What Are Your Core Convictions?

When I set up One Day At A Time back in 2007, I felt it necessary to include a page where I shared My Core Convictions. For churches or para-church ministries, it would be a page detailing their Statements of Faith. But for a personal blog, it’s just a broad overview of what I believe in and what guides my spiritual walk.

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Over the years, this list has not only served as good reminders, but also a great source of encouragement to me. It points me back to what I regarded as foundational (still do), and helps me in my own alignment check. And especially in trying and difficult seasons, these simple lines anchor and hold me steady through challenges.

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Reviewing them again, I am thankful I made the effort to craft these ten statements then. I know that these pale in comparison with Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. But then again, it was never meant to be too academic a piece or to sound overly theological. My Core Convictions simply detail what I believe about God, His Purpose, salvation, faith, obedience, the Word, provision, ministry, the Holy Spirit, God’s will and grace (supported by Scripture, of course).

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What are your core convictions? Do you have core convictions? If not, I highly recommend that you take some time to ponder and to write them down. It is a worthy exercise as it will bring clarity to your walk with the Lord, strengthen your resolve as you serve Him, and also provide focus as you navigate through life’s many distractions and uncertainties.

Ruth’s Baptism

This post is a little overdue owing to ministry commitments following our own church camp. That said, it’s never too late to announce and celebrate a baptism 🙂

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When it was publicised that baptism would be conducted at church camp, our 5th child and 3rd daughter, 9 year old Ruth expressed her desire to be baptised, to openly declare her faith in Jesus Christ. As with her four older siblings, Serene and I did our part to ascertain her understanding of salvation and baptism before submitting her name.

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On 10 June 2014, Ruth was baptised at Pulai Desaru Beach by Rev Wilfred Png and Pastor Jun Undag. After coming out of the pool, our Senior Pastor, Rev Francis Khoo, prayed for her. Ruth became the 5th to be baptised, after David, Sarah, Aaron & Esther. All praise and thanks to the Lord for leading each of our children in their personal journeys.

Eczema is a Cursed Disease: Please pray for Anna Joy

It reared its ugly head in our family when Sarah’s skin erupted with red and itchy patches. She was about 5 years old then. What followed was years of discomfort and tears, not to mention diet restrictions from foods she loved to eat. Today, at 13, she is better, but still not cleared of the effects or threats of eczema.

Just about two years ago, it attacked Serene, and it was very aggressive. It started with a small spot on her hand, but quickly spread to both hands, ankles and the entire neck region. My dear wife really suffered. But as the main caregiver, she had no choice but to press on, bearing the heat, sweat and discomfort of the kitchen (and weather) as she prepared meals for the family. To the glory of God, Serene is much much better now. Read her Story in Pictures.

Now, our youngest, 4 year-old Anna Joy, has been hit. It began as a small patch on her ankle after church camp in June. It was under control for a while but just a few weeks ago, it went on a war path. Today, it has spread to her elbows joints, her neck and face 😦 Bath times are especially trying for the little one as any contact with water stings the open wounds. She is terrified of these times, begging her mother not to bathe her. And this morning, while in the shower, she was screaming and crying all the way through.

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When her sister, Sarah, went through this ordeal years ago, it broke my heart. Which parent can bear to see their child suffer like this? And yet, there is a feeling of helplessness because we know there is absolutely no cure for this dreaded and cursed disease. We prayed to the Lord and we pleaded with Him. We quoted verses and we stood on the Word. We broke generational curses, we anointed with oil, we declared the name of Jesus. We mustered every ounce of faith we had. And then, we rested and trusted in Him and the completed work of the Cross. Yes, we knew what to do as bible-believing, faith-filled Christians. And yet, there is no escaping the waiting and the walking through the entire situation.

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Now, we find ourselves going through the exact same process with Anna. We hear the same comments and we have to answer the same questions. And if you are thinking of recommending some miraculous treatment, diet, supplement, oil, or water, we would have most likely heard of it (and even tried it to no avail). Each time I see my little baby, I recognise the same pain in my heart. I wish I could do more than just pray. And when I see her play and laugh (when temporarily relieved of the itch and pain), I get all emotional. I want that “joy” to always be there for my Anna Joy.

