All about Faith

Hebrews 11 lists Biblical characters commended for their strong faith. How did they show their faith? What is similar in all of them?

I see three main truths. Faith is manifested in:
1) How they died: on their death bed, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph worshipped God with their faith, pronounced blessings: expecting good things for their children. vv.20-22

(Implication: Faith does not end with life. My faith affects my children and people I leave behind.)

2) How they lived: vv.23-38
a) Moses’ parents saved their baby- Moses who grew up to do great things for God. Moses chose to be an exile over being a prince. He obeyed God to lead His people out of Egypt. vv 23-28

b) Liberated slaves crossed the Red Sea. Empowered slaves brought down the walls of Jericho. An alien prostitute saved her family. vv. 29-31

c) What else did other men and women of faith do? vv 33-38
who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

(Implication: Faith does not make things easy. It makes things possible.)

3) Their reward: vv. 39-40
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

(Implication: The reward of faith is not to receive what we believe in, it is not even to get what we were promised. The reward of faith is the approval of God. The purpose of faith is for God to show something better. Faith is made perfect in how more lives are affected for better. Faith lives on even as the faithful passed on.)

To ponder:
How is my faith? How am I living? How will I face death? What is my response to life’s challenges?

Do I ask God why this, why that? Do I complain of thorns that come with the roses?
Do I worry? What am I afraid of? Of failures? Of sickness? Of not knowing or not having enough? Of living? Of dying?

What is my expectation in life? What do I expect God to do for me? What do I know of God that He is doing for me? What am I doing with what He has given me?

The answers to all these define my faith. How is yours, my friend?

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KJ vs. BJ

Who is Mr. KJ? Mr. KJ is a kill-joy. He kills the joy of everyone who is happy. He enjoys spoiling the fun of people.

How does he do that?

In any endeavour, Mr. KJ pours cold water to dampen the spirit. He kills enthusiasm for any project. He points out why it cannot be done, should not be done. Instead of seeking solutions to the problem, Mr. KJ adds more problems.

Mr. KJ whines a lot. He sees lots of flaws in people, things and ideas. He always enhances the negative side of things. He sees the glass half empty and thinks it’s piss instead of lemonade.

What a sad pathetic person! Mr. KJ is such an unhappy person. I don’t want to be like him.

Instead let me be Ms. BJ.

Lord, today help me bring joy to people around me. Let me cheer others with my words. Give me words that encourage and bring comfort. Let me lift others up with my deeds. Give me a heart to love and give – a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on or lean on, a listening ear and a compassionate mind.

 

Mr. KJ No. 3

Question: Are you happy when you see others happy? If yes, good for you. If no, why not? Let me think and answer that question candidly. I am not happy when I feel she/he does not deserve it. I am not happy when I am envious.

Mr. Green-eyed monster is a KJ. He kills joy because he feels he deserves better. He is not happy when others who deserve less get more.

Two days ago, I wrote of Mr. KJ. I also wrote of two JKs – Mr. Angry and Mr. Anxious. They are both joy-killers. Have you ever feel happy while being angry or worried?

Mr. Envious is another KJ. He kills his own joy because he envies what others have that he does not have. Hmmm…

How to kill the KJs? The formula to kill anger is to let go and forgive. The antidote to worry is trust – let go of your worries and trust God.

How about Mr. Green-eyed Monster? How to let go of him? Stop comparing yourself with others. Instead of looking at things others have, how about counting your blessings and looking at the things or people you have?

Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, how about being happy for others? Kill Mr. Envious.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Don’t envy, be happy.! 😎😍

When you have forgotten happiness…

Question: Was there a time in your life when you have forgotten happiness – when even the things you like – to have, to do, to eat, to see, places you enjoy, no longer hold any interest or pleasure for you? I’ve been there. It’s like the living dead – a zombie. There is no passion, no zest, no joy. I had nothing – not even tears. In my happy-less state, I did not even feel like crying. It was a dark time – when even tears would not come.

