22 April. Today is Earth Day. Since 1970, Earth Day has been an annual event celebrated by 1 billion people in more than 193 countries around the world. The participants take part in projects such as picking up litter and planting trees to protect the planet from pollution and deforestation.
But the task of taking care of this earth went back further than 22 April 1970. After creating the universe and the beautiful earth, God our Creator created a man and a woman and entrusted them to care for this world. God placed the man Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden, and oh, what a beautiful place that was! There were fruits on the trees and flowers of every kind and animals were living peaceably with one another. God gave them this responsibility to work and take care of this alluring garden (Genesis 2:15).
However, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were banished from this garden. Taking care of the earth became a much harder job. There were now thorns, plants would wither, fruit trees might fall to bear fruits and we had to toil hard for food from the ground. Yet, God is still with us. He speaks to us through His creation. When we observe the nature around us, we see how tiny we are compared to the gushing waterfalls and the grandiose mountain. When we look at our garden: the blooming flowers, the singing birds, the mischievous cats and the loyal pet dogs, we can not help but be amazed at God’s creativity and love when He created all these wonderful creatures.
In 1901, pastor and poet Maltbie Babcock wrote the hymn, “This Is My Father’s World”, expressing his delight in God’s creation! During his morning walks, he was fascinated by God’s creations: the sky, the seas and all the creatures in them. And he was inspired to write this song.
This is our God’s world. He puts the seasons in order (Job 38:12-13). He controls the weather (Job 38:22-30) and He provides food for the living creatures (Job 38:39-41). He sustains this world, whether it is things visible or invisible to our human eyes.
Wherever we are, whether we live in a bustling city or a quiet town, each of us can play a part in caring for the environment. This can be our way of thanking God for creating this amazing world for us to live in. Let us protect this earth. We only have one earth. May our children and their children get to enjoy this beautiful world.
Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter whereby we examine ourselves in reflection to the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ for us. During Lent, we can:
Habouring resentment is hard. Psychological studies show that there are negative effects on our bodies if we are resentful or are angry at someone. Just as God has forgiven us of our sins which we have committed knowingly and unknowingly, ask God for His grace so that we can forgive those who have wronged us.
2. Thank a person
Are there people in your life whom you appreciate but you hardly tell them their presence in your life means a lot to you? Let us say something nice to our family and friends. Lent is a time to appreciate and thank someone. It also means appreciating the people in the society. We can do so by saying “thank you” to them or give them a smile, or even acknowledging their presence by having an eye contact with them. Their selfless contributions bring improvement to the society.
3. Do an act of kindness
Lent is a wonderful time to do an act of kindness to others. Do you see someone a need? You can offer your help. In our day to day life, we can be caught up with our own needs. Let us look beyond ourselves and see how we can help those who are in need.
4. Exercise and take care of our bodies
In the midst of pandemic, it doesn’t take long for one to realise the importance of having a healthy body. If we have been neglecting our bodies due to work or bad eating habits, Lent is a time for us to give it the proper nutrition, adequate rest and some exercise.
Lent is a season for us to draw closer to God. Through these acts of love and kindness, may we experience His love in our daily living.
Though tested positive for my antigen test on Day 6, I felt much better physically, and emotionally today. I am physically stronger to move about the house to clean, to sweep the fallen leaves on the porch, to delight watching the cats play from across the road, to water my plants and to end the day by preparing a simple dinner for myself.
The aroma in the kitchen smells different today: fresh and lovely. I was more present when I was washing the veggies, cutting them and cooking them in the pan. I was taking my time to enjoy the process of meal prepping and cooking.
A week ago, these simple chores of taking care of the house, gardening and cooking were done in a rush and mindlessly. They were things that I needed to get over and done with because there always something else more important that needed my attention: some messages to reply, some assignments waiting to be completed, another email to respond to, cleaning the house before the visitors arrive, rushing to church for some activities and so on. But, when I am in home quarantine, activities become slower, time seems longer and tasks are manageable. I can slow down and enjoy the beauty in the simple things in life, and not rush from chores to chores.