As before, we thank you all for your love, care and concern. We are seeking the Lord as best as we know how. Even so, when all is said and done, we will rest in Him, praise Him and position ourselves to see His salvation and deliverance. The battle is His, not ours. He will do it and bring glory to His name. He has done it for Sarah and Serene before, and He can do it again for Anna Joy. For the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever!

Please stand with us in prayer. That is most appreciated and most precious to us at this time.

The Baptism of Mdm Goh: When Simple Faith in Jesus is More Than Enough!

Mdm Goh BaptismI just returned from baptising an elderly lady, the mother of one of our members. From what I know, Mdm Goh Ah Lan was a very staunch Buddhist. At 82 years old, she was recently hospitalised for a weak heart and failing kidneys. Her condition was serious enough for her to be put into ICU twice! The Discipleship Group visited and prayed for her and I was told there was a presence of God in the room. Soon after, she gave her a life to Jesus. Don’t ask me what language she declared her faith in Jesus in; but she did. Don’t ask me how either. She just did! Two days ago, another pastor visited her and returned to share how sprightly and joyful she is. Chatting with her – she understands a little English – his conclusion was, “There is no doubt she is soundly saved!” Then came the request for baptism – that’s where I got involved.

Asked to perform the baptism in Changi General Hospital, I dutifully made my way there this afternoon. I really didn’t know what to expect, nor how I would communicate with her. I don’t speak Hainanese and she understands only a little English. That said, I had all my questions lined up in mind to ensure she understood what salvation and baptism meant. I was, as you would expect, in teacher mode 🙂

When I arrived, however, things didn’t go the way I expected. I found myself struggling with Hokkien and Mandarin, trying to communicate through her daughter, not a believer, as interpreter. All my well-crafted theological questions went out the door! I simplified everything to one question, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” And even that sounded too much of a mouthful! But the dear lady gamely nodded her head and said, “Yes!” That’s good enough for me, I thought to myself, and proceeded to baptise her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! I can’t explain it, but there was such joy and peace on her face. She was visibly excited and thrilled that she was getting baptised, that she was proclaiming her faith in Jesus for all to see.

Communion was next. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I took my time to explain to her family members (non-believers) what the communion meal was all about. I made it a special point to share the gospel as I presented the significance of the elements. I believe it was especially meaningful to watch their mother partake of communion for the very first time. In the conversation that followed, the daughters commented how their mother had become more cheerful and energetic after turning to Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder if being too theological and doctrinal can be detrimental and unproductive when it comes to reaching the lost for Jesus? Quite clearly, Mdm Goh doesn’t understand everything about the Christian faith, much less theological and doctrinal positions of sin and righteousness. Yet, her simple declaration of faith in Jesus was enough. This shows that when the Holy Spirit draws a person to Jesus, there is no need for any argument or discourse at all. He does all the work and we get to participate in the joy of reaping the harvest!

In no way am I saying that there is no longer a need to present salvation accurately. What I am advocating is that we do not fall into a rigidity of a one-method mode of evangelism. Whether reaching out to someone like Mdm Goh or a college professor, we must always remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that through a heart of love and compassion, we may rightly direct them towards reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

The Good News of Salvation is still about Sin and Righteousness

The issue of salvation has been on my mind of late. What does the average Christian understand about salvation? What is the good news, really? What are we believing in? What have we been teaching?

Given post-modern thinking, there appears (more and more) to be a move towards universalism, in varying degrees and definitions. At the extreme, we have certain preachers declaring that ALL will be saved, regardless religion or means. This is because God is love and thus will never send anyone to hell. Then, there’s the milder variation. These proponents hold to the name of Jesus as the means by which one is saved. However, if a person has not had the chance to hear the good news of Jesus, God has a different benchmark for these. And since He is all gracious and loving, it is His prerogative to save these if He so chooses to, Jesus not withstanding. When the consistency of God is raised as a point of challenge to this position, the sovereignty of God is used as a blanket rebuttal. After all, He is God and He can do what He wants. Ultimately, “salvation belongs to the Lord.” Honestly, I wonder how anyone can trust a sovereign but inconsistent God like that?! He is no better than those of Greek mythologies where they either wake up happy or upset and then take it out on helpless earthlings.

