dies.
God was pleased and boasted to the Accuser that Job “still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (Job 2:3). In his loss, Job maintained his reverent awe and fear before God.
He was confident in who God was—that God was faithful and righteous in all His ways. When Job was struck with the next disaster, painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, he cursed God not. He rebuked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Job “did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10). In the prologue, Job did not do or say anything that jeopardised his relationship with God.
2.Wondered if God loved Him
Job’s 3 friends came and they sat with him. They then accused Job and said the reason Job was suffering was that he had sinned.
Job defended himself by saying that he was righteous. God could not possibly punish a righteous man. Job defended that he did not deserve these ‘punishments’ he was inflicted with, which should have been reserved for the unrighteous.
Job accused that God had shattering their relationship by tormenting him. He wondered if God loved him anymore. He accused God of waging a battle against him (Job 3:23), gnashing his teeth at him (Job 16:9). He said God has turned him over to the ungodly and thrown him into the clutches of the wicked (Job 16:11). God had crushed him (Job 16:12). He felt God was like an archer who was using him as target practice; or a warrior that has slashed open Job’s kidneys and spilt his gall on the ground (Job 16:12-13).
Isn’t it us today too? When something unexpectedly happened to us, we think that God does not love us anymore. We accused God of not loving, and that He is far away. But God is always near, as we see from the book of Job.
3. Lament but faithful
Job lamented. His relatives and closest friends had forsaken him (19:14). His guests and servants considered him as a foreigner (19:15). His own family too, turned away from him: his wife found him repulsive, his family loathed him and young children despised him (19:17-18). Those he loved had turned from him (19:19). But still, he had faith in who God was. He said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26). Though his loved ones left him, he remained steadfast and full of faith in God. He said, “I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27). He held on to God although he did not understand God’s purpose for him.
In his adversity, he still remembered who he was. He did not ask for his wealth to be restored, or threatened God to give him another 10 children. He only asked that God would remember him (14:13). There was nothing he wanted more than being in a restored relationship with God once again. Despite losing everything, the righteous would not demand God for their properties to be restored but they would yield themselves to God in humble submission.
Above all else, he longed to restore his relationship with God. In his pain and suffering, Job did not forsake God. He wanted to be in a relationship with God again.
Finally, when God spoke to Job in the whirlwind, Job realised that he had a narrow view of God and believed that God functioned in a way that rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked. He finally understood that God’s purposes for this world (and even universe) are far bigger than just punishing wicked and blessing the righteous. God as the sovereign Creator had a purpose for all of His created beings which we human beings are incapable of understanding (Job 39).
The book of Job is not about suffering. It is about God—His character, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness, goodness and love. There is always a bigger picture which is the perfect plan of the Almighty God. After God had spoken to Job, Job realised who he was—a created being who had no right to question his Creator. Instead of demanding answers from God for his pain, Job’s response was to humble himself before God (Job 28), acknowledging that there was so much that he did not know and understand. “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
In times of adversity, the righteous person showed us that we should not act as though we could run the world better than God, because we as created beings never will. We are horrified by the helplessness of humanity in the face of natural disasters or outraged by the ruthless exploitation of the weak, or hopeless with the choice of the national leaders that we think we will do a better job than God in running the universe.
God’s ways are higher than our ways and He rules the universe with wisdom. Job realised that. He sets an example for us to remain humble before our Creator. Out of his suffering, he met God in a fresh way and re-established the Creator-created relationship. Suffering does not necessarily mean punishment from God but one thing for certain that God is with us every day. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, trust and love to our God like Job did.
The book of Job begins by telling us who Job was. He was described as a man of “righteousness” — he was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (1:1, NIV). Even prophet Ezekiel described Job as a wise and godly man (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
The concept of righteousness in the book of Job is introduced in the prologue (1:1-2:13) and once again in the epilogue — the final chapter of the book (42:7-17). In the prologue, Job was ‘blameless and upright’ who loved the Lord and feared the Lord.
