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”

Ho Chi Minh City Ministry Trip Report

It came as a surprise to me, the request to return a call to an invitation to speak in Ho Chi Minh City over the Easter Weekend. In my mind, it did not seem likely that I would be able to go, given our own programmes for Holy Week. And also, the invitation came a little close to the dates of travel (6-8 April) I felt. Still, it has always been my policy to remain open for one never knows how the Lord might lead. So I returned the call. As the country director shared more, I felt a certain drawing to go – it would be nice to visit Vietnam; and interestingly, what was previously scheduled for that Saturday had just been cancelled, thereby setting me free to go.

Hoa Hung Church, where International Christian Fellowship is located on the 3rd Floor.

Still, l had to settle a few details first. Firstly, I needed to seek the Lord if this was His bidding. Secondly, I would like Serene to be in agreement, seeing that I would leave her and the family for the weekend. Thirdly, my Senior Pastor would have to grant me leave from a major Church weekend. Although an answer was required rather promptly, I was graciously allowed to process the above without any pressure. It would be about a week and more later that I finally said “yes” to the invitation. When I shared it on Facebook, a sister immediately asked if she could tag-along. I said “ok” but she had to find another sister-in-Christ to go with her. And she did. With two sisters coming with me, I thought it’d be good if I had a brother with me. As I considered bringing my son, someone promptly offered to sponsor his air ticket. And so, that settled my two ‘tag-alongs’ and also one ‘dragged-along’ – haha!

Preaching at the 7pm Good Friday Service.

As expected, the days and weeks leading up to the trip were packed with teachings and activities. All too soon, it was time for us to head to Ho Chi Minh City. On Good Friday morning, the entire family accompanied David and I to the airport, and saw us off. A short 1.5hr flight and we landed in sunny and hot Ho Chi Minh City. We were met by a staff of International Christian Fellowship (ICF). Hopping into a taxi, we experienced our very first taste of Vietnamese driving in Vietnamese traffic, with numerous motorbikes weaving in and out. Arriving at Elios Hotel, we proceeded to lunch … yes, Vietnamese food. After lunch, we walked to the pastor’s office for a short briefing and meeting by this Singaporean businessman-cum-pastor who has been in Vietnam for the past 16 years. He explained that ICF is a church plant of Methodist Missions Society catering to expatriates working in Vietnam. Church licenses are difficult to come by in communist Vietnam so it is deed the Lord’s favour that the government approved MMS’ appplication and ICF was born 1.5 years ago.

That night, we assembled at the 3rd floor of the local Hoa Hung Church, where ICF meets. It was a small worship hall with a simple set-up. The leaders did not know how many would turn up as it was their very first Good Friday service. They had applied for permission to hold this special service and approval was given by the communist government. Being a work day, it would be a challenge for some to come for that service at 7pm. Well, praise the Lord, about 50 turned up that night – really encouraging.

The team, posing for a tourist pix in front of Notredame Cathedral.

The next day, Saturday, was a free day for us. We took the opportunity to be tourists and walked around the city, taking in the sights, culture and people. We soon got used to crossing the roads with confidence. That night, we met up with a sister who accepted Jesus as Saviour just a few weeks ago in Singapore at one of my Old Testament teaching sessions, for dinner. Yes, Vietnamese food again!

Motorcycles, motorcycles and more motorcycles!
Vietnamese dinner!

On Sunday, we gathered at ICF for the 10:30am Easter Sunday Outreach Service. This time, the congregation size was about 80 – 90. We celebrated through praise and worship, led by the ICF Worship Team. I preached “Made for Life”, challenging many to consider the resurrection power and life we have through Jesus Christ. The response was encouraging as hands were raised to indicate re-dedication and a desire to appropriate a life of meaning and purpose in Christ. At the call for salvation, one lady at the back raised her hand. I then invited her to step forward and together we prayed with her as she declared her faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord!

Easter Sunday Outreach Service at 10:30am
Enjoying Vietnamese Iced Coffee by the roadside.

It was a very short ministry trip – not too demanding, with even time for us to rest and fellowship over drinks and meals. That said, we knew that the Lord was with us and He is doing something exciting in Vietnam. Regardless constraints and restrictions, it is indeed a land with many opportunities for the gospel to be preached and the love of Jesus to be shared with the Vietnamese people. I am so thankful He gave me the privilege to visit Ho Chi Minh City and to speak to the expat community there. I believe this is just an exploratory trip that will open new doors for more to come. In the meantime, we will keep praying for the country and for God to prepare the ground for a mighty outpouring and move of His Holy Spirit!

Need More Time?

As a busy Singaporean, I am always wishing there was more time to do the 1,001 things on my to-do list; and the other 1,001 that I didn’t quite have the time to put down on that list.

One day, I cried out to the Lord, “I need more time!”  Quite immediately, the words of Eph 5:16 popped into my mind: “… redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”  Upon deeper study, I realised that the word ‘time’ was not chronos but kairos.  We are not asked to redeem the chronos but the kairos!

