God has carried us through the first half of the year. How was your first half of the year?
Today is the last day of the first half of 2023! Time flies! Looking back at the first half of the year, God has been good and faithful.
I am sure you have tasted and see God’s goodness in your life as well! He provided for us (Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:31-32): we have food on the table, a shelter over our head, a bed to rest on at night, and work that we can do to keep our minds active and body moving.
He leads us (Proverbs 20:24): when we are struggling in our work, when we are at the crossroad when making decisions, God gives us wisdom and strength to manage them.
He gives us peace (John 14:27): when we are worried about our life, having a health scare, or even having a weak body, or worrying about our children, we know when we pray to Him and cast all over worries to Him, He hears us. He promises us that. He does not turn a deaf ear to us.
God has been faithful to us. There are so much to be thankful to God for! May God continue to lead and guide us for the second half of 2023!
Everyone we meet teach us something about life and ourselves.
Someone once said our life is like a train. People come onboard at different stations and some will alight at different stations. Some will alight earlier, while some will stay longer. Regardless of the time we have, each person we met teach us something about life and even about ourselves.
To prevent the pain of saying, “goodbye”, some have resorted to not saying “hello” to new people. But this is quite a short-sighted thought, isn’t it?
Human beings are created to enjoy relationships and we live in communities.
In the Lego Movie, the Lego Batman said, “Losing people is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean you stop letting them in”.
What a reminder! Don’t close yourself to people for the fear of losing them. Keep loving others. Life is more beautiful when shared with others.
Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated to commemorate Qu Yuan, a high-ranking politician and poet (340-278 BC). He loved his country and the people. In return, the people loved him too.
When he was in exile due to political reasons, Qu Yuan wrote a poem expressing his love for his state. Upon hearing the defeat of his country, he was grieved that he threw himself into the Miluo River.
The local villagers immediately raced out in their boats to search for him in the river, but they could not find his body. To prevent the fish from eating his body, they threw lumps of rice into the river as food for the fish. This is why we eat rice dumplings on Dragon Boat Festival.
As Chinese Christians, there are 2 ways we can learn from Qu Yuan:
(1) to love our country
We are to pray for the welfare of the city that we are living in (Jeremiah 29:7). We are also to pray for our leaders in authority, that the people will live in peace and harmony (1 Tim 2:1-2)
(2) to do good deeds
People loved Qu Yuan because he was a nobleman and he cared for them.
As Christians, we are to bear the fruit of the Spirit, such as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) and to do good deeds to bless the community (Matthew 5:16).
As Christians, let us pray for our country and do good deeds that glorify God in Heaven.
A spiritual journal helps us to see God at work in our lives.
A spiritual journal is more than recording our daily activities: what we did, where did we go, etc.
A spiritual journal is a tool to help us see what God is doing in our life. It is personal. The journal entries are between you and God (but of course, feel free to share with your family on what God is doing in your life).
Below are some helpful journal prompts we can use:
Friendship takes work to nurture but wonderful friends are worth the efforts.
I have been blessed with wonderful friends in my life. Looking back, I have not been a wonderful friend myself as when life gets busy, friendships are the first thing I neglect.
As American writer, O. Henry wrote, “No friendship is an accident.”. Friendship needs to be nurtured. Building a friendship takes work — from both people. It is worth it because true friends are life’s gems indeed.
Different friends bring different gifts into our lives. Some bring the gift of laughter, some challenge me to be a better person, some I don’t see often but they are just a text away.
As Maya Angelou says, good friends certainly will make our life extraordinary. To my good friends, a big thank you for being a part of my life.
As a pastor, i visit members almost weekly. After all, we have been entrusted to take care of the people under our care ( Acts 20:28).
There are so many benefits of home visitations. I will only list three of them.
By visiting them, we will get to know their needs. What are their needs? May be some are struggling with health issues and they need our prayers. May be they are struggling with work and they need listening ears. Sometimes, it will lead to discussions on certain topics in the Bible.
By visiting them, my faith is strengthened and encouraged as i hear how God has been leading them and guiding them through challenges and obstacles in life. God is very much real in our lives, although we may not see Him with our eyes.
Home visitations are done in intimate settings: people’s homes. They are more relaxed and we are less hurried compared to being in the church. The time spent together in a relaxing manner helps to deepen our relationships. After home visits, I feel closer to the people I had visited. There is a change in relationships.
