Seek the Welfare of the City (Part 5 of 5)

We have reached the last part of this mini-series. This is the conclusion.

The word God spoke to the Israelites through the prophet Jeremiah is very much for us today too. You are in your country because God has placed you there. God has a purpose although we may not see it or understand it.

There is so much to complain about our city and country —if that is what we choose to do. Or, we can choose to be thankful and trust in God’s sovereignty and timing. It is God who “controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.” (Daniel 2:21, NLT). There will never be a perfect country. There will never be a perfect government. But we can ask God to change our attitude. I have struggled through this issue too. I wrestled with God and asked for contentment and joy in wherever He has placed me.

Build your homes, be willing to be God’s channel of peace and blessings to the society, take care of your family, and seek the welfare of your city. Continue to pray for the nation. May God’s glory fill the nations of the world.

Remember, our final destination is in Heaven. Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20 that we are not of this world– we are only passing through. Let us not lose our focus and succumb to the temptations and lifestyles of this world. As God’s ambassadors in this world, we are to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NIV). We also have the power from the Holy Spirit, to take God’s message of love and salvation to all corners of the world (Acts 1:8).

We are where we are because God has a purpose for us. As we continue to partner with God, may the shalom of God be upon us and our land. Amen.

Photo I took upon landing. The city of Kuching.
Shanghai
A photo I took in Malacca, Malaysia, 2 years ago

Seek the Welfare of the City (Part 4 of 5)

In the previous post (Part 3), we look at the elements of building a godly family. The exiles were to flourish and to build their homes and families in the land. Today, we will look at verse 7 of Jeremiah Chapter 7: seek the welfare of the city.

I took this picture last year when I was in the plane. As the plane was landing, I caught a picturesque landscape of my city: Kuching. Sometimes we need to look at our city from another perspective so that we can learn to appreciate and enjoy all that it has to offer.

To the exiles in Babylon, God commanded them to seek the welfare of the city.

(3)Welfare of the city

Verse 7 says, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”.

The exiles were living in the land of their enemies. But, God told them to pray for the land and to pray for the Babylonians who have been mistreating them and making them slaves. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Tim 2:1-2, that when the authority over us is evil, all the more we need to pray for them.

It is hard to pray for something you don’t care about. It is even harder to pray for people you don’t even like—your enemies! When God asked them to pray for Babylon, God wanted them to care about the city and its welfare. Seek the welfare of the city because this city is your home. Care for it, love it and love its people although they were different in terms of languages, cultures and religions, and pray for it.

In Hebrew, the word “welfare” or “shalom” means, peace. It is not just “peace”. “Shalom” means a lot more than just peace: it encompasses completeness, wholeness, health, prosperity, safety soundness, peace, tranquillity and harmony.

“Seek the welfare of the city”, do good to all. Do not attempt harm or revenge against your enemies. The Israelites were to bring God’s peace to the city of their enemies. They were to bring the well being to the city where their enemies lived. They were also to bring prosperity to the city that treated them like slaves.

Generations later, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), Jesus, sat on the mount and taught, “Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9)

Matthew 5:43–45, Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to this world, to put chaos in order, to give us peace, peace beyond understanding. And if we really seek His peace, His peace will flow through us, transforming us to become peacebearers in our city today.

Grow roots in this place, care for the things happening in this city. For in its welfare, we will find our welfare.

There is a short prayer in the Book of Common Prayer which the Anglicans use. The prayer goes like this, “Lord, make us full of discontent as long as there are brothers and sisters living and dying in hunger.”

Make this be our prayer too, that we can hear the cries and the sufferings of the people around us. Let us not be so happy and comfortable with ourselves that we become selfish and ignorant to what is going on in the society. May God open our eyes to see the needs of the marginalised people around us and inspire us to do something for them for the Glory of God.

In the welfare of Kuching, we will find our shalom. May God use you to be His channel of love and peace to our city.