Apostle Paul writes, “4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”(Philippians 4:4-5)
Rejoice in the Lord is not something that we do when we feel like it. It should be our lifestyle as the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Joy comes from God. Joy is knowing that God sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins, the Holy Spirit is with us and we have eternal life with God. We can rejoice regardless of our present circumstances because we stand on the promise and assurance of who God is and what He is doing and will do in the life of His people.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (verse 6)
What are you worried about? Our list can go on and on. Apostle Paul urges us not to be anxious or worried about anything but to commit everything to God in prayers. We are invited by God to tell Him the things that are bothering us. In prayers, we are reminded of the sovereignty of God who cares and loves us. When we tell God our needs and requests, we are to give thanks to God, simply because He is good. He has been faithful, merciful and loving to us. In our desperation, He hears us and delivers us.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
Peace is a state of well-being. In the Old Testament, the word “Shalom” in Hebrew means: harmony, wholeness, completeness, health, tranquillity, safety, rest, peace with God, and these are permanent state.
God’s peace guards our heart and mind. May He guard and protect our heart and mind from cumbersome worries and anxieties. Wait upon God. Rest in Him.
During this season of Lent, let us continue to:
Deepen our relationship with God through prayers. We pray and also hear for His voice when we pray.
(2) Read God’s Word
God’s Word illuminates our path. It leads us to the path of righteousness, holiness and wisdom. Let us read His Word, meditate on it and apply it in our lives. St John of the Cross (1542-91), a Spanish Catholic priest, said that when we read God’s Word, the new life of Christ gets brighter and brighter in us.
(3) Obedience to God
Perhaps much of our anxieties in our relationships, our chores and daily activities are more manageable if we commit them into God’s will and time. We can find peace and rest in God if we are mindful that God is with us in our chores and in our relationships with others.
May the peace of the Lord be with you in whatever you do and in the people you meet.
My retreat came earlier this year than I had planned. I had planned one in August right around my birthday. The reason for this unplanned retreat: I was down with Covid.
I could not believe it when I was tested positive. I had all those symptoms: flu, chills, muscle ache, cough but the results from the antigen tests were negative. I was hopeful that I might just be having a common flu. I prayed hard that I would remain ‘negative’ for Covid tests.
How could I get Covid, right? I am relatively healthy: I take my supplements daily. I have always been super careful: double my masks, sanitize the cart at the supermarket before using, sanitize my hands every time I touched something (may be I was a little extreme) and once I return home, I immediate sanitise my handbag and my phone. How can someone so careful like me get Covid?
On the morning of Day 5 of my exposure to the virus, I did an antigen test upon waking up. It said, “positive”.
I stared at the result. I was shattered.
I was given a ‘Home Isolation Or Surveillance Order’ for one week.
Home Isolation. Away from people. I am used to being away from people for retreats but this time, while in home isolation, I was in isolation with angry thoughts, bitter thoughts, sad thoughts.
On the first day, I spent much of my time being angry: I was angry at the person for giving the virus to me. My breaths were hot, like a fiery dragon’s. Nobody wants to be infected. Nobody in their right mind wants to pass the virus on to others, I understand. My friend is feeling guilty, I understand. But still, I was very angry. I have to announce to the church that I am a “Covid Positive”, a label I was trying to run away from ever since the start of Covid 2 years ago. And it has been miserable getting Covid. It was a terrible experience.
On the second day, I spent most of my time sulking and getting angry at God. I complained to God. Why would You allow this happen? What about Sunday? Who would preach at the church on Sunday? What would the church leaders think of me? Would the people run away from me when I see them in church on Sunday?
On the third day, I re-watched some of my favourite movies and TV series (grateful for streaming services and good internet connection). I laughed and laughed at my favourite scenes. The movie therapy took away my sadness and anger for a while. I talked to some friends (via chat, I couldn’t talk due to the persistent sore throat and cough). One of them commented that I have “joined the Covid party” which I thought was hilarious.
On the fourth day, I was ready for a therapy session with God. I stopped sulking and stopped throwing myself a pity party (but still angry at my friend!). Throughout these couples of days, family and friends remind me that God is with me. I may be angry and bitter but this does not change the fact that God loves me.