In the epilogue, when God had spoken to him, he humbled himself before God and worshipped Him, confessing that he had sinned against God. And in the chapters in between, Job demonstrated faith in God despite not understanding why he was inflicted with such sufferings.
Job lived in the land of Uz. He was not an Israelite and therefore, his faith in God was purely based on his human faith, and not bounded by God’s covenantal relationship with the Israelites. God was so confident in Job’s righteous character that He boasted to the Accuser that there was no one as righteous as he (Job 1:8). The Accuser challenged God that perhaps his righteousness was because God had been blessing him. If family and wealth were removed from him, would Job still remain righteous? (Job 1:9-11). “Is Job righteous because he is blessed or is he blessed because he is righteous?” the Accuser asked. To prove that He was right, God allowed Job to be tested, including taking away from him all the things that the Accuser thought characterised his righteousness: his wealth, his family and his health.
Righteousness in the Old Testament
Righteousness is being in a right relationship with God
In the Old Testament, righteousness has a relational concept. God was the One who initiate this love relationship with mankind when He created Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:4-3:24). When they disobeyed God, God provided a way: He said an offspring from the woman would crush the head of the evil one (Genesis 3:15), that was, referring to Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, we have a clearer picture of God establishing a relationship with us through the salvation offered by His Son, Jesus Christ.
A righteous man is in a right relationship with God. A righteous person would know what are the things that displeased God and avoid doing them, for example, the righteous person would love holiness, help those in need and hate corruption, abuse and injustice.
Righteousness are actions that pleases God
Both the Old and New Testaments describe a righteous person as one who trusts in God (Psalm 31:17-19; 33:18; Micah 7:7-9), humbles himself in the presence of God and His judgement (Psalm 143:1,2), repents of his sins and asks God for forgiveness as well as expecting deliverance (Psalm 32; 103:10-13; 118:18-21). A righteous person acts in accordance to what he says.
Some Old Testament passages which connect righteous behaviour with actions:
Deuteronomy 6:25, “and if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”
Ezekiel 3:20 connects a righteous person with righteous actions.
Isaiah 64:5 says that the righteous are those who “gladly do right”.
Habakkuk says that “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4).
In short, righteousness is actions that pleases God and living by faith (Romans 1:17).
Righteousness as communal
In the prophetic and psalmic literature, righteousness and justice are often paired together. It is a communal thing. It involves the community. Righteousness involves ethical relations between an individual and the community (e.g. Isaiah 1:21). The righteous person shows loyalty to the community.
Job was the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:3b). Yet, he kept himself morally pure. He kept himself pure from the effects of power, wealth and fame. Job lived with a clean conscience before God and before others in his community. He blessed others with loving deeds and is blessed in return with the respect and honour in the community from the young to the old.
A righteous person does not mean he is without sins. Rather, righteousness means that a person’s heart is honest and his intentions are pure. Job, although he was a righteous man, admitted to sinning (Job 6:24; 10:14, 7:20,21; 14:4; 14:16,17; 21:16). He knew it would be impossible not to sin before God (Job 14:4) but he was righteous because he confessed his sins and repented before the Lord.
2. Righteousness in the family
Job functioned as a priest for his family which was a typical role in the patriarchal days. Not only did he embody righteousness, his whole household too, were moving in the same direction towards righteousness. Job had rituals to purify his 10 children, lest they had inadvertently sinned and cursed God in their hearts (Job 1:5).
He was righteous not only in the society, but also in his family as well. We can be busy with the things in the community and in the workplace but let us not forget to teach our children and lead them to the path of righteousness.
3. A heart of Thankfulness
With the abundance of wealth and all that he had, and then they were suddenly gone, Job still acknowledged that these blessings came from God. They were God’s goodness and grace in his life. Job said of God, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (Job 10:12). This is something remarkable for someone to say in the midst of utmost suffering and pain.
Despite having his abundance, Job lived righteously in the society and the community commended him for his righteous living.
