Thursday, 3 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 4

Probably the most encouraging thing about this chapter is to learn that God's grace is not supplied merely for the past, but it's an ever flowing fountain of future grace that streams into our hearts and gives us refreshment for our weary souls.

The chapter uses the experience of the christians in the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-4) who gave generously, despite the poverty and trials they were facing. It's really encouraging to see how these christians lived by faith in God's future grace, and were filled with abundant joy which overflowed in rich generosity.

How then can I/we experience that joy and generosity in the midst of suffering on earth? The following verses as pointed out tell us that the answer is through the grace of God (2 Corinthians 9:8). And this key is able to unlock the door to give generously too. By knowing that we live moment by moment from the strength of future grace, it gives us the hope and assurance that if God is able to sustain us daily, He is more than able to bring us through future needs or difficulties. Thus, we are able to love and give generously.

Grace is the air we breathe.

***

I remember we were discussing about selling and sharing our possessions from our Bible study from Acts 4 last Sunday. During our discussion, we talked about what hindered us from giving and I said a selfish spirit and a lack of faith in God's provision for the future. I guess one of the things that hinders us from giving is that feeling that when we give, we will make a loss because we have to give up our own comfort and treasures for the benefits of others. Plus we sometimes give according to whether we think the other party deserves it and thus make a mental judgment?

Anyhow, through my devotions I seem to have been hearing a lot of things regarding giving and money and faith, so I believe God is prompting me to examine my heart and see where my real treasures lie - whether on earth or in heaven. I've never thought of myself as materialistic, but after reading that line "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be", it has sort of awaken me to realise that if I don't see Jesus as my ultimate prize or treasure, my heart will drift away and seek other things to try and find satisfaction.

I guess one of the best tell tale signs of whether Jesus is one's treasure is to see where one spends their time, energy and money on.

This chapter has been really helpful for me in understanding God's grace and how it unlocks the key to love and generosity towards others.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 3

This is quite a straightforward chapter with little to debate about.

The root of anxiety is due to our inadequate faith in God. We get anxious because we have little faith in God's future grace.

I think anxiety is one of those things that Christians (or basically all) have to battle with. We can't help but worry over things present in our lives or the future because it seems dangerously unknown. And we are often encouraged or told to not worry but trust in God's timing and provision.

I liked how John Piper actually wrote that the way to fight anxieties is to fight against unbelief, and fight for faith in future grace. I think I tend to do more of the former, but neglect the latter, but both are equally necessary in the constant battle against anxiety. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Future Grace; Day 2

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30

Being a Christian sometimes feels like following a set of rules to obey. Sometimes it feels like we obey out of duty, sometimes out of love. The thing is that when we obey out of duty, it makes Christianity look like some rule book. I remember coming home from BSF after the lecture from Matthew 5 feeling like there was such a heavy stone in my heart because it was so hard to achieve God's high moral standards. Certainly it takes no Christian to know that being a Christian is not easy!

Take giving of our tithes and offerings as an example. We give God because we are commanded to do so. But the moment it becomes something that we do out of gratitude, grace somehow becomes nullified. We should instead, give out of faith, trusting in God's future grace and know that He will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory. 

Therefore, gratitude is not meant to empower us for future obedience, but faith is. I suppose it does relieve a lot of burdens, knowing that if we want to obey God it requires faith, and less of works to try and "repay the debt".

And as Matthew 11 tells us, we can come to God for rest for our souls. Knowing that God shoulders our burdens and is pulling my load together with me towards the same direction is comforting. Surely "his commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3)! And as Andrew Murray puts it "it was Jesus who drew thee when He spake "Come," so it is Jesus who keeps thee when He says "Abide." The [past] grace to come and the [future] grace to abide are alike from Him alone."

We don't live our life in gratitude to God, but we live our lives by faith

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Future Grace; Day 1

What is the biblical motive for Christian obedience? Perhaps most people would say gratitude.

Yet, John Piper argues in his book 'Future Grace' that gratitude is not the biblical for Christian obedience. Rather, faith in future grace is.

