Who Writes the Story of Your Life?

 

Who writes the story of your life?

In a world that tells us to take charge, to create our own destinies, it is easy to think that we are the ones in control of our own lives. After all, “No one owes you a living. Life is what you make of it.” So, get out there, fight for what you want, believe in yourself, and live life as you intend it! (Interestingly, these days, even Christian messages have a tendency to sound like that.)

If you’re like me, every now and then, I buy into these inspirational pick-me-ups. Yeah! Go, go, go! Vroom, vroom! It’s nice. It’s motivational. But truth be told, it’s only one side of the coin.

For sure, I have a part to play, to do what I need to do. No one is going to live my life for me, make decisions for me or traverse the challenging seasons that I often find myself in. However, I don’t get to write the plot or determine how things finally pan out. As much as I am free to choose how I will live, there is a much larger picture that I have absolutely no control over.

Yes, that is the other side of the coin that we must not miss or ignore. Whilst this may frustrate or anger some, it is in this tension – the free will of man and the sovereignty of God – that I find comfort, rest and peace.

In the past three years, this has become even more real to me. Pioneering a new ministry is not easy. However, as much as I desire to be responsible, diligent and hardworking (and these traits are all well and good), I have come to realise that I simply cannot make things happen. Leadership courses will have you believe that if you plan, lead and execute well, you will get the results. Once again, nothing wrong with these leadership principles, but we forget that it is not what we plan but where and how we feature in God’s Plan.

As I closed and opened a new journal this morning, I was overwhelmed by how the Lord has led me, and especially in the more recent three years. As I sought to listen to His voice and to follow His lead, I decided and implemented initiatives as best as I knew how (often with a degree of uncertainty). Yet, as free as I was to do as I deemed fit, looking back, His guidance is clearly noticed. All those times I worried or fretted now seem so trivial and silly. God was always in control and He remains so. When I pushed myself too hard, thinking time and urgency were of the essence, God was never in a rush at all. Everything moved according to His perfect timing!

I looked at the blank page of my new journal, and I found it staring back at me. The psalmist wrote, “And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Psalm 139:16). How beautiful. How comforting. The dance has already been choreographed and the Lord invites me onto the dance floor of life with Him. Two left feet notwithstanding, my part is only to take the steps as He takes the lead. “A man’s heart plans his way. But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

More and more, may the journal entries be a record of the discoveries I make, the lessons I learn, and a testimony of His faithfulness, as I align to what the Author of Life has already written for me.

Who writes the story of your life?

Advertisements

Teach Us To Number Our Days

CVSOM Alumni with Ps Wendy
CVSOM Alumni Cambodia Ministry Team with Pastor Wendy (in the middle of the photograph).

We had just met Pastor Wendy last week in Kampong Speu, just over an hour’s drive from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She passionately introduced the school and the work of the ministry to us. Later, we visited the teachers’ dormitory and finally, I had the privilege of praying for her. Yesterday, we were shocked to receive news that she had gone home to be with the Lord! They had found her body in her room, not knowing the cause of death. Last night, I was told that she had been robbed and killed 😦 This morning, the Straits Times carried the following report:

ST Article

I don’t know Pastor Wendy very well. But in the brief time of meeting and knowing her, I could sense that this sister had a heart for the people of Cambodia, especially the children. Over the past ten years, she would make frequent trips to Cambodia – as many as 6 to 8 times a year, to oversee the running of the school, to train and equip the teachers there. No doubt, she (together with her husband, Pastor Paul – whom we had the privilege of meeting too) were faithful to the call of God upon their lives and were obedient to carrying out the mission entrusted to them.

And then suddenly, this dear sister is gone. Not even dying peacefully in her sleep, but robbed and killed?! Once again, there are just no answers to this plight, only more questions. Here was a faithful servant of God, on mission for Jesus. Why did she have to go in such a way? Was it a spiritual attack? Why did the Lord not send angels to protect her? Why could this not have been another one of those miraculous stories of supernatural rescue and encounter? Sadly, I have no answers at all 😦 And my heart goes out to her dear husband who possibly is struggling with even more tears and grief than questions.

