A Defiant Faith – Fearlessly Firm

What do you do when the authority tells you to do what is against your faith? Pray that the rule will be changed? Pray that the authority will be kind to forgive? Pray that God intervene and protect?

In the Old Testament, the 3 friends of Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden statue King Nebuchadnezzar set up and faced the consequences of being thrown into the furnace of fire. (Dan. 3:8-12) Their action made the king ‘furiously’ angry (v.13). When the king had them brought in for questioning, their verbal response made the king even more furious that his face became distorted! Imagine the rage that made him heat up the furnace 7x more – that even those guards that threw the 3 got killed! (v.19,22)

What exactly did they tell the king? What made him so ragingly furious?
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

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Hey, Nebu, we don’t need to explain our faith to you. If our God whom we are loyal to, can save us from you, let him do so. But even if he does not, we will not serve your gods and worship your golden statue.

Fearless loyalty that needs no explanation… these 3 men follow through with actions, they were fearless in their faith. Actions that speak loudly it made the king very angry. It is faith that needs no defense, faith that is unmovable whatever the consequence, faith that is loyal to the end.

When our faith is challenged, are we just as sure, just as firm and just as fearless and loyal to the end? Yes, we believe and perhaps we want or need to defend our faith, perhaps our defense will change the course of our fate? Or perhaps we believe God will change it for us? But what if he does not?

‘But if not, be it known to you, o king, we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the statue you set up.’

Time to think… a faith that needs no defense, a faith that is fearless and loyal to the end – no matter how God respond and no matter the consequence!

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And God is still God!

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Stress free and happy

Philippians 4:4-9
Hey, do u want to be happy? Do u want to be worry-free? Do u wish for a stress-free life? Let me tell u share with u the formula Paul taught the Philippians. He told them to rejoice ‘always’ – always means good times or bad! Huh? How?
1) In the LORD! Not in success, not in security, not in money, not in fame nor popularity… But in the Lord. 4:4
2) Know that the Lord is near. v.5 He is coming soon. Let us rejoice in hope of this wonderful day.
3) v.6 tells us To worry for nothing, but in everything to pray. How? with a thankful heart, tell God all your requests. Then what? There is a promise from this exercise of worry-free, heart full of gratitude praying to God. Surely, the peace of God which gives us joy will be with us. We will experience His peace which is beyond human comprehension. People will be amazed at how this peace will keep our hearts and our minds steady in joy; steadfast unwavering in our gladness as we abide in Jesus Christ.
4) Another formula to joyful heart is found in v. 8. We are to think good things. The mind that is focused on the true, the honourable, the right, the pure, the lovely, the good repute, the excellent and all that is worthy of praise, surely when my mind is filled with these good things, my heart is filled with joy.
5) Finally, out of the heart, the mouth speaks, the hands acts and the life lives! When I intentionally practice to live a joyful life, the God of peace is mine to enjoy and experience!

Philippians 4
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

When amnesia strikes…

What do you call a person who receives kindness from another and turns his back on his benefactor and betrays his goodness?  Ungrateful!

忘恩负義 is a Chinese proverb about ingratitude. Literal translation is 忘(forget)恩(grace)负(betrays)義(justice, righteousness). It means to bite the hand that feeds you.

In Ezekiel 16, God calls judgement on Jerusalem (His chosen people – the Israelites) because of her great sin – ingratitude!

What is at the bottom of the ungrateful heart? Amnesia! The word – ‘remember’ is mentioned five times in Ezekiel 16 (vv.22,43,60,61,63).

Ezekiel 16:22 Besides all your abominations and harlotries you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare and squirming in your blood.

What about the days of her youth did Jerusalem not remember?

1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite. 4 As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.

Jerusalem forgot where she came from – how she was in her lowly naked, unclean, disgustingly unwanted state – leaving her to bleed out.  She did not remember what God did for her:

6 I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, “Live! 7 and grow up like a plant of the field.” You grew up and became tall and arrived at full womanhood; your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.