Then, there’s our consumer culture of advertising and media that has affected the way we “sell” Jesus and “position” the good news. In marketing, we must understand that the consumer is not interested with too much as long as the product works. And this has been the strategy [or trick] of mass marketing. Marketing and advertising teams brainstorm for hours to determine a product’s unique selling proposition (USP), then design campaigns and pour dollars to promote this USP. Simply, give the consumer what he wants! Unfortunately, this strategy [trick] works and has been adopted by the church at large. We must be careful to notice how it has been applied to salvation. Depending on the type of “gospel” meeting, a USP is identified and heavily promoted. For example, at a healing service, the call is for one to believe in Jesus and be healed. At a faith meeting, the challenge is for one to believe in Jesus in order to receive – usually material gains and breakthroughs. When people respond to the altar call, a sinner’s prayer is conveniently tagged on for all to recite. And voila! they are saved! But are they, really? Remember, the consumer only wants what he wants. So, as long as he gets that, whether healing or provision, who cares about salvation?

I must confess that I too have been blinded by the numbers game. When people respond to an altar call, when tears flow freely, I presume these are genuinely moved by the Holy Spirit. And if that is the case, then who am I to begrudge anyone salvation? And especially if I am the one making the altar call, why would I want to question anything? Hey, it looks good for my track record and newsletters.

So, why the concern and burden suddenly?

In the past months, I believe the Lord has been causing me to ponder the real issue behind salvation, or the need for salvation. Thinking more deeply as I considered the various Scriptures brought to mind, I began to see [again] that the key issue is that of righteousness, or the lack of. It’s that simple and straightforward. It has always been and it will always be about God’s righteousness and His holiness! The problem of humanity is sin and the death sentence that hangs over each and every person born in sin. If not addressed, the result is eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. That’s really bad news! In His mercy, God can forgive. But in His righteousness, the penalty must still be paid. Knowing that man can never achieve righteousness on his own, God sent Jesus to pay for our sins and to die in our place. When one believes in Jesus (and His salvific work), he is made righteous, reconciled with God and saved from eternal damnation. We give Him our sin and death, and He gives us His righteousness and lifeThat’s why it’s called good news.

I know this may sound like sunday school stuff to some of you. But today, I can no longer assume that Christians understand this. Or if they know this, that they fully believe in it. As mentioned above, there are those who can quote John 14:6 that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” but still contend that He is not the only way to the Father! Quite clearly, these overly focus on God’s love and grace, but downplay His righteousness. As for the USP proponents, these tend to equate healing, prosperity and blessing with salvation. Now, salvation [sozo] may include physical healing and material provision; but the reverse is not always true! One may be healed from an ailment and still die in his sin. Allow me to challenge your thinking a bit more: Jesus may have healed many but we really don’t know if these finally believed in Him for salvation. But we do presume that, don’t we? As we understand today, the healing miracles were merely signs that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Righteousness, that they may believe and be found righteous in Him. Make no mistake! Believing in Jesus for physical healing or your dream house is not the same as believing in Him for salvation from the penalty and power of sin.

Let me conclude with Rom 1:16-17 in which Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” In case you missed it, Paul said that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of Christ. In other words, the good news (gospel) is not the revelation of healing, prosperity, love, grace, nor universal salvation. Not at all! It is God’s righteousness that is revealed, against which one acknowledges his sinfulness and responds through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross! There we have it again – the good news of salvation is all about sin and righteousness! It is such faith in such a gospel that invokes the power of God that brings one towards true salvation! My deep concern is that there might be too many who have believed in a gospel that reveals anything and everything BUT the righteousness of God. Is there then the power of God to salvation? From the text, plainly, NO. If not, then are these saved in the first place? Could this explain why there are still so many in the church who struggle with sin and have no desire to bear fruits worthy of repentance much less that of righteousness?

Indeed, such a short post cannot possibly address everything about soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Through the centuries, this has been debated by accomplished scholars and theologians. It is not my intention to present anything new nor complicate this subject further. Much the opposite, I am proposing we re-visit the gospel of salvation again, grounded upon Scriptures and not some fancy humanistic desire for all to hold hands and live happily ever after. In today’s age of sound-bites and slogans, I fear we may have diluted the understanding of the gospel and of salvation a little too much to our own detriment and that of others in dire need of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. For an issue of eternal significance and consequence, surely we are treating it too lightly and way too flippantly.