This is really too odd for me. On the morning of our departure, Pastor Richard shared about the loss of his wife to cancer a year ago. It was sudden and really fast. They tried everything and prayed in every way. And yet, the Lord took her home. One year later, another faithful servant in Pastor Paul loses his equally faithful wife. How do you make any sense of this? Faithful and obedient men of God, losing their wives, in the course of duty.

Truly, we don’t know when we will be called home. We can claim and proclaim the promises of long life in the Bible but the truth is, there are exceptions. And let’s not be too quick and insensitive to pass any judgment on these that they had sin in their lives or a lack of faith in their walk with God. For sure, the Lord watches over us and protects His servants. But how do you explain the wound on Pastor Wendy’s head and the blood all over her floor? The desperate work of greedy or needy men, perhaps. But why were the missing items later found buried under a tree 200m away? Spiritual? Demonic? Too bizarre, if you ask me.

Maybe I’m getting older but it’s become even clearer to me that life is but a vapor (James 4:14). Each day is precious and we must live it to the fullest in service and devotion to the Lord, and to one another. I don’t know when my time is up, or when – shudder – my wife’s time is up. And yet, how easily we forget the brevity of life, distracted by the many demands and challenges we face each day. How easily we take one another for granted, thinking there is always another opportunity to love, to fellowship, to forgive, to make up, perhaps tomorrow, the day after, some day. The stark truth is, we don’t really know if there will be a tomorrow.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

I thank and praise God for faithful servants like Pastor Wendy. Regardless the challenges, and the dangers, she gave of herself to be a blessing to the people of Cambodia. May this seed that has died and fallen to the ground, for the sake of Jesus, bear tremendous fruit in the years to come. Because of Pastor Wendy’s life, and death, I believe Kampong Speu and Cambodia will be won for Jesus. Indeed, her life was lived to the fullest for Jesus. May this impact, remind and inspire me to do the same for my Lord and Master too.

 

Misconception #6: Discipleship is one aspect of the spiritual walk

Misconception 6This misconception extends from the previous one. Those ‘called’ to the prayer ministry will focus on prayer. Those ‘called ‘ to the worship ministry will elevate the worship experience. Those ‘called’ to teach will emphasise the discipline of study. And the more we specialise, the more we compartmentalise. To be sure, these are all different aspects that contribute to our spiritual walk. However, when we consider discipleship on the same level as these, we make a grave mistake. Discipleship is not just an aspect of the spiritual walk. It is the spiritual walk.

Discipleship is the Christian life as we learn how to handle people and situations as Jesus did when He walked on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit! Everything we think, do and say as a Christian is discipleship because we desire to think, do and say as our Master, Jesus, would. Every aspect of our lives is open for the Master’s inspection! Every word we utter is subject to His approval. What this means is that discipleship is not something that happens only in church but how we walk as followers of Jesus Christ in life!

How does this look in real life? Simply, I am first and foremost a disciple of Jesus before I am husband to Serene, father to my children, pastor to my congregation and dean to my students. I want to learn from Jesus that I may be more and more like Him in my relationship with my wife, my children, my congregation and my students. Walking in His ways is what discipleship is all about! Discipleship is not merely one aspect of my spiritual walk; it is everything my spiritual walk is supposed to be.

The right perspective and understanding of discipleship will radically change the way we live our lives and how we relate to one another. Husbands, as a disciple of Jesus, love your wives! Wives, as a disciple of Jesus, love your husbands! Parents, as disciples of Jesus, raise your children in the ways of Jesus. Fathers & Mothers, as disciples of Jesus, love and serve your children. Children, as disciples of Jesus, honour and obey your parents. Bosses, as disciples of Jesus, run your companies well. Employees, as disciples of Jesus, do you work well. Citizens of Singapore, as disciples of Jesus, stop complaining!

Stop seeing discipleship as only one component of your spiritual walk. This narrow view will cause you to minimise the importance of discipleship and what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.

Jesus be the Corner of My Life

Wait a minute! Shouldn’t Jesus be the centre of our lives?!

Indeed, Jesus is to be the centre, and I have no issue with that declaration at all. In fact, the term, “Christ-centredness”, is well accepted in Christian-speak and circles. Even the contemplatives have a discipline called, “Centering Prayer”, a prayer method that develops deeper intimacy with Christ. Symbolically, it helps the believer picture and understand the place of Jesus, and how He is to be involved in every aspect of their lives.