“11 When the ear heard, it commended me, and when the eye saw, it approved; 12 because I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. 13 The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. 14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. 15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. 16 I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the stranger” (Job 29:11-16, NRSV)
In his wealth, he remained humble. He had compassion for the weak in the society and extended his helping hand to them.
Job lived in a right way with other people and it was not because he was required to follow certain laws or keep certain commandments in the Torah. He lived in a patriarchal age, which was a long time before Moses receiving the 10 Commandments from God at Mount Sinai. Job must not have been taught the Torah.
Righteousness and justice were so important to Job that he clothed himself with them. Job’s righteous can be seen in his behaviour towards those who were oppressed in the society. He fought against social injustice. He came to the help of the poor who were crying for help, extended his hand to the orphans, blessed the widows, cared for those in need and defended the weak. Job did not close his eyes to the needy or shut his heart to the cries of the oppressed. Rather, he reaches out to the underprivileged and strived to improve the quality of their lives and livelihood. He defended the weak. He despised and wrestled with unrighteousness, He said of himself, “I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made them drop their prey from their teeth.” (Job 29:17, NRSV).
Job was a respectable man. He kept his eyes pure, and made a covenant with his eyes not to lust after a young woman (31:1). He was faithful in marriage and guarded his heart so that he would not be enticed by another woman (31:9). He knew God was watching his every step so he was careful not to do wrong (31:2-4).
His heart too, was pure towards God. He did not practice falsehood or deceit (31:5), nor did he commit crimes or corruption or practise bribery (31:7).
His hands too, were pure towards God. He treated his servants well, knowing that they were created by the same Creator (31:13, 15). Job shared his food with the poor (31:16-17), helped the needy (31:18) and clothed the poor (31:19).
He put his trust in God, and not in his wealth, knowing that his wealth was from God, not just from his work (Job 31:24). He did not worship other idols but his heart was set on God (31:26-28). He walked in humility by not allowing himself to rejoice over his enemy’s misfortune or let his mouth sin (31:29-30).
God noticed how rare this righteous person was and said to the Accuser, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” (Job 1:8).
Job showed us the example of living a life of righteousness during times of prosperity. Let us not forget God when we are enjoying good times.
Apparently, John Wesley was not just passionate about preaching God’s Word and to see people accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. He was also passionate about teaching others to be in good physical condition.
In Wesley’s home, he had a chair with several cushions stacked on top of each other. It was an exercise equipment used in the 1700s. By sitting on the cushions, one would bounce up and down to mimic the movements of riding on a horse. As a frequent horse rider who travelled long distance, John Wesley used this exercise equipment to stay in shape. May be that was why he was still very much an active circuit traveller in his 80s.
In a letter to his niece, Sarah Wesley, John Wesley wrote that she should take as much exercise every day as she could. He even advised her to use this exercise chair for half an hour at least daily.
There was also another equipment, an electrical machine, in his house that was made of wood, glass and metal. Turning the handle would create a low-level electric current that could aid in healing benefits.
Wesley was also believed to have given tips for healthy living as follows:
“Water is the wholesomest of all drinks; quickens the appetite, and strengthens the digestion most.”
“A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life.”
“Those who read or write much should learn to do it standing; otherwise it will impair their health.”
Wesley believed that our spiritual health and physical health go hand in hand. Let us be mindful of our physical health and take care of it just as we put in effort on our spiritual health.
For now, I shall start with daily exercise of 30 minutes to an hour of brisk walking, or playing sports that I enjoy in. It is a baby step, but I am sure one that will reap benefits that will last for a long time.
I enjoy writing in this blog. Unfortunately, ideas do not come easily. There were days when I had no idea what to write about.
Time with God
Spending time with God not because I want to be creative but just being in His presence gives me peace, joy and a sense of calmness. Time with God makes me think about life in general. God is a creative God. He has blessed each one of us with creativity. Each of us are creative individuals. We are wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14). You got creativity in you. Why not unleash it?