We are in the Season of Lent. Lent is to remember that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and night to prepare Himself for the public ministry. I would love to have been there to hear His intimate conversations with His Father in Heaven. In these 40 days, Jesus was tempted by the devil three times but every time He was tempted, He leaned on God’s Word and power and He was victorious over these temptations.
May be God wanted me to experience Him in a new way in this season of Lent. May be I should lean upon God and rest in Him, no matter what the circumstances I am in.
Looking back at the past couple of days, I am so grateful for family and friends who sent me words of encouragement. They check in on me daily to make sure that I am physically (and emotionally) healthy. There are friends who send me groceries, lunch and dinner, snacks, coconut juice, and a slice of yummy cheesecake. I am never hungry. I spent a lot of time at the dining table enjoying these little surprises. There are friends who go to the pharmacies for me to get the needed medication. I am never in need. My needs have been supplied.
When I count my blessings, I have less to grumble about. No more complaints. No more worries. No more asking God why. After all, this is what Lent is all about: focusing on the love and sacrifice of Jesus. Not on our current misery. For now, I will nurse myself to good health and to be strong for ministry again, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Suggestions from Pope Francis on Fasting for Lent:
Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
Fast from worries and trust in God.
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
As Christians, we are commanded to grow in the Lord. Here are some of the spiritual disciplines which we can put into practice in our daily living.
“The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God, and the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God” –Jeremy Walker, Life in Christ.
Isn’t it true? Before we became Christians, we gave our heart to God. And after we become Christian, it is our duty to keep our heart with God or else we will be distracted and stray away.
We should always strive to be growing spiritually. Apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians: “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
“Make every effort to…be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). It is important to make every effort, strive to grow towards holiness because it is only through holiness, we can see the Lord.
Apostle Peter also wrote, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
As the apostles urged the Christians, it is important and necessary to grow. We can not remain stagnant forever, or worse, to go backwards. When we plant a seed, we expect growth. We expect the seed to sprout, and that it will grow into a plant and eventually bear fruits that we can enjoy.
When we have a baby, we want to see the baby grow day by day. It is very worrying if the child does not grow. There will be sleepless nights of worry, going to hospital for check-ups to find the reason why. Similarly, it is worrying if we do not grow spiritually.
In the letter to Hebrews, the original audience were the Jews who believed in Jesus. They did not grow spiritually. Instead of growing, they go backwards. They were at the danger of falling away from the faith.
“11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
These Christians were no longer trying to understand God’s Word. Were they callous? The fact is, they had become lazy. Their ears had become dull. We see this same word in Hebrews 6:11-12, which is used to describe sluggish. They had become lazy in hearing God’s Word, sluggish in their relationship with God.
These Christians should have been matured enough to be teachers already. They were supposed to be teachers of God’s Word. Yet, they were regressing to the point of having to go back to the elementary school again. They needed someone to teach them about the basic truth of God all over again. At one point, they were able to enjoy steak: a thick, rich, flavourful steak but they went so backwards to drinking milk again.
How do we know if spiritual growth is happening in our lives?
As important as it is to grow spiritually, growth is in God’s Hands. Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding this matter. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” Apostle Paul planted the seed, Apollos watered it. God was the one who provided sunlight and water to make the seeds growth but nonetheless, Paul and Apollos still worked hard and diligently in their respective tasks. God gave the growth but we have to do our part to grow spiritually.
Our growth is in God’s timing. Will we still be diligent in taking care of our spiritual growth? We cultivate spiritual disciplines because our end goal is not just the growth, but our end goal is to know God better and to love Him deeper.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253), wrote this prayer called “Day by Day”:
Thanks be to thee,
my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which
thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults
which thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer,
Friend and Brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly.
It is St Richard’s prayer to see God more clearly day by day. Love God more dearly day by day. Follow God more nearly day by day. There will be ups and downs in our life but may this be our prayer too: that we strive to see God, love Him more and follow God ever closely day by day.
