When the worship song that you sing does not resonate with your heart

There are good days when your heart is bursting of joy, gladness and thanksgiving. On such days, oh, you worship with all your strength and conviction. 

But there are times your heart just feels accused and lousy. And when the worship song you sing is about loving God with every inch of your soul, and loving Him beyond everything else, deep in your heart, you feel that it is not true. That was what happened one Sunday morning – I felt like a hypocrite singing that I love the Lord with all my being when I know there are still things I care a lot about, things that I am unwilling to let God take over like my emotions, my fears. The struggle of sin was real.I felt accused. 

But that moment, I knew I needed to tune myself to God’s word. Romans 8:1-2 came to mind. God promised that He has and will set us free from the sin and death – I need the Holy Spirit to help me. So at that moment, I prayed to the Lord. I told God I needed the Holy Spirit to help me, to help me relinquish the control I wanted to have, and to help my heart yield to Him.

Then, I worshipped our Lord, knowing that I can stand before the Lord in the righteousness of Christ. 

On believer’s freedom

The notion of God giving us the freedom from sins through Jesus has been discussed many times. When face with an issue about practices that are seemingly ‘un-Christian’ (e.g. can we eat food sacrificed to idols? Can we get a tattoo?) we often fall back to the verse on believer’s freedom in 1 Corinthians:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
1 Corinthians 10:23‭-‬26 NIV

The conclusion after the discussion of these verses is that if it is not constructive or may cause another brother or sister to stumble in their faith, we should not do it.

However, here in Galatians chapter 5 verse 13, the apostle Paul tells us more vividly and actively how we should use our believer’s freedom – that we use it not for self-indulgence, but through love, become slaves to one another.

Slaves to one another. So, the freedom we have is not for our personal benefit, to do anything we want since Christ has made us right before God. Instead, we use it to serve one another deeply.

How can we desire God? – Explained through bak chor mee craving

“How can I desire God?”, a young girl asked me recently. I see her yearning to have a deeper walk with God, yet she does not know how to create this desire. The heart is willing but she doesn’t know where to start.

Instead of answering her, the Spirit led me to ask this question, “What will make you desire a particular food?”

“We all sometimes have a deep craving for a particular kind of food, let’s say bak chor mee (a local pork noodle dish) – so how does this come about?”

  1. We keeping reading and hearing about how good the bak chor mee is. I read food reviews which describe how springy the mee kia were, how the fragrant lard and vinegar coated the noodles and how fresh the pig liver and pork were in the dish; this is when I know I got to have it. In the same way, we need to keep hearing from others who have also experienced God. We need to read and listen to testimonies, listen to the sermons to know how mighty, how generous, how lovely, how magnificent, how strong our God is. When you keep hearing His Word, you will want to know Jesus better and taste His goodness. This is why fellowship is important – we read and hear about how good God is through our pastors, brothers and sisters.
  2. We have tasted bak chor mee before, and know that it is good. In the same way, when we personally have experienced God and tasted the goodness of His many promises in the Bible and witnessed the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (e.g. seeing how your bad temper can be controlled), we will desire more of God.
  3. You haven’t had bak chor mee for a long time, and although you had different kinds of food during this period of time, deep down, you know only bak chor mee can satisfy you. This applies when I have been overseas where they serve almost the same food to me for more than one week, and all I can think of eating when I land in Singapore is bak chor mee. Much as the food I have tried overseas were novel and I really like some of them, I know my first love is always bak chor mee. In the same way, sometimes, we want to try many different kinds of things, away from God, away from the “holy moly church stuff”. But deep inside, we know only Jesus can satisfy our souls. Hence, in the same way, a desire for God, to be with Him will come, interestingly, when we are away from Him. When a desire for Christ rises in such a situation, pray that it will increase and cling on to Him; and go on to #1 and #2!

The above is my simple, personal view of how I think we can create and sustain a desire for God. Would like to hear from you on other ways for us to sustain a desire for Christ 🙂

When God hears our prayers

As Sunday School kids, we know that Jesus still had to carry the cross, bear the shame of being spat on and the anguish of being abandoned.

So, I was taken aback when I read this verse:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

– Hebrews 5:7 NIV

The last part of the sentence puzzled me. Jesus “was heard because of his reverent submission”? We knew in the gospel books, in Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with God, with sweat dripping down like blood, to take away the suffering he had to bear. But in the end, Jesus still had to bear the heavy load of the cross. “But why? Didn’t God already hear Jesus’ prayers? Why did Jesus still have to go through the suffering”,  I thought.

Here, in Hebrews, I see God’s response. God heard Jesus’ prayers, and only because of Jesus’ reverent submission.

This epiphany from Hebrews corrected my flawed thinking that: heard prayers = answered prayers. It also taught me two things:

1. God hears our prayers when we bring them to Him with reverence and in humility, not in a demanding, defiant manner.

2. God is an almighty and sovereign God. Even when prayers are heard, it does not mean that God will answer them according to what we ask for. It does not mean that God will remove us from the suffering we are going through. Things will turn out as He wills, not as we will. But at the same time, as we entrust the suffering we face into His hands, God shows us that He can turn it into good, into something far glorious, far better for the future.

What great hope we have in Jesus and in our almighty God, as we go through this challenging but short journey we call, ‘Life’.

What PSI 321 revealed to me

When Singapore’s PSI soared just this Wednesday evening to 321, people were frantic and complaining how the haze was a major hazard. I was one of those who would also check the PSI on the NEA website and lament about the suffocating smoke. However, that same day, another university acquaintance posted a radically refreshing message on Facebook.