Exercise is more than just helping us to lose weight or to have stronger bodies. There are studies that show when we exercise regularly, it will boost our creativity. Strap your shoes and let’s go!
Being in the outdoors
Get enough sunlight. It wakes our bodies up and give us Vitamin D which is important to us.
Change the environment
Changing our physical environment can give us new perspectives. I enjoy bringing my work to the coffee shop. Perhaps it is the coffee. Perhaps it is the environment or the music in the background that get my creative juices flowing. A new environment sparks new insights in us.
Play an instrument or listen to music. When I am feeling stuck creatively, I listen to my favourite singer. Her music lights us my life and get me dancing.
Sometimes, the best ideas can come to us when we do nothing and just sit down quietly. Let us not get so busy that our brains are working all the time.
Talk to a friend
Talk to a friend will offer new and fresh insights.
We have it easier in this century because we have access to everything at our fingertips. I enjoy looking at others’ masterpieces on Instagram: scenery pictures, pictures of animals, buildings, families. They offer glimpses of this amazingly beautiful world. Our inspiration can come from anywhere, we just need to look around us.
I hope this is an encouragement to you when you are feeling stuck creatively!
When bad things happen to bad people, most of us think they deserve it. It is their punishment for what they have done. But what if punishment happened to the righteous people who did not deserve it?
The book of Job begins by telling us who Job was. Job was depicted as embodying “righteousness” — he was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (1:1, NIV). Even Ezekiel described him (Ezekiel 14:14, 20) as a wise and godly man. This showed that Job was well known at that time for his righteousness and for his wisdom.
Job adored God and trembled with awe at His holiness. He did not participate or commit evil things. He lived a respectable life and was honoured by the old and the young within his community. He provided care to the needy and helped the poor.
Job lived in the land of Uz. He was not an Israelite so he was not bounded by the covenantal relationship the Israelites had with God. Job had 7 sons, 7 being the perfect number and 3 daughters. A total of 10 children. In Hebrew, the number 10 means wholeness. God had blessed Job with a good family. His children were in good relationships with one another. Whenever the sons had birthday parties, they would invite their sisters to join them. The family lived in harmony.
Apart from enjoying a wonderful family, Job had great wealth. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. That meant a lot of money. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East (Job 1:2–3).
The land of Uz was known for its wisdom. Referring to Job as the greatest man may not only include his great wealth, this might also portray him as having great wisdom. He could be the wisest man in the East.
Job, being an upright and blameless man, found favour with God. God was so confident of Job’s righteous character that He boasted to the Accuser that there was no one on earth as righteous as he (Job 1:8). The Accuser then said to God: perhaps he was righteous because God had been blessing him; if family and wealth were removed from him, would he still remain righteous? (Job 1:9-11).
To prove that He was right, God allowed Job to be tested, including taking away from him his wealth and his family.
Then, it happened. His wealth was taken from him. But he did not sin against God by cursing God. Next, all of his 10 children were killed at a birthday party. Again, Job did not sin against God. He remained righteous and blameless before God.
Reverent awe before God
Instead, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). As the greatest man in the East, Job understood one thing —everything that he had came from God alone. His wisdom came from God. His wealth came from God. His children came from God. These were blessings from God. Therefore, Job believed that God had every right to remove them from him as He saw fit.
Job also understood that he could not take his riches with him when he died. We came into this world with nothing, and when we leave this earth, we can not take anything physical with us. The thing that we can live behind is the memories others have of us and the legacy we leave behind.
For Job, the most important Person was God. He was the greatest man in the East for his wealth and for his wisdom. Yet, he did not put his hope in his wisdom. He did not put his trust in his wealth.
God was so pleased with Job that He boasted to the Accuser that Job “still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason” (Job 2:3). In his great loss, Job maintained his reverent awe before God.
He was confident in who God was—that God was faithful and righteous in all His ways. Can we say the same when we are facing struggles in our lives. Will we still trust God if we experience great loss?