I'm currently reading that book and it's 31 chapters, so I hope to finish the book within a month and pen down my thoughts daily as I read it.

Apparently the book has received lots of praises from well-known Christian figures like J.I. Packer, Kevin DeYoung, C.J. Mahaney etc. saying that apart from the Bible, this book has had the most impact in their lives and it has changed their thinking. Got to live up to its expectations, right? So I'm delving in and reading, hoping that it will challenge me the same way A.W Tozer's 'Pursuit of God' has done for me.

And it has.

The first chapter goes straight into the debtor's ethic - whether we should try to pay God back. Gratitude has he puts it, is good because it exults in grace. The problem with it though, is that gratitude has sometimes lost its spontaneity, and we are tempted to pay it back on the basis that someone has done something good for me, so I should reciprocate. The gift then sort of loses its real meaning.

I suppose it's true, because as Christians we say things like "God has done so much for me, and what have I done for him?" The thinking or motive behind it is probably good, but the Bible as John Piper points out, doesn't show that gratitude is the way we obey him.

Rather, he argues that the reason why we sin is because of our lack of faith in God's future grace, not ingratitude. Faith in future grace is the missing ethical power to overcome rebellion and motivate obedience.

"It's this faith in future grace that channels the power of God into obedience" - We obey, because we fear the Lord, and fearing the Lord involves us trusting in Him, and trembling that it would be an insult to God if we do not have faith after seeing all the signs and wonders he has performed.

Besides, we can never repay God's gift of love for us so the motive for us to obey/please God is driven by faith. Indeed, "without faith, it is impossible to please God".

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Why work is useful

I'm currently reading this book by Timothy Keller called "Every Good Endeavour" and so far, it's been a much needed and helpful read on why and how our work matters to God.

Unfortunately, these authors who write on Christians at work aren't from Singapore so it's a bit hard to understand where they're coming from. I mean, they aren't from Singapore and they don't understand the need for survival and practicality. I somehow wish there would be a Singaporean Christian to give a balanced perspective on work.

Nevertheless, this is what I've inferred from reading the first few chapters of the book:

1. Work gives us an opportunity to identify our strengths, weakness, talents, what we are good at, so that we can be equipped with this knowledge and of self and use it to better serve the church and others.

2. We work, to earn, to give. When we work, we earn money and we can use these money to contribute purposefully to missions, church funding and evangelism.

Still reading and still learning. 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The alarm clock sounds, ripping open the sweetness of sleep. The rays of the sun peaks through your curtain, and nature calls you to awake. You wake up, wash up and have your breakfast before zipping off to work. Tomorrow, your alarm clock rings. You hit the snooze button and tell yourself "five more minutes". The next day you probably shut it and bury your head under the sheets of slumber. Sounds familiar?

This is all too a familiar scene in our everyday lives as working adults. I too find that I have to motivate myself to get out of bed and it gets harder with each passing day. After all, working life is tough and we abhor to think of the endless tasks that would greet us with sly grin everyday. Pressures, stress and long hours take a toll on us. Bosses and managers have high expectations of us and little time to complete them. And sometimes just when you think you've happily ticked off the checklist of your to-do-list, you get a ton more. There goes your chance to go home on time. Is there ever an end to this all?

I don't ever think there is.

In such a performance-based society, you have to make the cut or you'll be cut off. It pushes us to strive harder, and sometimes its demands have adverse effects on us. It's been a month since I've started work and I'm learning new things each day, both in life and in work.

Most recently, I've been working on a project that has been rather challenging for me. And I'll be honest -- I couldn't cope. I learnt that I can't be the best (or at least not so soon), but I can be the best stewart to God. Being faithful to our bosses and authorities and eventually to Him.

Thank God that in His Kingdom we don't have to be the best to be loved by Him. He loves us unconditionally, unwaveringly and abundantly. At the end of the day, he wants us to be good and faithful stewards, making the best use of our time, talent and treasure on earth for Him.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Beer, Bavaria, Bretzels, Bacharach and Berlin (Part 1)

I'm picking up from where I left off and that would be me just stepping foot into Germany. It was quite a change stepping into industrial Germany, having come from clean and polite Switzerland. My first stop in Germany was Munich, synonymous with beer, beer gardens and more beer! Beers were brewed by monks in the monastery and in fact the word "Munchen" which is old German means the monks' place.



