Faithful

I wrote this song on 17 Sept 2008 for the musical presentation “I Will Sing Of His Goodness”. These were the words the Lord spoke into my heart as I prepared to step out by faith into fulltime ministry … “Have I not shown you I am faithful?” Reflecting upon these lyrics again, I am truly say, “Yes, my God is faithful!”

Have I not shown you I am faithful
And if you should lose your way
I’ll be there for you
And if you should falter, my hand will hold you
Shadows may turn but you will learn
That I am faithful

He has spoken I have heard
And now it’s left to me
If I’ll take Him at His word
Or trust in things I see
How is it my heart believes
My mind thinks otherwise?
Why the doubt if I’m to walk by faith?

Even when I’m faithless, He is faithful
And if I should lose my way
His love will find me
And if I should stumble, His hand upholds me
Seasons may change, He stays the same
For He is faithful

He has never let me down
Nor left me on my own
Mercies new each day I’ve found
His Faithfulness I’ve known
Yet I trip and I still fall
As if I’m slow to learn
Will His grace be there enough for me?

But my Abba Father, how He knows me
And each time I break His heart
Yet He forgives me
Even when I fail Him, still He believes in me
Though I run wild, I’m still His child
And He is faithful

Seasons may change, He still remains
Shadows may turn, this I have learnt
My God is faithful

What We Take From Our Children When We Spoil Them

It’s hard to understand why anyone would want to spoil a child. And yet, these days, it has even become somewhat fashionable to indulge the little ones, to give them what they want – NOW – that it’s totally ok to spoil them. Also, experienced parents – otherwise affectionately referred to as grandparents – often see it as their right and privilege to spoil grandchildren.

Perhaps, these have never really understood the meaning of the word “spoil” and what it entails. Hopefully, the following definitions might help.

As a verb, to spoil means to ruin, to mar, to corrupt, to damage, to diminish, to destroy. Or as one dictionary puts it: “to damage severely or harm (something), especially with reference to its excellence, value, usefulness.”

Let’s apply this, word for word, to our son or daughter. When I spoil my child, I am practically ruining, marring, corrupting, damaging, diminishing and destroying him. With reference to his potential of excellence, his value and and his usefulness, I am consciously or unconsciously doing harm to him and what he could be!

As a noun, spoil refers to booty, loot or plunder, as in “the spoils of war”. In the context of spoiling children, we are in essence, plundering and removing what is valuable from them – the opportunity for discipline and character training that pertains to right and godly living.

Given this understanding, why would anyone want to spoil their children? It runs counter to everything a parent seeks and desires for a child.

A Broken Generation

A lovely statement of love by 6-yr-old Ruth. Theologically sound too.

Just the other day, I heard another message about God’s love. Yes, another one. The speaker shared interesting points on how we should focus more on God’s love for us than on our love for Him. That if we know and understand God’s love, everything would be ok and we would be set for life. That because God loves us so much, He wants to keep giving to us and blessing us. Then, a few days later, a few friends attended a conference to hear more about God’s love. I am told that they were so encouraged to know that their heavenly Father loves them.

These are just two recent incidents. But it made me think, “What’s with this emphasis on God’s love in recent days?” Don’t we know that God loves us? Don’t we already know Him as Abba Father when we became children of God? Apparently not, sadly.

It suddenly dawned upon me – this generation is a very broken generation! Perhaps even more broken than the ones before. With all the advancements in the world, we have lost what is truly important. Through social media, we are all supposed to be more connected than ever before, but there is still a gaping emptiness in many hearts. There is an increased driven-ness and motivation to be the best, resulting in parents and children striving for excellence, resulting in less time spent knowing each other. Sex and physical expressions have become synonymous with relationships of love, producing even more disappointment and broken-ness.

No wonder, messages about the love of God are so sought after these days. After all, there is no love like the love of God, for God is love and in Him is perfect love! People in this generation clamour to be loved. And what better way to understand that than to expose oneself to God’s love, over and over again. Indeed, I am so blessed to be a child of God, to be a recipient of the Father’s Love!

