Your choices reveal who you trust

It is uncomfortable to trust in God. 

It’s a scandalous thing for a Christian to say, but it is the truth. Ezra knows what I’m talking about. He made a bold claim to the king of Persia that God would protect him and his countrymen during their journey through dangerous territory back to Jerusalem to rebuild their country.

But then after travelling some way, Ezra started to feel uneasy.

“There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.'” (Ezra 8:21-22)

Ezra probably felt nervous after making that claim, perhaps he started to second-guess himself and had doubts. It was too late to ask the king for help, doing so will make him look foolish and he will also lose credibility.

It was extremely uncomfortable situation, but Ezra had no choice – he had to trust God. 

“So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”  (verse 23)

It is always uncomfortable to completely trust God. But God wants us to trust Him no matter how uncomfortable we are.

King Ahaz of Judah, facing an impending invasion from a Syrian-Israeli alliance, went to Assyria to ask for help instead of trusting in God.  But God sent the prophet Isaiah to him with a reassurance that “It will not take place, it will not happen, ” (Isaiah 7:7)

There is no downside to trusting in God because God is trustworthy and faithful. On the contrary, much is at risk if our faith falters. For Isaiah also had a warning for Ahaz

“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (Isaiah 7:9)

#thebibleisnotchim  #thebibleisalive

Follow me on Facebook at 10Seventeen for more devotions!

Are we sure of our children’s faith?

When Joash came to the throne of Judah at age 7, he was put under the care and guidance of Jehoiada the priest. Being a child, he was obedient and listened to his spiritual mentor faithfully.

Joash grew up doing all the right things, reinstating temple taxes, restoring the house of God and generally appeared to be a godly king.

But Joash only did good because of the guidance and advise from Jehoida the priest. Even though he was mentored and tutored from young by a godly man, the love for God wasn’t truly in him. He did all his acts out of obligation to Jehoiada and when his mentor passed away, Joash became influenced by ungodly company and eventually abandoned God and turned towards idols.

Even though God sent prophets to speak to him Joash remained stubborn and tragically even killed Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, who was one of the prophets sent to him.

Just because we see our children doing all the “right things” is no guarantee that their faith in Jesus is real and personal. Going to Sunday school, doing the crafts, singing the songs and giving offertories are no guarantees that Jesus is real to them.

As parents, we must be mindful that we are not raising children just to do these things out of obligation. We want to see in them a faith that is real, genuine, and will outlive us. So that long after we are gone, our children will continue to be faithful and walk in the ways of the Lord.

For as God is faithful to a thousand generations, we have to ensure our next generation is faithful to Him as well.

#thebibleisalive #thebibleisnotchim

And on that note, I want to just mention the Faith@Home programme that is being launched this weekend in my church. If you want to build up a culture of faith in your homes, to help your children develop genuine, personal and unshakeable faith in Jesus, this programme will help you.

Check it out http://www.bmc.org.sg/faith-at-home/

Sorry to interrupt your browsing with this important message

20 March 1998

My wife had just been wheeled into the operating theatre to deliver our first born son via cesarean procedure. Since I wasn’t allowed in the theatre, I grabbed the newspaper and sat down outside to wait. I figured I was in for a long wait, perhaps an hour or more.

Somewhere on page 2, a nurse came out of the operating room and said to me Mr Chan do you want to see your son? I was like, sure, when he is born. No, the nurse said, I meant now. Here’s your son!

I remember sitting on the couch comfortably with my newspaper, feeling just a little bit annoyed that I had barely begun reading! Thankfully the feeling passed quickly and I went over to beam at my son.

I have always hated to be interrupted, whether I was watching TV, playing video games, reading or doing my quiet time. Interruptions break my concentration, ruin whatever I am enjoying and change the flavour of whatever I was indulging in so that when I resume the activity, it just feels different. The moment of magic lost forever.

Then a few days ago during my reading of Mark for my daily devotion, a few verses jumped out at me.

So Jesus went with him… Mark 5:24

…He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
Mark 5:30

In verse 24, Jesus was teaching a large crowd of people when he was interrupted by a man with a sick daughter. Jesus felt compassion for him and so he abruptly abandoned his audience and went with the man.

In verse 30, Jesus was rushing to the man’s house to heal his sick daughter, but was interrupted by a woman who was seeking healing. Jesus had compassion for her and stopped to healed her.