Biblically, however, there is only one direct mention of Jesus being in the centre, and that’s found in John 19:18 – “where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.” Not exactly great material for a doctrinal statement, is it?

Perhaps, it’s time to “move” Jesus back to where He really belongs … the corner 🙂

Before you baulk at the thought of relegating our Lord to such an obscure position, consider for a moment, the numerous verses that declare Jesus as God’s precious Cornerstone. Quoting Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone – Jesus (Matt 21:42), Paul (Eph 2:20) and Peter (1 Peter 2:6) boldly proclaimed the Person and Place of Jesus as God’s precious Cornerstone! And the last I researched, cornerstones are positioned – you guessed it – in the corner.

Let’s consider four key aspects of the cornerstone:

The cornerstone is laid first. Before anything can be built, the cornerstone must be put in place first. The question, “Is Jesus the centre?” is important. But the question, “Is Jesus first?” is critical! So often, we have laid in our lives weak and false cornerstones: dreams, relationships, money, career. And then, we try to fit Jesus in, somehow. If that doesn’t work too well, then too bad. Jesus will just have to left out of the equation. Little wonder then when it comes to important decisions, Jesus and His Kingdom do not come first. This is not to be at all! Jesus must be first and foundational in our lives!

The cornerstone provides the reference point. If we take our cue from worldly desires and pursuits, our choices and actions will follow. If our reference point is what the world says and how the world determines success and prosperity, this will be clearly evidenced in our lives. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to follow Him. And to do that, it means we align our everything with Him and what He stands for! If He is not the cornerstone of our lives, how will we know to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness? Do we live in reference to Christ, and Christ alone? Or is Jesus only referenced in time of need?

The cornerstone strengthens the walls. When construction finally begins, bricks are laid on and from the cornerstone, and walls are raised up. This is not simply for alignment, but for strength and stability. If we build our spiritual walk upon worldly and popular theology, it might look good for a while, but will it stand the test of time? Is it not interesting that stone buildings that are centuries-old continue to stand firm through wars and devastation, whilst our modern spanky spiffy buildings collapse and fall at the slightest of tremors?

The cornerstone holds up the building. As construction progresses, the cornerstone not only provides strength to the walls, but also holds up the entire building! What we marvel as an architectural feat is grounded upon a humble, obscure, unnoticed stone in the corner! That is what a victorious walk in Christ looks like. People will observe the strength of your life through good and bad times, and wonder how you hold it all together. But it’s not you at all! It’s the Cornerstone that you are built upon: Jesus! The truth is, a life built upon Jesus will weather the toughest of storms and still stand tall and strong!

Let me state once again that I have no issue with the statement, “Jesus be the centre of my life”. However, in making Him the centre, I must be careful that I have not rejected Him as the Cornerstone of my life. Without realising it, I may simply display Him as a centrepiece that is attractive and generates conversation. Without doubt, Jesus is glorious and worthy of all conversation, but that is not the point of debate. The issue is more fundamental and foundational.

Ponder this, if you will: “In today’s popular brand of Christianity, has the centrality of blessings, success and prosperity become synonymous with the centrality of Christ?” If so, it is time to change the refrain and begin to pray, “Jesus, be the Corner of my life.”

Related Post: Jesus be the Santa of my life?

Jesus be the Santa of My Life?

I guess it’s safe to assume that everyone is familiar with the hit worship song by Israel Houghton “Jesus At The Centre”, or the slightly older one, “Jesus Be the Centre” by Michael Frye.

We sing it with gusto, and at times, with tears too. But really, is Jesus the centre? Or do we just want Him to be a Santa to us? Hey, in this day of commercial and convenient Christianity, I can’t assume anything. Of anyone. And of myself.

Is Jesus the centre of your life? Don’t say “yes” too quickly if all you mean is that you desire Jesus to be the centre. That wasn’t the question at all. Once again, the question is, “Is Jesus the centre of your life?” In case this appears or sounds confusing, consider the following …

Take me, for example. I am one who serves in a full-time capacity. As a servant of God. I teach, preach and lead a ministry. By all counts, in the eyes of many, I have given my all to Jesus, so He must be the centre of my life. Accurate? Not necessarily. If I neglect the needs of my wife and not love her as Christ loved the church, if I do not parent my children in God’s ways, then Jesus is not the centre at all! Ouch!