For our friends who are reading from another country, may you be blessed to be a blessing. May you flourish in your city and may the shalom of God be with you and your city.

Seek the Welfare of the City (Part 3 of 5)

Text: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

In the first part of this series, we learn that God had called the Israelites to build their homes in a place where they were the exiles.

In yesterday’s post, we learn that we are the ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). In the post today, we will be looking at another thing God had told the Israelites to do:

(2)Family Life

God told these exiles were to do is to build their family. “Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease” (verse 6)

The Israelites were to start building families, to have children so that their numbers would grow (the increase in number also meant they were flourishing).

They were to build on their family lives because families are the building blocks of the society and subsequently the nation. The family unit is the core of society—a healthy family means a healthy nation.

The Theology of Family relationships has 4 elements. These elements are what God is to us, and how we should be to one another in our family:

(i)Covenant: to love and be loved

Our God loves us unconditionally. How should this be reflected in our family relationships? In our relationships with our family, loving one another includes willing to think of the needs of the other person, learn to serve one another, encourage one another through the good and the bad times and bless one another. It also means to listen to the other and respect his or her perspectives.

(ii) Grace: to forgive and be forgiven

While we were sinners, God sent Jesus Christ into this world to save us from our sins. God forgives our sins and mistakes if we genuinely repent of them. It is through God’s Grace that we are saved.

Grace is a relational word because it invites us into a relationship with God. God designs families to function on grace and forgiveness too. We need to give and receive grace and forgiveness from one another, so that we can move on as a family. The family should be the first place we learn to give and receive forgiveness.

(iii)Empowerment: to serve and be served

Jesus Christ the Son of God came from Heaven to earth to show us the example of servant leadership. Empowerment is the process of helping another person to recognise his or her potential by giving encouragement, affirmation and guidance. Empowerment is born out of God’s covenant love and the amazing grace we find in Christ Jesus. The Spirit of God empowers us to empower others, including our family members, so that we can live according to God’s intended purposes for us.

(iv)Intimacy: to know and be known

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were able to be transparent before God, they could be themselves without any pretense. That is intimacy.

When family members experience covenant love, grace and empowerment, they are able to feel that they can be vulnerable to one another, without the fear of rejection or ridiculed. To be truly intimate, there should be love, grace forgiveness and empowerment.

May God help Christian families to reflect these 4 elements in their family relationships because they come from God to us. They also exist among the Triune God.

When Christians are intentional about nurturing their families, they will be the agents of change in the society. The people in the society will experience selfless love, genuine care, help in times of trouble and need, friendship and blessings of Jesus Christ through us. Remember, we are ambassadors for Christ. And families are the building blocks of the society.

May God give us grace and wisdom in our family life. What are the ways that you can work on your family relationships so that your family carries the blessings and the love of Christ to your society?

Seek the Welfare of the City (Part 2 of 5)

Text: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

We are the citizens of Malaysia. We also have to remember to whom do we belong. We have to remember our true, eternal identity. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ told His disciples that they did not belong to the world. We live in this world, but we do not belong to the world. Jesus says in John 15:19, “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”

The apostles, John, Peter and Paul talk about us being in the world, but not fully blending into this world. We are in this world but not of it (John 17:16). Peter says in 1 Peter 1:1, that we are “strangers in this world” because our citizenship is in Heaven. Apostle Paul says we are “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).

An ambassador is an official representing a nation. The ambassador is sent to another country. He speaks the language, lives in the foreign country and mixes with the local people but he always remember his role and duty is to represent his own home country. He reflects the official position that gave him the authority to be the ambassador. Apostle Paul says we are all “ambassadors” for Christ (2 Cor 5:20). 1 Thessalonians 2:4 says we have been “approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel”. We represent not ourselves, but Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for our sins. And we represent the Kingdom of Light in this world.