Spiritual disciplines is important so that we can grow spiritually. John Wesley our Methodist spiritual forefather, set the example for us. Below are some of the spiritual disciplines he practiced:
John Wesley meditated. He read the Bible first and meditated on what he had just read. John Wesley meditated a lot and out of these came his doctrinal and spiritual teachings. The purpose of meditation is to hear God clearly and then we obey Him. When we meditate, we invite the Holy Spirit to illumine us so that we can understand and obey God’s Word.
John Wesley was one of those who spent a few hours on his knees in prayers. He said prayers should include “public prayer, family prayer, and praying in our closet”. His directions for prayers? “Tell Him simply all you fear, all you feel, all you want…. Pour out your soul and freely talk to God…. Pray just as you are led…. in all simplicity.” Wesley urged the people to pray written prayers in the Bible as well as using the written prayers in “The Book of Common Prayer”. He prayed 4 hours a day and before his death, 8 hours a day in prayers.
Fasting is to abstain from food or certain pleasures for a period of time to seek God’s face. Wesley fasted 2 times a week. For us who are not able to fast because of health reasons, we can also fast from things that distract us: social media, entertainment, shopping sprees and so on. The purpose of fasting is so that we can whole heartedly seek God.
It was said that John Wesley gave away 80% of his income to help the poor. Though he had good income from his writings, he still lived on 28 pounds per year, just as he had in his student days. He gave away the rest of his money to the widows, the orphans. He also built orphanages to care of the orphans.
Worship is important for our spiritual growth. We should make it a priority to worship God, especially on Sunday—the Lord’s Day. Each worship service is an encounter with God: we gather together with other believers to adore Him, praise Him, confess our sins, listen to His Word and be refreshed to enter into the world once again. Even at times when we do not feel like worshipping God, we can tell God how we feel and ask for His grace to help us to worship Him. Being together with other believers will help to encourage our faith.
These spiritual disciplines help us to grow spiritually and enable us to reject the things that are not beneficial for our souls. May God give us the grace and the wisdom to grow in Him day by day.
What are some of the reasons to give thanks to God?
Giving thanks to God is a choice we have to make every day. We can focus on life’s challenges and struggles or we can focus on God and trust that God is with us every day.
Sometimes, we feel that we can not find any reasons to give thanks to God. May be we are experiencing these scenarios:
Too caught up with other people’s lives
With our finger tips, we can peer into a friend’s life through social media: the birth of a baby, the wedding anniversary celebration, a new lover, a job promotion, a new handbag, an online shopping haul, a slice of mouth- watering cheese cake they had, a stylish café they were in…it is so easy to crave and lust for what they have and despise what we have. If we are always comparing ourselves to our friends, we will not be grateful for all that we have.
Too busy in the day to pause and enjoy what we have
Some of us work long hours. If we are not intentional in taking a few minutes each day to pause and give thanks for what we are enjoying: clean water, electricity, the fact that we are healthy and alive, we have a roof above our heads and food on our table. In our pursuit in life, we may not realise how much blessings we are receiving from God. His blessings is overflowing (Psalm 23:5).
Too overwhelmed in life
We may be at a point in our life when we are overwhelmed: our family, our job, we may be unwell, or the need to take care of a loved ones, all these contribute to stress in our lives.
The root of bitterness is still in us
Always playing the victim robs joy from us. If we are always thinking we are the victims, and others are to be blamed for what had happened to us, we will only feed the bitterness, resentment and hatred in us. Let us let go and move on.
Instead of focusing on our circumstances, let us turn our eyes to God. He will open our eyes to see His greatness and faithfulness, and how He is with us every moment of the day. He provides for our needs. He protects us in our going out and coming in. He is our refuge whom we can run to when life gets overwhelming. He gives us courage to face the challenges each day.
Why shall we cultivate a heart of thanksgiving?
It reminds us the purpose of our existence
Each of us is wonderfully and fearfully made by God our Creator (Psalm 139:14). We were created for a purpose. We do not just live for ourselves. One of the greatest joys in life is to love and be loved in return. To love others, we have to take time out of our schedule to care for a friend, or walk an extra mile for someone in need, but it is so worth it, to know we are loved in return.