I heard funny stories of missing items during Oktoberfest. Among the usual suspects like wallets and room keys, there were funny ones like false teeth, clothing of all shapes and sizes, missing children and the funniest - a wheelchair?! Someone obviously got too drunk and believed he/she could walk...

Munich's predominantly catholic so you see lots of churches around (often with onion shaped domes, quite a trend really). And I present to you Asamkirche! I kid you not. It's incredibly lavish and rich and such a masterpiece. Story has it that two brothers promised to build a church if they survived the shipwreck, which they did obviously.



Friday, 10 May 2013

Europe highlights

Bonjour/Guten Morgen/Hallo! One month on the road and I'm finally back! It's nice to be back home (despite the weather) especially when you've fallen sick and are down with a bad cold. My right ear is still quite blocked and I can't hear well. Thankfully my cough has subsided and my running nose is well, less runny. Hopefully things will get back to normal in time. 

I've thoroughly enjoyed my trip and I had such a good time, no regrets so I didn't miss it terribly. I do miss my travel and adventures. Moreover, I came to the conclusion that travel is a lifelong affair. No point rushing it because you won't ever complete it in your lifetime I believe. I wonder if anyone has ever finished "seeing the world"?


In any case, if you were wondering, this was the route I took:

Avignon (France) -- Bern (Switzerland) -- Interlaken -- Zurich -- Munich (Germany) -- Bacharach -- Berlin -- Amsterdam (The Netherlands)-- Paris (France)

When I was telling people about my travel stories I felt like I couldn't believe I went there as well. I went to these places?! And did those things? Prior to leaving, people have not ceased to remind me how unsafe it would be for a girl like me to be going alone. As my friend pointed out, I ticked all the boxes of risky travelling - Solo, female, Asian. Well, what can I say? I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was the only female Asian with a backpack.

What's more daunting about travelling alone? Going alone, without the company or the unfamiliarity of a new land? Or both? I found myself asking these questions as I sat alone on the train which didn't seem long at all. In most places I've visited someone would tell me that I'm brave to go on my own. First, it was the French lady selling gelato in Arles, then it was my hostel mate in Bern and Interlaken. I probably didn't think I was that brave but after the experience in Amsterdam and the metro in Paris I think I was pretty gutsy.

Having said so, I still think travelling alone is amazing. I've not felt lonely (at least not all the time) and rather enjoyed spending time by myself. Going solo gives you the chance to meet new people and gain new experiences. If there's anything I learnt, that is travel isn't a competition or a race to tick off all the famous sights. Either way, I learnt it's impossible to see everything in one trip. You are the traveler and you dictate your travel story. You don't always have to follow the opinion of a travel book. After all, travel is about creating your own adventures and adventures, your memories.

Some highlights of the trip:
- Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland. Jumping off was the most amazing feeling. I was in mid air and all I saw below me were trees and the town of Interlaken with its 15,000 inhabitants.














- Zipping through the Rhine Valley via bike (Bacharach to St. Goar). There are many ways to explore the Rhine Valley- boat, train, hike or cycle but nothing beats cycling in my opinion. It was picture worthy moment everywhere. Castles, forts, vineyards and rocks adorn the Rhine Valley.


- Seeing Jungfraujoch from Schilthorn. The journey leading up to Schilthorn was an incredible experience. Think grass fields, snow capped mountains, valleys and cute cabin lodges. I saw snow for the first time and a kind Swiss man threw me some snow at the top of Schilthorn and suggested I throw it as far as I could. It's basically chilled ice (like ice kachang) but coming from a tropical island snow is a cool thing to grasp, no pun intended!



- Berlin. Berlin surprised me alot. I expected Berlin to be modern, expensive and clean. It is afterall, the capital city of Germany. There were cranes everywhere and the city was still rebuilding itself. Went on a walking tour and I learnt so much about Berlin from that. Saw the Berlin wall but it's fenced all around, quite ironically. I visited the Sachausen Concentration Camp north of Berlin and it was quite an emotional experience.