Chronos, from which we get the word ‘chronology’, refers to a passage or quantity of time.  Each of us has 24 hours each day.  Whether young or old, man or woman, tall or short, 24 hours is all we get.  It is no point asking for more time if we are first not disciplined to use that amount of time.  In other words, if I had 25 hours a day, I’d still need more time.  If I had 8 days a week, 13 months in a year, it would still not be enough.

What Eph 5:16 is talking about is kairos, a God-appointed time or a God-given opportunity.  In our activity-packed life (and ministry), it is so, so easy to miss these times that God presents to us.  Perhaps, a chance to share an encouraging word, an opportunity to be a blessing, a special moment to cherish, a dream to realise, a life to impact, a child to hug, a heart to warm up, a tear to wipe.  These are God-given opportunities, God-ordained moments to share His love and goodness, that so many miss simply because most are probably too caught up with our own needs and wants.

No wonder Paul exhorts us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” Eph 5:15.  It is those who are wise in the ways and things of God that learn how to discern and recognise the kairos.  The reverse is of course true, that those who are wise in the ways of the world are considered fools.  A harsh descriptor, you say.  But consider those who chase after the trappings of the world, trying to keep up with others, getting caught in the rat race, stressed by the education and academic systems, toiling endlessly … all these miss God-sanctioned moments of love, joy, peace and rest.  Rather foolish, don’t you think?

Paul reminds again in Eph 5:17, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Simply put, get aligned with what God is doing.  Notice that we are not to ask what is God’s will for me but to adjust ourselves to God’s will and purpose.  The problem is that we are all too caught up with what we want, how we want to do it, and when we want to get there.  I need to realise something here: there is just not enough time in the world to cater to the selfish person in me, nor is there enough time for the procrastinator that I am!  I need to stop trying to force God into my agenda but begin to align myself with His!  If not, I will miss every opportunity He puts in my path and waste every moment to live right for Him.  To be sure, I don’t need more time; I need more wisdom!

How are you living your life?  Are you crying out for more time too?  Perhaps, it’s time to relook and reassess your priorities to see if you have been walking as one who is wise or one who is foolish.  Ask yourself: Did you begin this day saying, “Lord, I will live this day for You and with You!”?  Or did you end your day lamenting, “Lord, I need more time!”?

Determine not to miss another kairos but to make every moment count for His name and glory!  Get realigned with God, be wise and make a decision to exchange (redeem) that you consider important for something else that is of far greater significance … God-given opportunities that really and truly matter.

Redeem the time, for the days are evil.

God Is In Control

A couple of evenings ago, I went to the kitchen to fix myself a drink.  I reached for my trusty, old coffee mug and noticed something odd about it … the handle had fallen off! I couldn’t help but notice the powerful message that was right there in my hands.  I couldn’t resist taking a shot of it.  As I’ve often remarked, God is a great communicator and sure has a wonderful sense of humour.  If our spirits would be open to hear His voice, He desires to speak to us through symbols and pictures.

Through this beautiful object lesson, I was reminded (yet again) that God is in control regardless the brokenness, the pain, and the seeming hopelessness we may experience in life.  No matter what we go through, God is in control.  We may not fully understand the reasons and it’s ok to question.  But in the end, it’s not in circumstances or feelings that we put our trust, but in God and His unchanging Word.  We must stand resolved and convicted that nothing escapes our God and nothing surprises Him.  His allowing of a certain challenging (even devastating) situation does not mean He is no longer there, or that He no longer cares.  The handle of my mug may be broken, but it does not mean that it cannot be filled anymore. Remember, our brokenness is no indication of our capacity to receive!  Because Jesus came that I might have life to its fullest (John 10:10b), my cup can and will still run over (Psalm 23:5)!

May this little message encourage you … whoever you are, whatever you are going through, however you are feeling at the moment.

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labour of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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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And This Is Eternal Life

This conversation with my 4-yr old girl took place one night after our bedtime prayers …

“Do you believe in Jesus?” I asked.
“Yes,” came her reply without any hesitation.
“That’s good,” I said, “So what do you have now?”
“Er … eternal life?” she said with her eyes wide open.
“That’s right!” I said.

Slight pause.

“Do you know what eternal life is?” I asked.
“Errr (thinking really hard) ……………. no.”

Although my little girl had the right answer, she didn’t have the slightest clue what the promise of eternal life meant at all.  Interestingly, even adult Christians are none the wiser.  Having grown up with a believe-in-Jesus-die-and-go-to-heaven theology, many have the idea that eternal life is not for now but for a time when they die.  That cannot be further from the truth.