There is more to life than wanting what others have and crave after them. There is more meaning in life than working hard for self-glorification, power, money and fame. Power, money, fame are never the answer or solution to our lives’ problems.
It reminds us of Who God is
Our God didn’t just create us and let us be. He longs for a relationship with us. Being the good Father, He cares for us and provides for our daily needs.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”(Romans 8:32)
Take time to enjoy God’s creations around us and you will experience a deep joy in you: the plants in our garden, or the clouds in the sky, the breath-taking shades of colours during sunset, the fluttering butterflies, the smell of the earth after the rain, the faces of our family members or our pets’. Our God is a creative God. He creates all this wonderful nature for our enjoyment and for His glory.
It reminds us what matters in life
Our children certainly do not want our money or how powerful we are in our company. What they want most from us is our undivided attention as we spend time with them. They want to see our examples in how we navigate challenges in life. They want to see how we treat others and love others, including the marginalised. Our parents would want us to spend time with them, either a phone call or a visit, than receiving gifts from us but never see us.
The joy of the Lord is our strength
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength”. We are not exempted from problems in life but God is our strength. When we find joy in Him, we will experience His strength to go through each day. Not only that, He gives us wisdom to navigate through our challenges. God too, encourages us to move forward when we fall. He forgives our mistakes and gives us grace to start again.
What to give thanks to God for?
In 1 John, the disciple says straight out that, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
The Bible tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to save us from death and sin (John 3:16). He does not want us to live our lives without knowing Him. He loves us and sees us before we were in our mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He has great plans for us. His love for us is so deep and wide. Ephesians tells us:
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”(Ephesians 3:17-18)
The psalmist also reminds us to praise God because of His love endures forever and it is unfailing.
“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever”(Psalm 106:1).
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind…”(Psalm 107:15).
Jesus Christ is the expression of God’s love towards us. While we were yet sinners, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die for us. He suffered for us so that we will know how much He is willing to give His life for us so that we might live. His blood cleans us from our sins. Jesus is the only way we can go back to God.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”(1 John 4:9)
God’s Word is the Bible. It is inspired by God the Holy Spirit. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
God’s Word not only tell us who we are, whose we are, what our future will be like, it always teaches us how to live our life: our relationship with God and His relationship with us, and our relationship with others.
God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light on our path (Psalm 119:105). It illuminates our path so that we will not grope in the dark but walk in light and in the likeness of His Son, Jesus.
You may have heard that Christianity is not for the lone rangers. It involves a community of fellow believers. They are there to pray for us, to encourage us in our spiritual walk, to have wholesome fun with, to keep us accountable as we move on in holiness, and to journey with us in our live journeys. We have laugh together through the good times and we cry together during times of sadness. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”(Galatians 6:2)
His plan for us
Etty Hilleseum (1914-1943), the Dutch author who was killed in Auschwitz concentration camp said, “Despite everything, life is full of beauty and meaning”. God has a wonderful plan for us. His plan may not be what we have imagined but it is always exciting to where God is leading us: His path is the best path for us. As His children, we are to walk in holiness. We may be sticking out like a sore thumb in the world because our lifestyle is in contrast with the world’s, but may God use our time, resources and life for His glory.
“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”(1 Corinthians 15:57).
May it be that we are so overwhelmed by His love that we will always give thanks to God for His love, goodness and faithfulness to us!
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!
One of the spiritual disciplines a Christian should cultivate is prayers. Prayer enables us to build a relationship with our Father in Heaven who loves us.
When Apostle Paul wrote this letter, it was meant for the church at Colossae. It seemed that the Christians at Colossae were on the verge of losing their understanding of the power by which the Christian life is lived. Paul wrote this letter to encourage them as well as to remind them that there is power and joy as Christians.
Paul’s prayer for the Christians is that they might be strengthened according to God’s glorious might. Paul was in the prison when he was writing this. Being in the prison did not discourage him. He was still joyful because he himself had been strengthened by God.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (verse 2)
Devote ourselves to prayer means we priority prayers regardless of the circumstances. The situation around us does not dictate our joy. Regardless of whatever the circumstances, there is something that we can be thankful for. Make a commitment to pray because prayer connects us to God, our the source of joy and strength.