Related Post: David Pawson: The True God and the True Gospel

Misconception #4: Discipleship is an optional add-on to salvation

Misconception 4Sadly, we have made discipleship an optional add-on when it’s part of the entire package! We pick and choose what we want and leave out parts we don’t want. We want the rewards of discipleship but not the requirements of discipleship! This is not the case at all. When you believed and were saved, discipleship was included and thus expected of you. In case you didn’t realise, the moment you belonged to Jesus, you began learning and will go on learning until you meet Him. How else would you grow as a believer if you didn’t learn more about Jesus? And what’s another word for learner? Disciple!

Discipleship is not an add-on to salvation. It came with it. That said, you do have an option, and that is to OPT OUT. Before you select this option, thinking that’s your way out of being a disciple, do consider what it means.

After teaching about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, many of Jesus’ disciples were offended and complained (John 6:60-71). John 6:64 reveals something very interesting. These were referred to as disciples and yet Jesus said that these were not ones who believed. These so-called “disciples” must have once believed in what Jesus preached, but perhaps only what they wanted to hear. In other words, their beliefs were faulty beliefs. And when it got tough to swallow (pun intended), they promptly opted out. “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” John 6:66

It’s not enough to simply believe. We’d better be sure of what we are believing in. In the last days, many will have faulty beliefs. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” 2 Timothy 4:3–4

Once again, we see the relationship between believing and following. When you cease believing in Jesus and His ways, you cease following. Conversely, if you are not living as a disciple should, it’s best to check what you believe, or do not believe. Don’t opt out without even knowing it!

How Would You Answer?

When non-believers ask questions, they are usually very good and interesting ones; at times, amusing even 🙂  But what is even more interesting is the response of the Christian to whom the questions are posed.  Perhaps, it is just simple faith that has seen these believers through their entire Christian life.  For, when it comes to handling tough and tricky questions, many find themselves at a loss.

Take for example the following remarks and questions made and posed by someone* who started reading the bible given by a well-meaning believer …

“The bible, in the Genesis section, says that the God (that all bible readers refer to) is the god of the Israelis (Jews) only,  not the Egyptians, not all the other peoples of the world. Then where did these people come from. Another pair of Adam and Eve? Also, if the original Adam & Eve keep producing offspring from the same genes, many of the descendents would have been very sick with Down’s Syndrome, be Mongoloids, half wits, idiots, crippled etc. It also said that those well known descendents of Adam and Eve had servants. Who are these servants? Are they not also descendents of Adam & Eve. If so, then they are the relatives of these well known descendents like Abraham, Moses Noah etc. Then why are they made servants. They should be the children and grand children of these people, not servants. Don’t tell me they made their relatives their servants and god was still so happy with them?

This God also encouraged killing of animals to sacrifice to him and he also asked Abraham to sacrifice his son to him. He also asked for first born sons to be sacrificed to him. He was encouraging killing of people! And he also frequently asked to be glorified, like being very proud. I thought wise people always say,”Be humble. Don’t be proud!” Also, actual history says that people who lived long long ago did not live long because there were no medicines, vaccines, medical knowledge etc. They normally died at 30+. So, why did the descendents of Adam & Eve live for hundreds of years? Is that possible?

I stopped reading after I realised that there are too many doubts unanswered.”

You have to admit that these are really good questions!  But what are the answers?  If these questions were directed at you by your non-believer friend, how would you answer?

*If you are that someone who asked these, don’t be upset to find your questions here. These are really good questions and that’s why I have used them for illustration. Or perhaps, these look or sound extremely similar to what you have asked before. Not surprising at all, because these aren’t original and many have struggled and wrestled with the same issues.  The truth is, Christians may or may not have all the answers you are looking for. That said, it does not alter the Truth that God is the God of all creation and that Jesus is the only Way of salvation and to eternal life. My prayer for you is that your heart will be open to all God has for you, that you will respond in faith to believe in Jesus and be saved!