Our real Home and our final destination is Heaven. While we make our homes and settle down in a city in this world, we should not adopt the lifestyles, faiths and cultures of this world and act like people who do not know Jesus Christ, who has died for our sins. Remember, we represent Jesus. We are the ambassadors for Jesus in this world.

Trust in God when He has planted you in a city and calls you to build your home and settle down there. And work to make a difference for God in your city.

Seek the Welfare of the City (Part 1 of 5)

Text: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

In the context of this passage, the Israelites were exiles and refugees. Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians in 587 BCE.

Because the Israelites resisted the authority of the Babylonians, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took the elite group: which consisted of the leaders of Israel, the priests, the prophets, the royals, the court officials, the craftsmen and the artisans to the Babylonian Empire. Many of the Israelites were killed (Jeremiah 39). Those left behind intermarried and became the Samaritans.

The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel told this generation of Israelites the reason they were exiled was because they disobeyed God. They had rebelled against God, and this was their punishment. They were hoping that the exile will only last only for a little while but, the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel told them that their exile might last for 3 generations. If the average of a generation was 20 years, 3 generations might mean up to 70 years. The Israelites would be in the exile for at least 70 years.

As time passed, the adults who witnessed the fall of Jerusalem began to die out. A new generation of adults was emerging. This new generation was either children when Jerusalem was destroyed, or they were not yet born.

God sent a letter to these Israelites in exile through the prophet Jeremiah. In this passage, God told them to do 3 things, which we will look at in this mini series. Let us see what we should learn from God’s message to the exiles and what we could apply in our own lives.

(1)Build your home

To the exiles and refugees in Babylon, God instructed them, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” (verse 4, NIV)

The Israelites were to build their own houses in the city of the enemies, and even growing their gardens. Building a house, planting a garden and harvesting its fruits or vegetables were not activities which could be accomplished overnight or over a short period of time. Building, planting and harvesting would take time. So, God was telling them to settle down in this place. Don’t treat this place like a temporary spot or a prison in which they were held in, but make it their homes.

They were to be involved in this city and grow their roots in the city.

It seemed strange that God was telling them to settle down here, in an enemy’s country. But take note of verses 1, 4, 7 and 14. Verse 1 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar had carried them into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. But, verse 4 tells us, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Verse 7, “I have carried you into exile”. And verse 14 also says, “the Lord declares, ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’.

God reminded His people that although it seemed Nebuchadnezzar had arrested them and put them in Babylon, God reassured them that ultimately, He was in control. It was God who had allowed the exile to Babylon. And verses 10 and 11 tell us the reason why. God brought them to Babylon because He had a purpose for them. A purpose and a plan which gave them hope and a better future compared to if they had remained in Jerusalem.

As long as they were still in Babylon, they would have to make a home in the city that was different from Jerusalem. In Babylon, they were surrounded by pagans who had different values, cultures and so on. The Israelites were not to be like one of the Babylonians by adopting their lifestyles, cultures, beliefs and faiths. Instead, they were to set themselves apart, remembering that they belonged to God. May be God had placed them in Babylon to be a blessing to the Babylonians and that the city would continue to flourish.

This calling is for us today too. God had led our ancestors to Malaysia, to be a blessing to this land. God had given us gifts so that we can make this city flourish. God has been and is calling Christians to be a blessing to this land, to flourish this city economically and spiritually by bringing His light, love and peace into this nation.

Watchmen of Our Nation

On 13-15 June 2016, under the leadership of the Methodist Bishop, the Methodist Church in Malaysia gathered at the first Methodist School of Intercessors. That was the birth of the “Issachar Watchmen Movement”.

The theme for that year was, “To know Malaysia is to bless Malaysia”. This movement is called the “Issachar Watchmen Movement” because this is a call to us as Methodists in Malaysia to take after the tribe of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

In the Bible, out of the 12 tribes of Israel, the tribe Issachar was not a big tribe. However, God had given them wisdom to assess the current times and discern the necessary actions to follow especially during the turbulent times of political turmoil and war.