(1) Prayers Change Things
One of the comments we often hear is this: why do we pray when God is in control? Why do we still need to pray if God already knows everything?
God is not a robot that will do what He is programmed. God is a compassionate God, Who is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8, Psalm 145:8). In various accounts in the Bible, we see that God will change His mind when His people prayed.
For example, Exodus 32 tells us Moses was up in the mountain to be with the Lord. That was when he received the tablet of the 10 Commandments from the Lord. The Israelites saw that Moses had not return to them so they gathered around Aaron and demanded Aaron to make a golden calf from the gold jewellery they had so they could worship it and said this golden calf brought them out of Egypt. They worshipped it and offered sacrifices to it. God was so angry with them that He wanted to destroy these rebellious people. But Moses found favour with God and so, Moses talked to God and asked for His mercy upon the Israelites. Then, God changed His mind and not destroy the people. Verse 14 of Exodus 32 tells us, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”
Another example is found in Jonah. God sent Jonah to the great city of Nineveh. It was a very large city and the people were wicked. God wanted to destroy the city and so He sent Jonah to warn the people there. The king and the people of Nineveh heard God’s warning and they repented. The people fasted and prayed and repented. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10)
Prayers will change the course of events. God will change His mind when His people come to Him in prayers. Apostle Paul reminds us that we are partners with God.
“For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:9) We partner with God. He is not a task master that orders us to do His assignments but He is merciful and compassionate.
As God’s co-workers, it is our responsibility to pray. May God have mercy and hear our prayers for our nation.
(2) Prayer transforms us
When we pray, we move closer to the heart of God. We will see clearly what God loves and know what God hates. We will then begin to care about the things He care about, to love the things He loves and to hate the things He hates. It is not about me anymore but we will think about our action and consequences whether they are they pleasing to God.
Prayer is life changing. It changes our lives. Prayer allows God to transform us. James 4:3, we ask but we do not received because we ask with the wrong motives. Prayer is also a way God is shaping us and molding our character to be more like His Son, Jesus and to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Apostle Paul urged the Christians that there should be transformation in our lives as followers of Christ.
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6, NIV)
Prayers change our behaviour. We also pray so that we will be wise when we live our lives in the society so that we can give glory to God. Prayer helps us to seize opportunity to be good witnesses for the Lord. Prayer changes the language we use towards others and towards ourselves. We don’t use language or words that accused and condemn others but our conversation will be full of grace, edifying, uplifting and encouraging wherever we are: at home, in school, at the workplace or in the society.
Prayers let us know the heart of God so that we can answer people about the God Whom we love and serve.
(3) Prayer is a journey
My dad loves to watch boxing matches. The boxers did not jump into the ring to fight without training. They did not just train for a day and then compete in the championship. They trained for a long time. Singers do not record music without musical training. They too had been undergoing training for a long time before recording music in the studio.
Same goes with prayer. It is a journey. It is a learning process. We will not be able to pray immediately. We need time to learn to pray. The more we pray, the more we will know how to pray. The more we pray, the more we will know the character of God. Don’t be discouraged if you think you don’t know how to pray yet. Think about your own children. When they first learn how to speak, you don’t get upset because they can not talk to you well yet. You will be overjoyed if they speak the first vowel because they are learning to communicate with you. Because they can’t talk very well yet, that does not mean you love them less. You know it will take time for them to learn words. You know it will take time for them to have a conversation with you which you can understand.
God is our Father in Heaven. He is delighted that you, His beloved child, come to Him in prayer. Prayer is heart to heart conversation with God.
Let us devote ourselves to prayer. Prayer is communion with God. Prayer is to know the heartbeat of God. Prayer changes things. Prayer transforms us. Prayer is a journey. Let us go deeper into prayer and experience more of His grace, love, provision and strength.
A couple of days ago was 11.11, a day which was made special by marketers to give us consumers many reasons to buy more. It is also called Global Shopping Festival, or Singles’ Day, or 11.11 Sale. Shops and online shops are offering tempting discounts. You can find everything: household items, kitchen appliances, electronic gadgets, laptops and phones, toys, books, jewelry, clothing, cosmetics and so on at very good discounts.