Each time Jesus was interrupted, he responded patiently. He placed others’ needs before his own agenda even though his own ministry work was far from trivial. Why did he do that?

I reflected on this and I realized that we may proclaim to love others, and we may even bless them with time and money. But if we do these things only at our convenience, then how shallow a love we have.

No my friends, if we truly love someone, we show it by how we react to their interruptions. Even as I write this, my wife interrupted me twice to talk to me. In the past I would show my annoyance,  but I have learned to stop what I am doing and give my attention to her.

It is not only an act of courtesy, it also says to the person “You are important to me and I want to hear what you have to say.”

In a familiar story, Jesus had spent another long tiring day teaching and healing people. His disciples had just come back from preaching to the nearby villages. Sensing their fatigue, Jesus planned a nice quiet dinner under the stars for all of them, so they made plans and snuck off to a quiet part of the lake, but “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” (Mark 6:34)

How often do we look forward to a nice relaxing evening only to be interrupted by a relative or friend asking for help? How do we respond? Are we willing to get off our backsides, to turn off the TV, to get off our computers and say to them with a genuine (and perhaps tired) smile and say “Sure, how can I help?”

Lord thank you for the example of Your Son Jesus. We are convicted and humbled when we reflect our life against His Perfection. But yet we are thankful for He provides not only the model for perfection, but also the grace and strength to attain it. Helps us to chip away at our rough edges, and be a little bit more like Your Son each day.

A New Year Resolution that is simple, achieveable and worth making

My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart!
Psalms 108:1 NLT

How many of us can truly make this same declaration as David? It is made with no tinge of doubt, no hesitation and no caveats. His overflowing sense of confidence and joy literally exploded into a song for the Lord!

It is a confidence that is worth marveling at, for I suspect there aren’t many people today who can make such a claim with honesty.

It is a confidence that leaves me both amazed and at the same time feeling a little bit jealous – for why can’t I be so free of doubt? Why can’t I honestly say I trust God 100%? Sure, I want to trust Him and I say I trust Him. But deep down in my heart I sometimes feel a lingering sense of uncertainty.

And yet, when I look at David, there is no magical cosmic divine “specialness” about him. He has fears, he got bullied at work, he is attracted to beautiful women, he committed adultery and murder. He has a dysfunctional family. His son tried to overthrow him…

In short, his life is totally incongruous with his bold claim in Psalm 108. Where then did his confidence come from?

It came simply from a life-long relationship with God. David truly knows God. Not from books, sermons, seminars and workshops, but from many hours talking and listening to Him. David spoke wih God while he was working in the meadows, in the battlefield, in the throne  room, when he was hiding in caves and when he was lying on his deathbed. David spent a lifetime talking and listening to God.

Through prayer, David has built a relationship with God that is frank, intimate and robust. This relationship is the basis of David’s faith in God. A faith that gave him confidence in what he hoped for, and assurance in what he does not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

It is such a simple reason that it makes me wonder why so many people find it hard to have a close relationship with Him. All we need to do is talk to God more, at every opportunity – during our commute to the office, during lunch, before a big meeting, while waiting for the bus, waiting in line to pay for groceries. Talk to Him about anything, pour out your fears, worries, aspirations, dreams and frustrations. And listen for His reply.

Perhaps this is one New Year’s resolution that is worth making, for it is almost ridiculously easy to do and doing it will change your life.

So for this new year, may I suggest a resolution that we can all keep : let’s just pray more.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
Lamentations 3:25

A New Song to Sing

image

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord . I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O  Lord , well know. I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
Psalms 40:3, 9-10

When David declared that God has given him a new song to sing, he didn’t mean God put a tune in his head that wouldn’t go away. What God gave David was a new reason to praise Him. And David, being the prolific and talented composer that he is, naturally praised God in the way he knew best, through a song. It was important to David to sing the song that was given to him, for the song not only glorifies God, it also shows other people what God has done. And “many will see and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”

If God has given you a new song to sing, then we must sing! So that others will hear of what He has done for us, in us or through us and they too will trust the Lord! If you can’t sing, then tell it! Do it in the way you know best.

As the psalmist says, I will not keep the good news hidden in my heart but will tell everyone of what you have done!

Father as we celebrate Christmas with our family and friends, help us to remember this psalm so that we will always tell of your goodness to everyone, the goodness that made you send Your Son Jesus to earth for our salvation, and how you have helped us personally in our private lives so that others will hear and trust You also.