God is still a faithful God. Ask God for eyes of faith to trust Him even when we are in difficult circumstances. The pandemic take things away from us: freedom to travel, freedom to see our family and friends, and it also strike us economically. We have been hit economically, emotionally and mentally. Let us not let it take away our faith in God.
Job remained faithful to God despite losing his wealth and children. God then allowed the Accuser to afflict Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. They were so painful, that he had to scrap them with a piece of broken pottery. His skin split open because of the boils. Maggots were crawling around his wounds. Pus and blood oozed out from his wounds. He was so afflicted that he couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep well and his breath stunk.
Yet, he did not curse God. He maintained his reverence for God. He rebuked his wife, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Job “did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).
In his affliction, Job maintained a thankful attitude towards God. He remembered that everything he had were God’s providence to him. He said of God, “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit” (Job 10:12). He remembered God was the one who gave him his life, showed him kindness and provided for him.
For us today, it is easy to succumb to the temptation that we do not need God—we can manage our lives. Well, isn’t it the human condition since Adam and Eve?
But Job showed us what it meant to put our trust in God. Even when all that he had was gone, he could still praise God. If all that we have is gone, and all that we consider as precious, such as our children, are gone, can we still say that God is good? Can we still worship God and say He is good?
There are things in our lives that we will never understand why they happened. Job never did understand why these calamities happened to him.
Job lamented. He lamented that God had shattered their relationship by tormenting him. He wondered if God loved him anymore. He felt as if God was waging a battle against him (Job 3:23), gnashing his teeth at him (Job 16:9). He said God has turned him over to the ungodly and thrown him into the clutches of the wicked (Job 16:11). God had crushed him (Job 16:12). He felt God was like an archer who was using him as target practice; or a warrior that has slashed open Job’s kidneys and spilt his gall on the ground (Job 16:12-13).
Job lamented over the loss of relationships. His relatives and closest friends had forsaken him (19:14). His guests and servants considered him as a foreigner (19:15). His own family too, turned away from him: his wife found him repulsive, his family loathed him and young children despised him (19:17-18). Those he loved had turned from him (19:19).
Yes, Job was lamenting but in his lament he had faith in God. He said, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (19:25-26). He knew that things on this earth are fleeting, but Someone remained unchanging, that is, God.
In his great loss and suffering, he yearned for God. He said, “I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:27).
He did not understand God’s plan for him yet he held on to God. He yearned for his relationship with God to be restored. He yearned that God would remember him (Job 14:3), “If only you would hide me in the grave, and conceal me till your anger has passed! If only you would set me a time and then remember me!”
Imagine that. In the midst of his great loss and deep suffering, as the greatest man in the East, he did not ask for everything to be restored to him. He did not ask for his wealth to be restored. He did not threaten God to bring back his 10 children to him or to give him another 10 children. All he really wanted was that God would remember him. Job wanted God Himself. That was the only greatest desire of his heart. He knew that his wealth, his servants, his children, would not match with what God meant to him. He wanted more than anything to be in a restored relationship with God once again. In his pain and suffering, he never gave up on God.
This is such an important lesson for us today. Will we really acknowledge that God is our all?
Yes, we all need to work for food on our table. We need to feed our family. We need pay for our children’s education or to think about our retirement. Especially in this pandemic, there may be more expenses for gadgets, and internet connection and so on. But let us not forget God.
Thomas Merton, a Catholic writer, once told a story. A person was climbing on the ladder of success, each rung brought him closer to the top but once he reached the top, he realised the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. He had been climbing on the wrong ladder.
May the ladder that we are climbing be the ladder that brings us closer to God.
God finally spoke to Job but in the whirlwind. When God questioned Job and showed him His sovereignty, Job realised that he had a narrow view of God. In the past, Job thought God functioned in a way that He rewarded the righteous and punished the wicked. But when God showed Job His Creation, Job finally understood that God’s purposes for this world (and even universe) are far bigger than just punishing the wicked and blessing the righteous. God as the sovereign Creator had a purpose for all of His created beings which we human beings are incapable of understanding (Job 39).