Sadly, not every Christian fully understands this, and there is still so much broken-ness, even in the Church. What is more disconcerting is that there seems to be an over-emphasis on this one aspect of God … His love … at the exclusion of all the other attributes of God. Please don’t get me wrong, as if I am saying we can ever get enough of God’s eternal and limitless love. That is not my point at all!

Bask in His love all you want. Receive all the healing and grace that you need. Frolic in His glory and in His presence for as long as you desire. But let us not forget what God, our King and Master, has commissioned us for as ambassadors of Christ and His Kingdom. According to Paul the apostle, that’s the result of knowing and encountering God’s love … it compels us to live for Him and to impact others who need to know His love!

However, that people need to keep looking for His love only confirms how broken this generation is, how fragmented hearts are. The focus continues to be self. The love of God becomes a pill to pop just to get by another day of living in a broken world, to feel good about oneself.

I fully agree that there is nothing we can do to warrant God’s love, for His loved us all while we were yet sinners. But my personal conviction is that there comes a point when we must move on and grow up, and not abuse the love of God to be an excuse not to be obedient and faithful to the One who loved us and gave His Son for us.

As a father to seven children, I will never withhold my love from each of them. They may not understand it fully, but I love them all dearly and desire the best for them. I am thrilled each time they choose to hug me, sit on my lap, or kiss me to express their love for me, and to receive my love for them. But if they display an unusual sense of unhealthy neediness, I’d be very, very concerned. Yet, love them I would for such is the father’s love. But after that, I would be looking for signs of growth and maturity, not to mention obedience and faithfulness. Does that mean I love them less? Not at all. It is because I love them that I wish to see them grow into the persons that God has called them to be!

That is more the point I am trying to get across in this short reflection. This generation is typified by broken-ness and that’s why we crave for messages of love. The truth is that wholeness has already been secured for us all by Jesus. By faith, we can immediately walk in that truth. That said, be willing to walk in accountability with others so that we can live and grow in that truth!

Education, Examinations & Expectations

What do we expect when we pray for those taking exams?  This may sound ridiculous, silly even, but is it not an interesting question to consider?  What are we really asking for?

Take, for example, a conversation I had with a mother some years back.  She was really upset and disappointed with God.  I don’t think she was going to give up her faith, but she sure sounded like she was close to that decision.  When the PSLE results were announced, her son did well, but not well enough to get into ACS(I).  As such, he had to settle for ACS (Barker) – considered ‘second-class’ in the ACS family of schools.  To this mother, God did not answer her prayer, nor her son’s.  What made it harder for her to accept was that God seemed to have answered the prayers of the other parents – since their sons got into ACS(I) – and these were less-devoted Christians, and some non-believers!

You may be smiling at this true account 🙂  But I daresay such reactions are rather common in results-oriented, academics-crazy Singapore.  It sure makes me wonder what parents really expect God to do for their children when they prepare and sit for exams?  Perhaps they want God to supernaturally increase the academic capability of the child, to reveal all the questions and answers, to change the tough questions to easier ones for their child only, to blind the teachers’ eyes to wrong or inappropriate answers, etc.  Even more interesting, I hear of prayers for those collecting the results.  Are these praying for good results after knowing how well they did or struggled through the paper?  Are these praying for the marks and grades to miraculously change from D to A?  Or from A to A*?

Can God not do all these, you ask?  Of course He can for nothing is impossible for Him.  I have heard testimonies of how God had revealed the questions so the individual knew what to study.  But does He do it all the time?  For all?  I’m not too sure about that.  You may not agree with me entirely.  But if you are so convicted, I’d really encourage you to offer a course “How to ace your exams supernaturally!”  Not only will you have immediate sign-ups, you will have great opportunity for evangelism too.  Think about it … believe in Jesus, and get straight As!

Ok, coming back to praying for exams.  Of course, when the child does well, praises are offered to God.  But when the results are less than satisfactory, why question God?  Why accuse Him for not answering?  Do you really expect every Christian student to score As?  If so, you might as well believe in the prosperity gospel that suggests every Christian should be materially rich, wealthy and prosperous!