In John 17:3, Jesus Himself declared, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  Eternal life is having a real and intimate relationship with God, one that can only be experienced through Jesus Christ His Son.  Because of disobedience and sin, Man lost fellowship with God, his creator, and this resulted in death (Gen 2:17).  That this fellowship might be restored and life given back to Man, God sent Jesus to die for Man’s sins and to re-open the way back to God.  By believing in Jesus, we can now know God personally and intimately again.  And in knowing God, we have life again because God Himself is the Originator, Giver and Sustainer of Life!

Jesus came that we might have life in all its abundance (Jn 10:10b)!  That’s what eternal life is all about!  It is life in its fullness the moment we come into a right relationship with God through Jesus.  This can be experienced and had right now right here as we walk on earth.  Having a revelation of this truth really blessed me as I discovered the fullness of God’s call, purpose, provision, joy and hope in my own life.

For too long, I had also inaccurately believed that eternal life only began after I died.  As such, eternal life meant nothing to me other than a promise to live forever.  How wrong I was!  Once my relationship with God was corrected and my purposes were aligned with His, eternal life for me began right away.  No longer was I going to allow the thief to steal, kill and destroy the life that God desires me to have.  Nor will I be deceived into thinking it is something for later and not now.

Day by day, I am discovering new truths and new wonders of every spiritual blessing in Christ already laid up for me in heavenly places (Eph 1:3).  Moment by moment, I am walking in the plans that God has for me, plans of good and not of evil, plans that give me a future and a hope (Jer 29:11).  Everyday for me is now the first day of eternal life lived to its fullest in fellowship and communion with God!

Are you still waiting for eternity to experience eternal life?  Then you are missing out on what God has for you.  Make it a point to really know Him, to love Him and to serve Him, and enter into all He has for you.  And this is eternal life!

Out With The Ten Commandments?

I can understand when a preacher cautions against an over zealousness in the keeping of the Law.  That tantamounts to an attainment of righteousness through works which can eventually end up either in self-righteousness or condemnation.  We are, after all, no longer under the law, but are now under grace (Rom 6:14 – a favourite verse of extreme gracers).  As such, “we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter (Rom 7:6)”, “for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:6)”.  I have no problems with this and would readily say a loud “amen”.

BUT for the same preacher to openly declare that when churches teach the Ten Commandments as a pulpit series, they are in effect, killing their congregations across the weeks ……. now, that I’ve got a huge problem with?!?!  It just doesn’t sit well with me at all.  Let me add that in support of his stand that the Law must now be done away with, he convincingly paints a picture that the Law is bad and ugly.  That’s not what the Bible says!  On the contrary, we are told that the Law  is holy, just and good (Rom 7:12).

Yes, the Law does bring death, but that’s because it brings an awareness of sin; and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  Read in context, and with proper understanding, it is not the Law that kills, but sin.  Paul emphasises so clearly in Rom 7:7, “Is the law sin? Certainly not!”.  It is sin, taking advantage of the Law, that deceives me and by it kills me! (Rom 7:11)  Let’s get it straight once and for all … it is sin that is bad and ugly, and sin that kills.  Not the Law!

When Paul says that we have been delivered from the Law, what he means is that we have been delivered from the penalty of the Law.  This penalty or curse is operative when the righteous requirements of the Law are not completely and satisfactorily fulfilled.  Jesus came and died for that very purpose … to redeem us from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13).

Does it mean I no longer need to keep the Law?  Well, yes, not in the Mosaic sense, on the outward according to the flesh.  But, no, for now, I need to keep another law – the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, according to the Spirit, one that is inward but manifests itself outward through love, for the law is fulfilled in and through love (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:8-10).

Sounds nice.  But how do I know if my understanding of love is biblically-defined and not Hollywood-influenced or societally-driven?

Simple.  I read the Bible and see God’s righteousness requirements in and through His commandments given to His chosen people … the Law*.  The key difference is that I now have the illumination and guidance of the Holy Spirit to teach and guide me into all this truth.  I don’t strive to keep the Law according to the flesh for I will fail time and time again.  Instead, I strive to live it according to the Spirit allowing Him to change me from the inside out, with the full assurance that when I do mess up (and that happens quite a lot), there is no condemnation in Christ for He has already paid the price for me at Calvary!  Not that I deserve it one bit, but because He has already made that provision … not just for me, but for everyone who would believe in His precious name.  That’s grace!

Let us recognise that the problem is not found in our contentions between law and grace.  Instead, it is found in our constant struggle between walking according to the Spirit and walking according to the flesh (that’s another topic for another article another time).

So, before anyone throws out the Ten Commandments and proceeds to rip out the entire Law from the Bible (since it’s no longer needed and makes for easier carrying to church and back), pause and think for a while.  Be a noble Berean (Acts 17:11); not just receiving the word (any word!) with all readiness, but to also check out the Scriptures for a consistent and an accurate understanding, allowing the Holy Spirit to bring revelation and conviction.

*Think about this … the essence of the Law of Moses and the Law of the Spirit are one and same … they are both from God … holy, just and good!