The book of Job is not about suffering. It is about God—His character, sovereignty, justice, faithfulness, goodness and love. Our lives are not solely about us. God’s plan is for the humanity and the universe.
We see the pains and the sufferings of this world. We are helpless when natural disasters strike or we feel hopeless with the choice of the world leaders. We think that we would do a better job at running the world than God. God’s ways are higher than our ways. There will always be issues that we will not fully understand from the limited perspective that we have.
Let us learn from Job. Instead of demanding answers from God for his pain, he humbled himself before God (Job 28), acknowledging that there was so much that he did not know and understand. “The fear of the Lord — that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
Job never got answers for his suffering. But from his suffering, he experienced God in a fresh way and re-established the Creator-created relationship. Suffering does not necessarily mean punishment from God. One thing for certain that God is with us every day. He is the Creator, and He is love. The world is God’s — it is His property and it is in His hands .
The book of Job ended with God restoring all that Job had lost. He had 10 more children, his daughters were the most beautiful in the land and he received double the wealth than before.
Job never let God go. Let us not be so carried away with ourselves that we forget the sovereignty of God. He had a wonderful plan for us. He sent His One and only begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for us.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior.”
We have a new life and new meaning to life because of Jesus Christ.
We live a reasonably comfortable life. Do we desire God? Do we yearn for Him? May our hearts not get so crowded that it crowd God from the centre of our lives.
Job never got the answer to why he suffered. He did not know the contest between God and the evil one. But what was more important to him was that his relationship with God was restored. He got a clearer sense of who God is.
Job humbled himself before God and worshipped him.
There are so many things in this life that we will not understand. There are questions in our head that will not be answered. Job persisted to live a meaningful life, because God is the Creator. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, trust and love to our God like Job did.
Lent a period of 40 days. It does not include Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.
The forty days of Lent represents the 40 days and night Jesus spent in the wilderness. During these 40 days, the devil came to tempt Him but Jesus defeated these temptations. Jesus also spent time fasting and praying to prepare Himself for His ministry.
What was Jesus’ ministry? His ministry was to preach about the Kingdom of God. His teachings were on turning away from sins, or also known as repentance, and living our lives in faith and obedience to God.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. Let us use this time to reflect on the love of Jesus Christ for us. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world for us. He suffered and died for us. He who was without sin carried all our sins upon Himself. He rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven. He is in Heaven now, preparing a place for us—those who believe in Him.
If we have been struggling to read and study God’s Word, this is the time for us to do so. If we have been too busy to pray, the season of Lent is a good time for us to refocus on Him.
Sometimes, when life gets too overwhelming , we can’t hear God talking to us. We may be carrying too many unnecessary baggage. Now is the time to slow down our pace and receive healing from God. Now is the time to bask in God’s friendship and enjoy His love.
What to give up for Lent?
We may not need a lot of the things which we had purchased. Now that we are in the pandemic, we may not shop as often as we like, but let us learn not to spend unnecessarily and to find contentment in what I have. After all, godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).
This can also be time where we look through at our possession and donate items we no longer need to people who really need them.
Let us be more intentional in focusing on God and reflecting on His love. Instead of watching TV or Netflix, we can use this time for meditation or read the Bible. This is also the time to minister to a friend who needs a listening ear, visit a friend, keep in touch with a friend, get to know someone or do something nice for someone.
I love junk food! I love bubble tea. I love ice cream. I love fried stuff. All these are yummy but they are not good for my body. This is the season that we give up on food that do not nourish us. After all, we need to take care of our health, which is one of the most precious gift from God.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Corinthians 6:19-20
Lent is a time for us to rest in God and to find peace in Him. After all, God is in control of the universe, not us. Let us rest in Him.
What are you giving up for Lent? May you experience God afresh as you draw close to God. May His love and presence surround you and your family.