Today I read Lamentations 3. (see vv. 1-16) Jeremiah wrote how bad and sad it was with him. It seemed that the Lord had left him to rot in desolation.

15 He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drunk with wormwood.
16 He has broken my teeth with gravel;
He has made me cower in the dust.

Wormwood is a plant associated with bitterness. A number of Bible scholars consider the term Wormwood to be a purely symbolic representation of the bitterness that will fill the earth during troubled times, noting that the plant for which Wormwood is named, Artemisia absinthium, or Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, is a known Biblical metaphor for things that are unpalatably bitter.

Jeremiah lamented that God had let him experience much bItterness and grief. It came to the point that he declared he had forgotten happiness (good). There was nothing good happening all around him.

17 My soul has been rejected from peace;
I have forgotten happiness.
18 So I say, “My strength has perished,
And so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wandering (bitterness), the wormwood and bitterness.
20 Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me.

When memories of the bad and sad weighed him down, what did Jeremiah do? What did he further say?

21 This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord.

When all is dark and bleak, recall God’s lovingkindness and have hope. Remember His mercies never fail – they are new every morning. Remember God is faithful – He is true to all His promises. What He says, He will surely do.

Yes, I went through the valley of the shadow of death. God’s mercies came to me all along the way. When bitterness surrounds my life, I will fear no evil for the Lord, my Shepherd, He was, He is and He will always be with me.

The Lord is good to those who wait patiently for Him. He is found by those who seek Him.

Be brave and strong, my friend. Remember and have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness!

 

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Musings on brave Christian beings of salt and light…

I am or I used to be mababaw luha (Tagalog colloquial, the English literal translation is shallow tears.) Someone who cries easily. I cry when I see people cry. My mom used to say in Hokkien, “khin bak” – shallow? eyes.

Perhaps as I get older or (ahem) more mature, I learned to control or hold back the tears – esp. tears of self-pity. “What a hard life I have” kind of tears. I also tried to be more brave when seeing or listening to a friend crying and revealing her pain to me.

Last Sunday, I cried in church. Why… I saw a wife crying as her husband was being baptised. I know they were tears of joy. The husband said yes firmly when the pastor asked if he believes and will obey Jesus. Then the pastor revealed to us that the family came out of Islam. Together the husband, wife and their son were baptised.

I know the implications of coming to faith in Jesus from being a Muslim. It is a very brave and inspiring testimony to accept Jesus openly. I truly empathise with the wife’s feeling of joy even though I am not a Muslim. Until she was baptised herself, she could not stop her tears… what a touching scene for the whole family to be baptised together!

To be an open Christian takes courage – especially when persecution comes or when the Christian is not among fellow Christians. It is easy to talk of our faith and do the Christian thing when we are among believers. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. We have non-Christian colleagues, friends, classmates. How are we doing when what is being said or done is against our faith? What do we do? Do we stand up for our faith? Do we speak the truth in love? Do we keep quiet and maintain status quo? Do we avoid conflict? Are we timid or are we brave?

I have been reflecting lately on the idea of being salt and light in the world. The idea of being the light – is to show people the right thing to do. Is my light bright enough to make a difference? When the room is in total darkness, even a light as small as the led light of the water dispenser is enough. When the room is bright in sunlight, the led light becomes insignificant, does it not? The collective light of brave Christians becomes the bright light that overcomes the darkness of wrong.

What about the salt? Am I too bland or too blunt (too salty)? To be salt (useful salt) is to bring just the right taste to the dish – just enough – neither too bland nor too salty. Brave and wise Christians speak the truth in love – just enough to point people in the right but not turning them away because the words are too salty.

While Christians are to be brave to stand up for their faith, they also need wisdom to discern how to be light without the heat and to be salt (neither bland nor blunt!)
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Follow the Leader

In the movie Hunter Killer, a scene reminded me of the truth of this Bible verse. The Russian captain of a submarine was rescued from his destroyed sub by the Americans and held as captive.