We need to get our perspectives right again.  The academic system needs a means of testing and evaluation and it’s called examinations.  In any group – in a class, a school, a precinct, a country – there will be those who do better and those not so well.  That is a given.  In the odd event everyone does equally well (or bad), you can expect the system to be adjusted to again separate the best from the not-so-good’s.  Given the emphasis on education and academic excellence in Singapore, we can safely assume that it will only get tougher, not easier.

As parents, we value the place of education in our children’s lives.  However, if we are not careful and mindful, it is also easy for education to take the place of God.  Simply put, we trust education more than we trust God.  We are so worried and anxious that without making it to the top 10%, we fear our children will lose out in life.  They will have to work under someone, or have their career opportunities curtailed.  At the end of the day, it’s all about landing a good job, for a good salary, to secure a good life.  Where is God?  Of course, He is there … but only to ensure exams scores are good that our goals for our children are realised.  How we pray and later respond reveal very clearly how much we truly trust God, or grades.

If one chooses to remain in the academic system, the pressure to perform and out-perform others will always be there.  Even for us, as homeschoolers, the pressure is still there, however subtle.  The key is to always have the right perspective.  I’ve found it useful to constantly ask myself, “Is it about education, academics and grades?  Or is it about learning life and knowing God?”  This is our prayer for each of our children – that they learn life and know God.  We recognise their strengths and weaknesses.  Not all may be academically-inclined to perform well in a school system; but all are individually gifted and talented, and capable of serving the Lord in whatever capacity He enables them in.

Also, not all bloom or mature at the same time – some earlier, some later.  It’s not a one-size fits all – whether you make it or you don’t. Sadly, school systems are much like production lines. If you don’t fit the mould, sorry!   You are promptly moved to the next line or category.  That’s what makes parenting and homeschooling so tough.  We need to know our children that we may encourage them along the right path at the right pace with the right perspective.  We too have been guilty of being a little impatient at times, only to discover that given just a few months more, the child suddenly gets it.

As a Singaporean parent, I am equally susceptible to the pressures and demands of our society.  Honestly, it’d be nice if each of my seven children do well academically and attain PhDs.  I’d be one proud father 🙂  But that is not my pre-occupation at all.  If the Lord so leads them that way, praise be to God.  If not, praise Him still!

In the meantime, my prayer is for them to have the right attitude towards exams, to do their best and to never give up, regardless the results.  I believe God can use any result and every life experience to shape them for His purposes.  And in the end, if each would love, know and serve Him passionately wherever they are placed, I’d really be one proud father 🙂

A Song Just For Me

I know it’s not about me at all.  And yet, when it happened that Saturday morning at the Young Adults Conference in Davao, I felt that it was specially arranged by my Abba Father … just for me 🙂

I was informed by Ptr Joel that there would be a song item before my teaching session.  Not a problem at all.  I’m used to song items.  And then, Bro Nor Rai Rai was introduced and he appeared with no arms!  He shared a little and then took his place at the keyboards where he would sing the song … The Warrior is a Child!!!  Of all the songs in the world, it had to be this song, a personal favourite of mine through which the Lord always ministers, reminding me that however hard I work for the Kingdom of God, I am still His child.

That morning, the Lord showed me how He could work through someone like Bro Nor, a disabled person made whole and complete by Jesus.  It really is not about who we are or what we can do.  It is only in and through Jesus that we can be more than conquerors!  By the way, Bro Nor is part of the band, Ezra, which made it to the finals of Filipino Got Talent.

As I watched him play and listened to the words of the song through his smooth voice, tears just flowed that morning.  It picked me up and strengthened me to walk that extra mile, to minister once more in the strength of the Lord.  I know others at the Conference were also truly and richly blessed by that item.  But, deep within me, I knew it was my heavenly Father’s way of surprising me, of telling me that He knows how I am feeling and how much I need His love and affirmation that morning.  And He prepared this song just for me 🙂

Thank you, Bro Nor, for reminding me of God’s strength and His love.  Thank you, Ptr Zaldie Massin, for recording and uploading the video.