In the ancient days, a wall was erected around the city to protect the city. On the wall were watchtowers. The watchmen in the watchtowers would stay awake at night and keep watch. If the watchmen saw enemies moving towards the city, they would send out a signal to the citizens, asking them to take cover or to fight back. Therefore, the watchmen played very important roles to safeguard the city and its people.

Our country needs spiritual watchmen too —people who would keep watch on our nation and intercede for it. For some of us, God may have placed a special burden in you to “understand the times and seasons” and to discern how to pray for the nation at different seasons and times. For the majority of us, it is still our responsibility to pray.

Below are just a few of the Bible verses which talk about the importance to pray for our national leaders:

  • “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Tim 2:1-2, NIV)
  • “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1, NIV)
  • “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV)
  • “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17, NIV)
  • “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

Would you want to commit as a watchman and pray for the nation? You can set aside a time each day to pray for the national leaders and current issues. I personally think that keeping up to date with the news is important — to know our land is to bless our land. We want to know what is happening in the society so that we can pray accordingly and so that the church can be a blessing and a help to those in need.

More importantly, what is God telling you through the things happening around us? What is your response? How can you bear God’s light in wherever you are?

Let’s stand and watch on behalf of the land—yours and mine.

“For as the waters, fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord” (Habakkuk 2:14, NLT)

Light Up the City

A couple of days ago, I signed up to pray for my nation, city, community and neighbourhood with “Thy Kingdom Come”. This prayer movement starts on Ascension Day (21 May) and ends on Pentecost Day (31 May).

Look at these lights! Each light shows that someone is praying for the nation/community/society

It is so touching to see different countries around the world being lit up in prayers!

This is how Malaysia looks like. Obviously our country can use more lights and prayers

When I see these lights, the teaching of Jesus comes to mind, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV).

Let us all shine for Christ by doing deeds and living a life that glorify His holy Name! Let us all pray for His Kingdom to come to our nation!

Come, let us light up the city!

How to Love My City

If it wasn’t for wanting to spend more time with my parents, I would have left this city and state many years ago when I was much younger.

I struggled to love this city. I still am. I struggled to enjoy this city. I admit I am very much blinded to what this city has to offer. Oh yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The moon seems to be brighter and bigger on the other side of the globe. Oh yes, my Instagram is filled with pictures of delicious local cuisines and sceneries I took when roaming about. In fact, my Instagram is my attempt to remind myself what a lovely city I am living in.

As much as I have tried loving it, the incident of having my handbag snatched from my arm just earlier this year is the final nail in the coffin. My bag, phone with precious photos, car key, the wallet which had been with me since I was in secondary school, photos and the bookmark my sister drew for me were all gone within a few seconds. Praise the Lord no one was injured.

I have since forgiven the thief and prayed that he will come to know Jesus (my pastor card is in there). But loving this city is still hard to do.

Luke 19: 41 recorded the compassion Jesus has on the city of Jerusalem. Jesus even wept over it. It was because He foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the year AD 70. The temple was never rebuilt.

Jesus had compassion over the city. He wept for people who did not know Him.

I come to this conclusion: I don’t have to love this city. All I should do is to appreciate its beauty, enjoy its rich cultures, enjoy my family and friends, serve my congregation faithfully, and be thankful for a place I can call home. Oh yes, and to pray for this city.

Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, thank you for having compassion on us and on our cities. Help us to be thankful in wherever You have placed us, and to pray for its well being so that it will be filled with Your glory. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

One thing I like about this city? It is the variety of food I get to eat! This is a picture of Roti Canai, an Indian-influenced flatbread dish which Malaysians love to have as breakfast, supper or snack. It is usually served with dal or curry but it can be served in sweet or savoury variations. The sweet variations can include bananas, condensed milk or chocolate powder. The savoury ones have meat, egg or cheese in them.