How about the faithful volunteer each Sunday morning? He or she comes consistently to church and serves dutifully. Is Jesus the centre of his or her life? Well, we’d have to see more of his or her life to know, wouldn’t we? How does he conduct his business? How does she relate to her peers or relatives? What does he do in his private time when no one is watching? How does she respond in times of difficulties and challenges?

Then, there is the Sunday Christian who appears each week – 30mins into the service. He is perpetually tardy. But when a crisis hits, or a need arises, this dear brother is quick on the dial (smartphone keypad) to contact a pastor for prayer or counselling and – surprise! surprise! – comes perfectly on time for the appointment. Hmmmm … is Jesus really the centre?

Of course, what is the Christian walk without faith? So, there is the faith-filled believer who asks so he will receive – after all, that’s his entitlement. So, Lord, give me a job, give me a promotion, give me a baby, give me a husband, give me a house, car, an iPad, … How nice, when Jesus is the Santa of your life.

As with most blogposts, I have observed and so I write. But more than a post that gripes against what I have observed in others, it is one that provokes myself to evaluate if there might the presence of something larger in my eye than the speck I see in theirs.

Is Jesus really the centre of my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry as reflected through my thoughts, my words and my actions? Or have I too approached Him with a long list of gimmes based on a self-righteous view of myself having been good and faithful, and deserving of all I have asked for? If so, I have only made Jesus the Santa of my life. And however loud I sing and declare, Jesus is not the centre of my life at all … I am.

Related Post:
Santa? Or No Santa? Can We Please Make Up Our Minds?
Jesus be the Corner of My Life?

This is Life!

This morning (Tues 25 Sept 2012), I had the opportunity to have breakfast with my parents just before they left for the airport for another long trip.

Honestly, I have lost count of the number of trips and where they have been. Each time someone asks me if they are away or where they are, I find myself saying “I don’t know” as I have not been able to keep track of their travels. And to comments that they travel a lot, my reply would always be, “Isn’t it such a blessing that they are able to, that they have both the means and the health to travel and enjoy themselves?”

Looking back, my parents did not come from rich families. They have experienced the hard life and have both worked very hard to provide for myself and my sister. It is indeed wonderful that they can relax and enjoy each other’s company as they take in the sights and marvel at God’s creation all over the world.

In Singapore, they enjoy their 7 grandchildren. And on this trip, they will see their other 3 grandchildren over in Southampton. Along the way, there will be stopovers in Bangkok, Spain, Rome, Israel and South Korea before returning to Singapore.

Truly, this is life! And I am so thankful to the good Lord for sustaining them with His grace and favour. The greatest joy I have is that they have both encountered the Lord personally for themselves and have learnt to continually rest in Him for strength and direction.

Dad & Mom, I love you lots! You have showered us with so much of your love and care in your own special ways. My prayers are always with you that the Lord will grant us many more years of being together. And we praise Him too that when time on earth is done, we have the confidence that we will continue with one another through eternity in His presence!

Raising Christian Families in Today’s World

At the invitation of Wesley Methodist Church’s Family Life Ministry, I will be sharing this family seminar, “Raising Christian Families in Today’s World”*, on Saturday 18 August 2012, 9am to 12nn. Registration Fee: S$5.00 per person. For more information, you can contact Priscilla Shin at 6837 8610 or priscillas@wesleymc.org

Synopsis: Families today are under extreme pressure as they face new challenges in a fast-changing landscape. The enemy knows that if he hits the family unit, relationships will be broken and the testimony of the church will be weakened. What then are our roles as Christian parents? How do we protect our families from the spiritual and moral decline that is prevalent in societies today?  Indeed, parenting skills are important; but even more critical is a return to God’s Word and His mandate for parents to raise godly families for His Kingdom and glory!

If you can make it to attend, I’d strongly encourage you to; even better if both parents can make it. I won’t position this as a parenting talk, but a talk to and with parents. Feel free to share this seminar with others from your Christian community. It’d be a wonderful time of interaction, learning from one another and being made aware of the challenges that surround the Christian family in these perilous times.

*formerly titled, “Building a Household of Faith”