Above all, thank you, Abba Father, for Your unfailing love and faithfulness.

A Faith of Their Own

It didn’t start out that way.  But the moment I responded to the Lord’s call to ministry, my children immediately became MKs, or Ministry Kids.  And a few years later, when I was commissioned to be a pastor, they became PKs, or Pastors’ Kids.

Whether they like it or not, there is an unspoken pressure that is placed upon them.  We try our best not to make it worse for them, but I must admit that there are times when I am myself conscious of how my children are behaving and how that might affect our testimony.  It doesn’t help that we are seen as people of great faith (or those with little self-control), having a large family.  And also people who dare to venture the path less trodden, deciding to homeschool our children.  It can be quite a lot for our children to handle as they grow up in such an environment and high expectations.

Yet, instead of always focussing on their behaviour, I really should be asking myself, “How am I living out my Christian walk in front of them?”  It is easy to be warm, nice, patient and loving to others in the church.  But am I the same with them?  It is easy to preach and teach in front of a congregation and class, but do I walk the talk at home?  It is easy to challenge others not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  But am I a big, fat hypocrite in the eyes of my children?  It is one thing to encourage them to read the Bible; it is yet another for them to see the Bible lived through me.  Finally, when all is said and done, even if I should do all thing right by the grace of God, I cannot force my faith on them.  They must develop and grow a faith of their own.

It was an article by Rebecca Kruyswijk about Priscilla Shirer in BibleStudyMagazine that prompted me to write this post as a reflection and a prayer for myself and my children.  As a pastor’s daughter, Shirer faced great challenges and “the greatest was making her faith her own”.  Today, she is a bible teacher and conference speaker who loves the Lord and His Word, having opportunities to speak alongside others like Beth Moore and Kay Arthur.  In particular, it was this paragraph that inspired and encouraged me…

I am reminded that however well I teach or encourage my children to read the Bible or to serve the Lord, it is my life and example that they will see and remember for the rest of their lives.  Like Shirer’s parents, I want to be real to them and with them.  But that does not mean justifying and rationalising my weaknesses nor making excuses for my shortcomings as a disciple of Jesus, a pastor, a husband and father.  By God’s grace, I want to be one who lives what I preach, that my children will see as little or no disparity between my public persona and who I am to them.

And my prayer for my seven children … that they will each discover and know Jesus for themselves, that they will each receive a faith they can call their own, one that will ground them surely and securely until they see Jesus face to face.

 

Father’s Day Message: The Instruction of a Father

It had been a real challenge for me to find time and space to think about the message for Father’s Day, 20 June.  The past few weeks have been so packed with activities … church camp, Glory School, Silent Retreat.  I can’t even find the word to describe how I felt physically.  I guess “pooped” would have to do 🙂  Even after returning from church camp, it was one thing after another.  It was only on Thursday night that I finally got to sit down with my bible.  As I flipped the pages, I felt led to turn to Proverbs 4.  As I read that chapter, I knew that was what I would preach about … “The Instruction of a Father”.  The Lord led me in the preparation (only on Saturday) and the points simply flowed.  It was really exciting and I was learning so much as I worked on the message!  What a reminder it was for me too.

God has given fathers a mandate to raise our sons and daughters in His ways.  In Eph 6:4, fathers are the ones charged with bringing up children in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Fathers are to instruct their children.  The question is, “How are we instructing them?”

A father’s instruction to his son is a recurring theme in the early chapters of Proverbs.  Interestingly, it is mentioned three times in Proverbs 4 alone, clearly an indication of importance.  Having established that, Solomon says, “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Prov 4:5)  More than the pursuit of knowledge and achievements, it is wisdom that will set a person apart, bringing with it promotion, honour, grace and glory (Prov 4:8-9).  Yet, we must realise that there are two types of wisdom: the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God.  The former is “earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:15) but the former is “pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full or mercy and good fruits” (James 3:17).  Without exception, we all want the wisdom of God but in reality (unconsciously, I believe), we may be instructing our children according to the ways and wisdom of the world.  How subtle and deceptive it is, for the ways of the world also promise promotion, honour, grace and glory, bringing with it envy, pride, lies and strife.  It is the role of fathers to point this out to their children, knowing godly wisdom themselves first that they can teach their children to discern well.

