Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Do not worry

I'm sure most of us will have bookmarked Luke 12:22-31 in our Bibles - to store up for rainy days when we feel anxious or worried and want to read His word for comfort for our souls.

It's a real familiar verse to all and sometimes, after reading certain verses for many times, the affections and emotions I have towards them somehow dwindle away. Yes, sure I'm encouraged to not worry, and it really feels like a difficult thing to do.

Then today I read it the whole of Luke chapter 12 and I feel like I really understood its meaning and as a result, feel assured and confident of God's love towards me.

Luke 12:22 starts off with a "therefore", and surely it's a "therefore" for a reason. In the previous paragraph, it talks about the parable of the rich fool. Jesus warned us to guard against greed and any covetousness because life is not made up of how many possessions we have. He gives us an example of the rich fool who thinks he has enough goods to lay up in his barn for many years to come, and so he eats, drinks and becomes merry. Jesus uses this example to tell us not to follow his ways, because he will die one day, and so will the earthy treasures he worked so hard for. In essence, Jesus is telling us not to waste our time, effort or energies building up wealth or earthly treasures because they don't last. Conversely, what will last is our relationship with Christ, which is the richer thing.

So he continues, and starts the next sentence with a "therefore". He says "Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on". He puts a therefore there to tell us that in relation to the previous verse, do not worry about earthly things like food, drink or clothing.

So why do we worry?
I believe verse 28 gives the reason. Jesus tells us that we have little faith - "O you of little faith". We have little faith in God's future provision. I think whenever we have to give up on something, or give something away, we feel this pinch because we are unable to let go of what we have currently and see through the eyes of faith that what we God has in store for us for the future is far greater and better. Personally, I find it difficult to give, and that's because I'm selfish by nature. I want to keep and not share, because somehow it means that I will make a loss when I give something away or become poorer (relative). Perhaps, we also fail to see our worth in the eyes of God - to see that God sees us as His treasure, His precious child that He gave up His life for.

So what should we do?
Luke 12 lists down reasons why we should not be anxious, and gives us promises too:

1. Life is worth more than food, drink and clothing. If God can create bodies, preserve our lives, surely He can care for lesser things in life like our basic needs.

2. Do we know how ravens get their food, or where they sleep? They are of lesser value than us, yet God still shows kindness and love to them by feeding them. If He can care for birds, surely He will care for us who are more valuable.

3. The lilies and grass of the field are temporal, and will fade away quickly. And they are dressed so beautifully. If God can clothe them, surely He can care for us.

4. God knows our needs. Do we belittle Him and think He does not care for us?

Instead, we should seek first God's kingdom. If we will to give ourselves to the cause of God's kingdom, we can rest assure that God will provide us our needs. After all, He told us not to worry about life's needs. We shouldn't worry, but have faith in God.

Instead of storing up wealth and treasures on earth, store up for ourselves treasures in Heaven/moneybags that will not grow old. Give to the poor and needy - don't think we will lose out but trust that God will provide for all our needs.

If we can see God as our ultimate prize, treasure, possession, we will want to seek and pursue Him and His righteousness. For if He is our treasure, our hearts will be there too.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 7

"For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." 2 Corinthians 1:20

All of God's promises are a Yes and Amen! Paul doesn't say God says yes to some of His promises, or say that these promises are only valid once, in the past. But all His promises are available for us in the present and for the future.

God does not promise that life will be anxiety-free but He promises that He will give us the peace that passes all understanding.

God does not promise that life will be easy when we follow Him, but He promises that if we follow Him we will have life everlasting and abundant.

God says Yes to His promises, therefore we can have the assurance to utter Amen to Him!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Future Grace; Day 6

In this chapter, John Piper compares faith in future grace with pride.

Pride is the essence of unbelief. Piper compares faith with pride and connects unbelief and pride. Unbelief is when we turn from God and believe or find satisfaction in something else. Pride is when we turn from God and believe in self.

We get anxious about the future and become self-sufficient, so we do try to do things by our own strength. Pride says we can boast in our achievements and don't need God in our lives.

Probably something I've never thought about was how self-pity could also be a form of pride. Self-pity is a form of self-exaltation and says "look at me, I've suffered so much and deserve recognition".

I suppose it's really easy to fall into the sin of pride. It's an ever important reminder to ourselves, that everything belongs to God. He gave us intelligence, strength, talents which without him we are nothing.

Yet there is another spectrum to avoid - false humility or self-pity. May our only boast be in Christ alone. He must increase, and I decrease.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV
Thus says the Lord : “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord .”

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.