While the social media were abuzz with plenty of complaints and laments, this university acquaintance actually posted, “God bless Indonesia… may the land produce a good harvest for them!”. His message drew me back to the Bible where Jesus had asked us to love our enemies and even bless them when they curse you. Such radical love and blessing of others are what we have been called to do. This message led me to continue to think about God’s word.

As I pondered about God and His word in the midst of fear, anxieties and complaints, I wondered if I was behaving like an Israelite – complaining and asking God for short-term relief, forgetting God’s greatness after a magnificent exodus from Egypt. God then revealed his greatness to me. Oftentimes, Singapore thinks she has it all – good governance, robust infrastructure, first-class talents, clean streets… But through this haze caused by the burning of Indonesia’s forests, God demonstrated that He is the sovereign one. Much as we always like to think that we can have everything, take control and shape our own destiny, we realise that sometimes there are adversities that are simply beyond our control, just like this haze. Singapore has clean air, water and always lauded for having no pollution etc… but when palm oil producers in Indonesia decide to slash and burn the forests, we are as helpless as a newborn babe. This is when I realise that Man is so limited. However, God remains sovereign above all. Knowing this in my heart then quelled my anxieties about bad health caused by the haze and got rid of the incessant checking of PSI.

I’ll take the haze as it comes because I believe God is in control amidst this seemingly hopeless situation. Let’s all continue to pray!

Been thinking about faith, hope, love and other things

On Faith, Hope and Love

As it is famously declared in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” , I’ve been reflecting why love is the greatest, the most important. A few nights ago, it dawned on me that this verse talks about God, rather than what one should do. 

I have always took it that the verse talks about how one should put love before anything else spiritual. One of the prior verses leading to this famous verse explained that if one can speak in tongues (the possession of spiritual gifts), yet, does not have love, the spiritual gift is useless. Therefore, our actions and faith must be motivated by love.

But last night, the Lord opened my eyes. The focus was no longer on ranking what is the most important quality I should practise. Instead, it was revealed how much God treasures relationships and people; how big a heart He has for people. ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’ are qualities that focus merely on the individual’s life. It can be manifested even if Man is alone. However, ‘Love’ is a quality that can only be exemplified with the presence of another person. Love is relational. Through ‘Love’, blessings are passed on to others, rather than kept for oneself. It demonstrates God’s generosity and capacity for relationships. And guess what, God finds ‘Love’ the most important, all because He is a very intimate and relational God, and we, being created in His image, are meant to be relational so that we can bless one another.

God’s Word – It’s for understanding and discovering God Himself, not a manual of what-to-do/what-not-to-do. Only when we discover God, do we discover ourselves and our roles. Having it work another way round is making life hard for ourselves.

The Old Testament God I seldom see

Many people have said that in the Old Testament (OT) of the Bible, God was often seen as an angrier, more jealous and punishing God, as compared to the New Testament. However, having read so many verses and stories in the OT has revealed that God has always been the same – righteous, loving and always looking out for people who truly seek them with their hearts.

The verses last night strengthened the above perspective and who knew that the following actually happened in the OT! It was most pleasantly surprising 🙂

Most of those who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not purified themselves. But King Hezekiah prayed for them, and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the requirements of the Law. For Hezekiah said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon those who decide to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors, even though they are not properly cleansed for the ceremony.” And the Lord listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people. – 2 Chronicles 30:18-20

In the OT, I always thought, sorry but pardon my language, that God was a sucker for the law, purity and cannot stand a single filth in His presence. In the OT, only the High Priest could enter in the Holy of the Holies – God’s dwelling place and even still, the High Priest must make sure he has to be thoroughly cleansed before entering into God’s presence. People who have been against the law have actually DIED!

So here in the above verses, we saw the opposite. Many Israelites were not following the law because they didn’t have time after travelling from the North to South, from Israel to Judah to visit the restored temple. But their heart was right – they were sincere to “follow God” (2 Chron 30:19). That was what made the difference. Here we see, how much God treasures the heart and the attitude of his people in seeking Him, rather than the method in which we use to seek Him.

Make me laugh… Heartily and Loudly!

Nowadays, comedies are getting worse and more predictable. Everyone who watched the recent movie, “Johnny English Reborn” told me how they laughed really hard from the beginning till the end. DR and I decided that we need a laughter fest, so we booked tickets and went to catch the movie, anticipating to laugh, as what other said, “from beginning till the end”.

Oh how disappointing. The scenes were mostly predictable and oh-so-familiar that DR and I could manage, at most, 10 grunts of laughter throughout the whole movie. Mind you. It is grunting, not the LOL-kind. So yea, it is difficult to make me laugh.

However, I discovered the best show to really make one laugh heartily! It is Korean variety show “Running Man”! The first episode was so hilarious and entertaining that I had to stifle my loud laughters from distracting my mom from her TV show. The people featured in this variety show never fail to crack me up with their dead-pan quips and daring stunts during the competition.

Please dub more episodes of “Running Man” in ENGLISH! I don’t mind paying for it!

Can’t explain

There’s something within me that I can’t quite explain.

It is a kind of disquiet. Yet disquiet doesn’t fully explain the whole mix of emotions within. Tense? Could be. It’s something that tells me there’s more to being who I think I am meant to be.

Lord Jesus, help me understand. Help me overcome the resistance towards obedience. Lord, be patient with me, even if it takes years….

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