In the moment when the Russian warship was about to launch a torpedo against the American submarine, the American captain asked the Russian leader: You said you trained these men? Are they loyal to you?

Yes replied the Russian. “Prove it” said the American handing him the phone to talk to the Russian crew.

This is Capt Andropov speaking. I’m on board the USS Arkansas. And he proceeded to name all his crew on board that ship from the least to the greatest except the captain.

Long story short, even when the captain threatened the ex o with a gun to launch the torpedo, he refused. All the crew listened to the voice of their leader and showed their loyalty to him.

Why? Because he has a relationship with each of them, he knows each one. They hear and recognize his voice and follow him.

So do children of God, followers of Jesus, when our shepherd calls, we hear his voice, we listen to his voice, we follow his voice. Where he leads, we follow.

The world is noisy. Many other voices calling and trying to get our attention. What do we hear? Are we hearing the right voice? Do we even recognize the voice calling us? If yes, what is our response? Do we follow the voice?

The End of the World.. ready or not?

Many Christians are interested in end times. Most are curious about what is going to happen, what are the signs of Jesus’ return drawing near… how do we know what it’s going to be like at ‘the end of the world?’ But more often than not, it’s just curiosity. It’s what we do with the knowledge of Jesus’ return being near that is important. Are we ready for it? How do we get ready?

What are the signs of the end of times as Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Jesus ‘privately’ in Matthew 24:3 and Mark 13:3? Read all about the signs in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Jesus concluded the passage with the need for them for to be watchful and ready for his return. He went on to explain more clearly with the use of parables.

“A parable is, literally, something “cast alongside” something else. Jesus’ parables were stories that were “cast alongside” a truth in order to illustrate that truth. His parables were teaching aids and can be thought of as extended analogies or inspired comparisons.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-a-parable.html. Parables are stories or illustrations of earthly realities to explain a principle related with heavenly meanings or implications.

So what parables did Jesus tell after he told them about end times? Matthew 24 recorded 3 parables.

Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids: There were 10 bridesmaids waiting for to meet the bridegroom. 5 were foolish and the others wise. How so? The wise ones brought extra oil to be sure that their lamps don’t run dry when the bridegroom arrives. The point of the story is to be ready – to prepare for the day when Jesus returns….to believe in Jesus and receive Him as Savior and Lord…to be his disciple doing the things he tells us to do before He returns. Since we do not know when that day will be, we need to be ready anytime and that means, we need to be ready ‘now.’ More of this parable from https://www.gotquestions.org/parable-ten-virgins.html

Parable of the talents: There were 3 servants whom the master entrusted with talents before he went on a journey. Each was given different quantity of gifts to manage. One given 5, another 2 and the 3rd 1 talent. The first and second servants each worked with and doubled the amount they were given. The last one buried his in the ground. When the master returned, he praised the first two servants the same: ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ The point of the story is to be good stewards of the gifts that God gives us. Let us beware of burying these gifts in the ground. Let us be ready for Jesus’ return by managing well the resources that He has given us. Read more on this parable fromhttps://www.gotquestions.org/parable-talents.html

Parable of the goat and the sheep: When Jesus returns, he will judge the nations. He will be like a shepherd who separates the goat from the sheep. One group will be those to whom are said: ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ What does this mean? When did they do all such things?
And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Each time we help another of the members of the family of Jesus, to the least of these people – those who need help, we are doing it for Jesus. Again the point of the story is to be ready for Jesus’ return – to be ready for judgment about what we do during our lifetime – our Christian walk – how we obey the two greatest commandments: Love God and love our neighbor. For more explanation on this parable, see https://www.gotquestions.org/parable-sheep-goats.html

What is the point of knowing the signs of end times? The point is to be prepared for the return of Jesus. How to be prepared? We are ready with our lamps. We manage well our God-given talents. We do what Jesus commands us to do to love our neighbour. We stay alert and get ready. Are you ready, my friend?

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