Have you given your fruit away?

Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47:12)

The context of this verse isn’t really about the fruit but about a little stream that flows from the temple outward to all the nations and which has grown into a huge river. It speaks about the grace of God that is now made accessible to all people. The promise that comes with it is that all who drink from this river will bear fruit abundantly. 

“Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing!” Hallelujah! Isn’t that wonderful? 

But let’s be clear on one fact – no tree bears fruit for its own consumption. When was the last time you saw a tree feeding off its own fruit? As far as my limited botany knowledge serves me, there has never been a tree whose fruit is its own source of food. 

So too are God’s people who are called to be fruitful, not for our own pleasure but for the benefit and blessing of others. Those who seek to derive pleasure from their own fruitfulness are going about it backwards. The fruit of our spiritual growth serves to bless others and it is in this outward blessing that we derive our pleasure, our satisfaction, our meaning and purpose.

Indeed the fruit of our spirit is love, joy, peace, patient, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Of the nine attributes, eight are outward – relational. Only “joy” deals with our inward self and that comes through the fulfilment of the other eight.

“Father turn us from our conceited and self-indulgent ways. Turn us from selfish pursuits and personal pleasure. Help us instead to love others, do good and show compassion. Help us bear fruits that are given to others for their enjoyment and not left to rot on our branches so that through this we will know and experience the true Joy that is from You.”

#thebibleisalive 

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Beware of desire lines

Walk in ancient paths 5

Some months ago, a new walking path was laid near my house which provided a sheltered route to the train station. It was a great improvement over the old muddy path through the field but because the new walkway also led to a bus stop nearby, it had to make a number of awkward 90 degree turns.

Predictably, people starting making their own paths through the grassy field, bypassing the awkward turns. I’m sure you have seen shortcuts like this before. Over time, these shortcuts turn into well-worn paths through the grass.

Fun fact: These paths are called desire lines, so called because they are created by our desire to go against established paths. Google it and see for yourself!

God established long ago the right paths for us to walk. Paths that teach us how to trust Him, to love Him and to love others.

Unfortunately, many people find God’s paths inconvenient, too long or old fashioned. As a result, we have established new paths according to our own design, shorter, faster and without all the fuss.

But just like the desire lines in the grassy field, we quickly find that when the storms in life come, these paths are no help at all. In fact, they turn into mud and makes things worse. It is at those times that we start running back to God’s paths for a safer route.

But did you know, paths that are unused gradually become overgrown with weed, and eventually become hidden from view and hard to find.

Don’t be deceived that your desire lines are a good idea. Don’t take short-cuts. Look for the ancient paths of God! They may appear troublesome and unappealing but in them we find security, peace and life.

Wisdom is walking in the ancient paths.

Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths. – Psalm 25:4

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Don’t let fear distract us

There is always something to fear. Some fears are imagined, some are real. Fears trigger what we call the “fight-or-flight” response. That is, we either respond aggressively to it or we run away.

But I want to suggest that fear-driven behaviour is dangerous because it is often irrational, regardless whether we fight or take flight.

And an irrational Christian is just what the devil wants because an irrational person loses focus and is distracted.

Fear distracts a Christian from his mission. Fear distracts us from our purpose. Fear distracts us from Jesus.

If the Jews who returned to rebuild the temple after their exile continue to fear the people who were out to sabotage them, they would lose focus on their mission and abandon the rebuilding. But we read that “despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord , both the morning and evening sacrifices.” (Ezra 3:3)

Fear-driven behaviour can cause a faithful Christian to do things that allow sin to enter his or her life.  Fear of being rejected by your peers, fear of growing old, fear of bad medical reports, fear of your child not doing well in school, fear of not meeting your sales target and so on, such fears can dangerously change our attitude and our priorities towards ungodly choices.

Don’t be fixated on the fearful things we hear, read or see. Exercise caution and wisdom but do not fear. Have confidence and trust God. Recognise when the enemy is trying to distract and derail us from our close walk with Christ.

Father you did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-control. Therefore we continue to focus on you regardless of what we hear and see. Our hope and trust is in You.

Check out my children’s devotion book “Exams, Bullies and other Scary Words” which has 30 great devotions to help you and your child manage their fears.

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God covers the sins we uncover

God covers the sins we uncover

There is nothing more damaging to our inner-self and to our relationship with God than unconfessed sin.

When David kept his sins covered and hidden, he described in graphic detail what it felt like in Psalm 32 – he felt his bones wasting away and he groaned all day long from the agony.

David learned that even if he pretended his sin wasn’t there, he felt God’s heavy hand on him. What David tried to keep covered up, God uncovered.

But when David uncovered his sins before God by confessing them, he found to his surprise that God covered them up in forgiveness and saw them no more.

Do not try to hide, deny or ignore the sins we commit, for God sees them clearly. Instead uncover them before God in confession, for He is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

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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

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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.