- Missing my flight and had to wait 12 hours for the next one. Reached Amsterdam city at 10pm and it happened to be Queen's Day on that day and the Dutch pretty much love to party. The city crowded, chaotic and people were singing and dancing and drinking at night. With some help I managed to reach my hostel at about close to midnight. It was truly one of the most memorable moments of my trip.

- Neuschwanstein Castle. Alas the fairytale castle of Germany that inspired Walt Disney! It was shrouded with fog on that day, which added to the mystery of the castle and King Ludwig II. I keep looking back at this picture and can't help but marvel at its beauty.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Where the grass is greener on the other side

No kidding. I'm speaking in literal terms. The train ride from Mannheim to Mainz today was one of the most scenic rides I've taken in Europe so far.

I was in doe-eyed wonder, alternating my head between left and right, trying hard to take in as much as I could. The fields were in a plethora of green, yellow and brown. There were so many different shades of green and it felt like you were looking at a Pantone swatchbook of green. Even so, those colours would not rightfully depict the actual colours of nature. I could go on and on about the colours but know one thing- not one's the same.

That's just the beauty of God's creation. And He has painted the fields of Germany's countryside so creatively and artistically.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Of land, sea and air

These two days in the Bernese Oberland have been nothing short of fantastic. Just yesterday I've been on air, land and sea. I'm now in Interlaken, which is in the middle of two lakes - Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, hence the name. Interlaken on its own isn't very exciting. There's not much one can do here besides adventure sports and activities. Nevertheless, people stay in Interlaken because they use it as a springboard to the Bernese Oberland.

Interlaken


Over the Lauterbrunnen valley

If there was one place I wish I was born and lived in, it'll probably be somewhere in the Bernese Oberland. The Swiss take pride in their work. The people I've met here are the kindest and most friendly. I took a trip to the Schilthorn this morning and it was full of people who would come here to ski. I met this Swiss couple from Bern and we chatted for a while. He asked about my nationality and told me that he would be coming to visit my country. It will be his first time there and he wanted a hotel recommendation from me. How was I to know? I've never really checked in to stay at a hotel in Singers ever! Now as I think back I should have told him to stay at the MBS. I wonder if a Swiss like him would actually enjoy the modern city living of Singapore. Afterall, Bern is quite different from Singers and I doubt we have any good B&Bs with great hospitality as the Swiss.


Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau

That aside, I continued my journey and took a hike from Murren to Gimmelwald. It was a short hike and I managed to convince two Korean girls whom I met at Schilthorn to join me to walk to Gimmelwald. During our conversation I learnt that we had many things in common- we stayed in the same backpackers hostel, were going to check out on the same day and we would be heading off to the same city next as well.

Murren to Gimmelwald

The hike from Murren to Gimmelwald was exceptional. I couldn't think of a better way to see Gimmelwald than from above. The village is small, and it's traffic free. People greet each other everywhere they go. Gimmelwald is pretty even in Spring and I can't imagine how it'll be in Summer.

One of the interesting thing I saw in Gimmelwald was "The Honesty Shop" which claims to be Europe's first unattended self service village shop. True to its word there was no one in the shop. You walk in, see what you like, buy and put your money in an envelope and pop it into a box! Trust the Swiss to do something like that. Things operate on a system of trust here. In Bern, you buy a ticket from the machine before boarding and you don't need to validate it anywhere.



After Gimmelwald, I took a cable car to Lauterbrunnen, a village in a valley. Lauterbrunnen s truly scenic. I couldn't resist its beauty and missed my train because I lingered on in a café to eat. I wished I stayed there instead of Interlaken. It's peaceful, scenic and staying there makes you feel like you're really on a holiday. It's a valley and when there are valleys there are waterfalls. When there are waterfalls there's a lake. When there's a lake there's usually a mountain. This is why I love mountains so much - it's such a bonus sight! Bernese Oberland is everything that is. Majestic mountains, beautiful Swiss chalet houses and Swiss hospitality- what more can you ask for?