We pastors do care for our flock. Home visitations may take up some of our time but it is a way to show that we care about them and are holding them in our prayers.
In 1765, John Wesley wrote on some practical ways to read the Bible.
John Wesley gave us some practical ways to read the Bible.
In his book which was published in 1765, “Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament”, he wrote:
-To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose?
–At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: if you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one?
–To read this with a single eye, to know the whole will of God, and a fixt resolution to do it?
–In order to know his will, you should, have a constant eye to the analogy of faith;
–Serious and earnest prayer should be constantly used, before we consult the oracles of God, seeing “scripture can only be understood thro’ the same Spirit whereby it was given.”
–Our reading should likewise be closed with prayer, that what we read may be written on our hearts.
-And whatever light you then receive, should be used to the uttermost, and that immediately. Let there be no delay. Whatever you resolve, begin to execute the first moment you can. So shall you find this word to be indeed the power of God unto present and eternal salvation?
What John Wesley meant was that the reading of the Bible should include these basics:
b. a chapter
c. a single eye
d. a constant eye
a. little time
You need to spend time to read the Bible. John Wesley said every morning and every evening, every day. You need to spend time to read the Bible. Make time in your schedule for Bible reading.
b. a chapter
Read a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from New Testament. If you can’t do that, you can read a chapter.
c. a single eye
We have to figure out what we can apply in our daily lives. After reading the chapter, what we should apply in our daily lives?
d. a constant eye
Have a constant eye to the analogy of faith: the original sin, justification by faith (because of faith, we are saved, and not because of good works), the new birth we have through Jesus Christ, Inward and Outward Holiness (emphasizing on Holy living).
While reading the Bible, we pray for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding on the chapter. We also pray that God’s Word will be written in our hearts as we read.
We should pause and examine ourselves by what we read. Examine our hearts and lives. This will result in giving praise to God when He has guided us to a path of blessedness, or at certain parts, we identified with the sins mentioned in the Bible, we then ask God for forgiveness.
The Bible gives us power to live a victorious life. There are so many testimonies of people who are able to face the challenges in life because they hold on to God’s promises and encouragements in His Word.
We will be blessed as we read God’s Word. After all, it is God’s love letter to us. It is the instructions on living our lives. Let us set aside time each day to read His Word.
Pastors are people called by God to lead His people with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). The pastor is responsible to keep watch over their lives so that their life examples and teachings are according to God’s Word (Acts 20:17-28).
The pastors are not to work for money. Money should not be the motivator. We are to serve God’s people willingly and eagerly because we have been appointed by God. Shepherding God’s people under our care can be hard work but if we remain faithful, someday when we see Jesus face to face, we will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4).
Let us pray for our pastors so that we will serve God with joy until the end.
God gives us friends as we journey in life. Good friends are indeed hard to come by.
Friends are the people we choose to have in our lives. We choose our friends. Our friends choose us. A friendship is based on voluntary association between 2 people who enjoy each other’s companionship.
Researches show that friendship keeps the brain healthy and good friends are crucial in protecting our mental health.
How rare it is to have wonderful friendships that are grace-filled, love of God is shown, boundaries are respected, vulnerability are shared, constructive criticisms are accepted, differences are embraced and mutual encouragements are given.
Life is a journey. roughout our life, we may meet different people. Some will journey with us for a season in life while some will journey with us for many seasons in life. Regardless of their durations in our life, our friends make a sweet impact in our lives.
Soul friends nurture our souls and point us to God.
The purpose of soul friendships is growing together in Jesus Christ. Jesus had demonstrated love for us and had commanded us to love one another.
Soul friendships aim to nurture the life of our soul. Saint Brigid of Kildare, a 6th century saint in Ireland, who honoured the tradition of having soul friends, said God is very near when we are in the company of a true soul friend.
Soul friendship is distinctive because it is a relationship that is marked by vulnerability, self-disclosure, compassion and understanding and bond by a love that is centred by prayer and joy. It aims to support growth in holiness and in love for God and for others.
Saint Brigid has been a soul friend to many others. It is definitely hard, or rather, impossible to walk on our faith journey without spiritual companions.
May God provide soul friends for us as we journey on in our Christian faith so that we can enjoy the rich blessings of having spiritual companions in life.