Wisdom and understanding will prepare our children for life’s decisions and choices.  The path of life is fraught with many distractions.  The caution here is not so much to look out for obvious sins and vices (for these are easy to spot and identify) but to be wary of the subtle ones.  Prov 4:14-19 addresses this with a list of “avoid this” and “stay away from such”.  Yet again, what will enable one to discern these?  Wisdom and understanding!  Fathers must not only desire that their children travel “the path of the just” (Prov 4:18).  They have to instruct them in the ways of the just, and that is a walk of faith, for Rom 1:17 says “The just shall live by faith.”  Once more, we see the difference between worldly wisdom which focuses on a reliance on the material; and godly wisdom which focuses on a relationship with God.

Finally, in Prov 4:20-27, the father gets practical.  He warns his son to be careful with what he hears and sees, for what is taken in will affect his heart.  Instead of the rubbish that is prevalent in the world, the child is to focus on the words and instructions of his father, to hide them in the midst of his heart.  But that is not all!  He is to guard his heart with all diligence, out of which flows the issues of life, affecting how he talks and walks, what he says and does!  Wisdom determines what is taken is, what is hidden and what is finally revealed!

An awesome time of praise and worship!
Addressing the chinese congregation … with translation by Pastor Woon, of course 🙂
Seeing the backdrop, I thought to myself, “Nice. Creative. Men wear shirts.” Then the Spirit said, “Yes. But who wears the pants?” God has a great sense of humour!

This morning, I delivered the sermon at Full Gospel Assembly.  Praise God for His enablement and the anointing that was so present.  I could feel the words cut through and into the hearts.  It was amazing!  As always, I stand so amazed of God’s grace and power, as well as His faithfulness.  I was in no shape to preach at all, but as I yielded myself to Him, He came through so powerfully and wonderfully!  When I saw the men stand in response to the call to be godly fathers who would instruct their children accordingly, I knew the Lord had already begun a new work in each of their hearts, their lives and their families.  Glory to God!!!

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When Parents Don’t Want To Be The Bad Guys: Uncle Scold

I brought my children to the library yesterday.  It’s nice that we are able to go on a weekday – less crowded and quieter.  When we got there, there were two other children with their mothers.  One was a toddler and he was having good fun walking around, exploring the books and furniture.  The other boy (about 2 yrs old) was seated at the little table, presumably being read to by his either very-youthful-looking grandmother or rather-matured-looking mother 🙂  (We’ll consider her as the mother in this commentary.)

Soon, the boy began to make noise, getting louder each time.  Each outburst was matched with a “shhh” from his mother with little or no effect.  Then came a loud yelp from the kid which made me look up, catching the mother’s eye.  Perhaps it was the look on my face, for immediately, she told the boy, “Uncle scold!”  That silenced him for a little while and he started again.  And the mother threatened him again with the mean-monster-uncle-who-will-not-only-scold-you-but-eat-you-up trick … “Uncle scold!”  Not too long after, they left the library.

I guess I should feel good that I have assisted in someone’s child training programme … who cares if I had been portrayed as a grumpy old man 🙂  Yet, this little episode made me realise one thing in many parents.  Often, parents don’t want to be “the bad guy”.  They want to appear nice and loving.  As such, they readily pass the blame to others, sending the message to the child, “It’s ok with me if you mis-behave, but that mean, old man … now, he’s the troublemaker, the killjoy!”  This, by the way, is not a recent development.  I remember as a boy, the same trick (excuse) was used … “Stop this behaviour, or else the police will come and arrest you!”, or in Hokkien, mata lai loh mata diak.