A most inconvenient time

image

“The baby is coming!”

“What? Now? Are you sure Mary?” Joseph asked with a look of panic and confusion.

“Do I LOOK like I’m kidding?” Mary shot back.

Noticing the not-so-subtle tone of her voice and the murderous glare from his wife, Joseph wisely concluded that his wife was indeed serious.

“God, you can’t have picked a worse time for the baby to arrive,” Joseph thought. “Did’t you say this baby will be the Saviour and Messiah? That he will be a king who reigns over David’s throne?”

“God, this baby deserves a proper welcome. At least a proper midwife or home where he can be delivered! This place..” Joseph looked around him “…is literally a pig sty! Animals sleep, eat and poop here!”

“This is NOT a good time for the baby to arrive! Let us find an inn with vacancies. Let us go prepare clothes for the baby and decorate his room and buy stuffed toys. Let us setup his Facebook account first!”

~~~

Ok maybe the conversation didn’t turn out exactly as I imagined but having a baby in the wilderness must have been really inconvenient for the couple. Where would they find water to clean the baby? What about the messy blood and fluid that would be expelled? Yuks!

And when these sort of hiccups take place in our lives, we often find ourselves asking God to sort out the problem, to miraculously produce a vacant room for us, or to somehow delay the issue until a better time.

But the truth is, everything happens in this universe according to God’s clock. It never runs out of battery, never runs ahead or slows down. Everything happens according to His plan. If we can realise and accept that, then it follows that there is no such thing as “bad timing” as far as He is concerned.

There is only bad expectation on our part.

Joseph and Mary never expected to make that trip to their hometown of Bethlehem in the late stages of Mary’s pregnancy. They never expected all the inns to be full. And they certainly never expected to have a baby in a shed among animals.

But the Nativity story takes place in a lowly manger for a reason. God in His limitless wisdom planned it long ago, for His Son would be a king like no other. Marked by humility instead of regality. To ride on donkeys instead of war horses.  To serve, instead of being served. To give rather than receive.

His entry into the world, therefore, has to befit his humble status.

There is no bad timing when you live your life according to His plans. It may not be what you expect, and rough spots may appear when you least expect it. But take heart, they are there for a reason and for the season. Trust Him and watch His amazing plan unfold through your obedience.

 

The Eternal and Everlasting God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

As I was reading the book of Chronicles this morning, my phone kept buzzing from a stream of messages that was coming in. Initially I ignored the messages, intending to deal with them after I was done with my reading. But the buzzing was too distracting so I picked up my phone to see what the excitement was about. Turns out there were three big news today.

A friend has just become a grandmother again with the birth of her second grandchild, a lovely little girl. Understandably there was much rejoicing in the chat group and I joined in the congratulations.

Another dear friend is celebrating her birthday today and that chat group was filled with messages of blessings and well wishes. So I sent my wisecracks and birthday greetings too.

And sadly in another chat, a dear friend has just lost her brother in law to cancer. Messages of condolences and prayers were shared and I added my words of comfort.

As I continued my reading after I contributed to the various chats, I asked God what was the relevance of all these names of people, tribes and places? I had just experienced a full human lifespan over three lives. What was the point of the genealogies I am reading? I can’t pronounce half of them and most have no historical significance other than being the ancestor of someone. And then the LORD opened my eyes. I was looking at Time. The unceasing, relentless movement of time from one generation to the next. From fathers to sons. From Adam to Zadok. From the beginning to the end.

And among all the names mentioned in the long list of names, there is One name that does not appear in print but is present in every generation. That is the name of the Holy One, the Creator and the Almighty.

He alone is present in every generation, protecting, teaching, guiding and rebuking those whom He loves. He knows us before we enter human history, He walks with us during our time on earth, and He welcomes us as we transit out.

To my dear friend’s brother in law, KC, He has walked with him all his life and I am sure He was by the hospital bed early this morning to personally welcome him home. To my friend Anna celebrating her birthday, He has proven to be her Rock in the last few years as she left her job to start a small pastry and bakery business. And to the barely one day old baby Kayleigh, well, I am sure His angels are singing songs of joy around her, while the Blessed One, the Living Word is smiling as He looks forward to a lifetime spent with her.

Through each generation, the Everlasting Father has been with us. And through each moment of our individual life on earth, He is with us. From Kayleigh’s first cry to KC’s return.

And that is a comforting thought indeed.

Praise be to God.