I too, took time to browse through my online shopping app and discussed with my friends what we were planning, hoping or thinking of buying.
Christmas is coming soon. This is the time where most of us are thinking of presents for our family and friends. Presents and things make us happy but most of the time, this happiness lasts only for a few months or a few years, before we forget about them and replace them with something newer and shinier.
Our self-worth does not come from the things we have. In my younger days, I used to collect action figures. I burned holes in my pocket trying to get my hands on the latest model of Transformers’ Bumble Bee, Batman figures and Star Wars figures. Do they satisfy me? Yes, but only for a short while. Soon, my Bubble Bee is but a forgotten toy with its joints slowly rusting away. A wheel fell off from another tinier version of Bumblee Bee, and I couldn’t find the wheel—it is missing. Without the wheel, it is a handicapped robot. I can’t play with it. It is now officially a junk which I had chucked it in a box in the store room.
Pre-loved things give us additional stress and take up storage spaces at home.
As Christians, how should our spending be like? Material things will starve us because they are never meant to fill us. God did not design us to be satisfied in material things. He designed us for something much greater — a relationship with Him that satisfies our deepest longings and hunger.
God designed us to be filled by Himself—the fountain of living water. This fountain is forever flowing. It never runs dry. We can drink as much as we want from it and be deeply satisfied. Let us not get too carried away with consumerism. It will be like hewing out broken cisterns that do not hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). The more we set our minds and hearts into it, the more energy we will put into something that will not last.
One helpful question to ask before buying something is: Do I really need this? What benefits will this give me? Is this God honouring and glorifying?
If we make Jesus our joy, we will spend less time stressing and worrying about what we should have. God provides all our needs. Contentment in God will open us to new joy that is found only in Him. And we will be able to taste more of His goodness, faithfulness and greatness in our lives.
For the past 2 days, I had attended 3 meetings. As we are approaching the end of the year, there will be more meetings to come to plan for the coming year.
Meetings can be draining but knowing “why” in what am I doing will help me to approach it with a better attitude and with desired outcomes to achieve. Like a boat sailing in the ocean, it will drift around aimlessly, blown to and fro by the wind and the crashing of the waves if the captain does not have a destination in mind.
If we ask ourselves “why” we are doing what we do, our eyes will be opened to the significance in life. Have you seen a person with a purpose in life? You can feel passion and joy in what they are doing. Their eyes sparkle and they work with intense focus and joy. You are drawn to their energy and admire their love for their craft.
On the other hand, there are those who hate every minute of what they do. And it shows in their bad “I don’t care” attitude. It is painful watching them at work.
There were times when I was served by cashiers and waitresses who make it a point to make the customers feel that they are a nuisance and troublesome. I was trying to be as polite as I can as customers should. Unfortunately, their frustrated faces, the unfriendly tone of their voices, their sluggish body language— I can’t help but to feel so sorry for them. They were wasting 10-12 precious hours each day, 6 days a week, to do something that they do not enjoy. What a tragedy! I feel sorry for their manager too because I will not be a returning customer, no matter how good the food or the product is.
How do you discover your “why”? Ask yourselves these questions:
What is your purpose?
What is important to you?
What are you passionate about?
Yes, I drag my feet to work on some days. I suffer from Monday Blues (or Tuesday, since Monday is my day off). But a strategy I am using is to spend more time to do the work that I am gifted in and lesser time on the tasks that drains me because I am less competent in doing them.
God gives each of us gifts. The more we practice and cultivate these gifts, the more joy and fulfilment we have in life. These gifts point us to the purpose of our lives. We do not live just for ourselves, we live in a community: we take and we give back to our community. Our gifts will also inspire others to cultivate their gifts and find joy in daily living.
God is a God of order and not of chaos. Without a sense of purpose, our lives will be chaotic. It will be dictated by the to-do-lists and someone else’s agendas instead of living in fulfilment and purpose.
As you seek God, may He show you the things that bring you passion and joy. Cultivate them and may those around you be blessed by your gifts and your life.