I believe children must be taught to obey the voice of their parents first, that they will then learn to submit to other authorities with proper respect.  This means that parents must be willing to discipline and train even if it means being the bad guy sometimes.  This is tough love but also biblical and godly love.  God, as our Heavenly Father, loves and disciplines us in the same way.  When we go through tough times, He doesn’t say “Oh, it’s not me!  I’ll never do that to you!  It’s … it’s … it’s … the devil!  But me, NAHHHH, I wouldn’t let you suffer at all!”  Sure, tell that to Jesus when He hung upon the Cross.

Parents, let’s encourage one another to do what we need to do, that our children will be raised right for the Lord’s glory and  use.  Don’t make excuses, push blame or pass the buck.  And please, give the uncles (and aunties) a break.

Related Post: Why Would a Good God Allow Bad Things To Happen?

The Fulfilment of a Vision

As I write this post, I want to give all glory to God, for He deserves all glory, honour and praise!

When God called me to the ministry of declaring His Word, I had the awesome privilege of seeing people respond during times of altar call.  As they stepped forward, some would weep, cry and even fall under the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am always humbled by how God can use one such as I to touch and impact the lives of His children.  Yet, excited as I am to see many lives touched, nothing can exceed the joy of seeing your own loved ones respond to God.

One day, I believe the Lord gave me an impression in my heart.  In this “picture’, I knew that I had just finished preaching a message.  I make a call for the people to respond and they start to come up in droves.  Amidst the crowd, one person stood out … it was my father!  I began to weep and then to cry.  I don’t remember when I received this impression, but I continued to carry it in my heart.

Yesterday, at Covenant Vision Christian Church, I literally saw the fulfilment of this vision.  As I concluded  the message, “From Religion To Relationship”, I challenged the people to respond to the Word of God, to move from religion to relationship.  The worship team sang the song, On Bended Knees, and I had my eyes closed as I prayed in my heart for the people and for God to move powerfully.  When I opened my eyes, I saw the people streaming forward.  And then it happened, right before my eyes – my father was making his way to the front.  Emotions welled up inside of me, and tears flowed.

After leading everyone in a general prayer, I made my way down to where my father was standing.  I called to him as he turned to go back to his seat, and asked if I could pray with and for him.  He readily agreed.  There we stood, father and son, praying together for God to move in new dimensions in his life.  I strongly believe that God has begun a new work in Dad’s life, and we will see new things in the days ahead.

What an awesome and yet humbling experience it was for me that God would allow me the privilege to pray for my own father.  What a gracious and faithful God!

Related Post: Bearing Fruit in Old Age

Fathers Who Feel Like Failures

I had a crazy idea the other day.  I think I will start a new support group for fathers and call it F.F.F.F. …… The Fellowship of Fathers who Feel like Failures.  If I am right, I believe the subscriptions and sign-up rate will be phenomenal.  Then again, maybe I’m the only one who feels that way 😦  So what, I will be the only member then!

On Sunday, I noticed how silent a brother was after church.  We were both in the same room but didn’t get to talk at all.  He was busy with his kids, and me with mine.  So, the next day, I made an effort to call him just to see how he was doing.  In a simple phrase, he was struggling with being a dad and a husband.  However hard he tried, it just didn’t seem to work.  Whatever he did, it just didn’t seem to be enough.  Then there were the feelings of guilt for not praying enough, not reading the bible enough, and not spending enough time with God.  Not to mention the need of connecting and reconnecting with the wife, but … you-guessed-it … no time nor the energy.

Boy, did I identify with everything he shared that day.  Suddenly, it hit me that I was talking to … a father who felt like a failure.  Hey, a potential member of F.F.F.F.!

I am sure there are lots more out there like us.  We know the right things to do, but they don’t always turn out the way those inspirational books suggest they do.  In fact, I’ve had, more than once, harboured thoughts of burning those in my library.  We know the right things to say to other fledging fathers and it spurs them on.  But when we try it on ourselves, it just doesn’t sound as encouraging as we thought it could have been.

Hmmmm … looks like F.F.F.F. is definitely worth a shot.  Indeed, I will give this more thought.  But for now, daddy duty calls.