8 I passed by you again and looked on you; you were at the age for love. I spread the edge of my cloak over you, and covered your nakedness: I pledged myself to you and entered into a covenant with you, says the Lord God, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off the blood from you, and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you with embroidered cloth and with sandals of fine leather; I bound you in fine linen and covered you with rich fabric. 11 I adorned you with ornaments: I put bracelets on your arms, a chain on your neck, 12 a ring on your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown upon your head. 13 You were adorned with gold and silver, while your clothing was of fine linen, rich fabric, and embroidered cloth. You had choice flour and honey and oil for food. You grew exceedingly beautiful, fit to be a queen. 14 Your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, for it was perfect because of my splendor that I had bestowed on you, says the Lord God.

God looked on her with love, covered her nakedness, took her in and claimed her as His own (v.8). She was cleaned and anointed with oil (v.9), fed and clothed in splendour from head to toe (v. 10-13). She was the epitome of perfection in beauty and fame (v.14) because of God’s endowment.

How did she respond to God’s love and acts of salvation? Read vv. 15-34. She became proud and self-sufficient. She prostituted herself and was unfaithful to the One that claimed her as His own. She turned her back on and bite the hands that saved her!

So God called out his judgement on her:

35 Therefore, O whore, hear the word of the Lord: 36 Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whoring with your lovers, and because of all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, 37 therefore, I will gather all your lovers, with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated; I will gather them against you from all around, and will uncover your nakedness to them, so that they may see all your nakedness. 38 I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring blood upon you in wrath and jealousy. 39 I will deliver you into their hands, and they shall throw down your platform and break down your lofty places; they shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful objects and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a mob against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 They shall burn your houses and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; I will stop you from playing the whore, and you shall also make no more payments. 42 So I will satisfy my fury on you, and my jealousy shall turn away from you; I will be calm, and will be angry no longer.

At the bottom of all her acts of betrayal is a heart of amnesia.

Ezekiel 16:43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord God, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.

SO THAT – this is the goal of God’s judgement – in order for Jerusalem not to forget… so that she will not commit this shameful act of not remembering where she came from.

飲(drink)水(water)思(think)源(source) is about thinking the source when drinking water. It is drinking water with a thankful heart. It is to remember the origin of goodness. The antidote to shameful amnesia is to remember, reflect and respond with a grateful heart to the Source of goodness.

God’s goodness is magnified when He said:

“Nevertheless, I will remember My covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (v.60).

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Nevertheless… even though, in spite of the unfaithfulness of His people, God is faithful to His promises. He remembers always. What He says, He fulfils.  It is firm and established – unchanging forever. A covenant is an agreement or promise of God with his people based on His love and compassion. On this basis, God does not forget. So what then?

Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you receive your sisters, both your older and your younger; and I will give them to you as daughters, but not because of your covenant (v.61).

so that you may remember and be ashamed and never open your mouth anymore because of your humiliation, when I have forgiven you for all that you have done,” the Lord God declares (v.63).

Then… so that…  God’s judgements on sins, God’s faithfulness to His promises – all these are for the purpose of calling His children to ‘remember’ what He did and what they did. When they remember and be ashamed… in humiliation for all the things they did… God forgives – all that they have done. In between these two verses, is the heart of God:

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I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, (v.62)

The ultimate goal God wants to accomplish is to set up firmly His agreement with His people – for them to ‘know’ who He is… He is the Lord!

Every good and perfect gift… Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17).

Each gift, big or small, past, present or future comes from the generously kind and lovingly faithful God of everlasting covenant. He changes not. He forgets not. How about me? Do I remember His acts of salvation towards me? Do I take for granted His grace and gifts to undeserving me? Grace is when God extends his goodness to me even when I do not deserve it. Grace is a gift – receive freely. I cannot and do not have to work for it. Do I forget His mercy and compassion towards deserving me? Mercy is when God withholds the punishment that I deserve to get. I cannot and do not have to make up for it.

When amnesia strikes, let me beware. Let me remember with a heart of thankfulness always.

From Bitter life… to Better than Best

Lamentations – a book written by Jeremiah, the weeping prophet in the darkest times of his land when he was down in the deep depressing state of his soul. In chapters 1 & 2, Jeremiah described the desolation of the land and people he loved. He spoke of God’s fierce anger (1:12) as He inflicted on him sorrow upon sorrow. Affliction, God’s wrath, darkness, God’s hand upon him… Jeremiah acknowledged that God caused all his sufferings (3:1-16). God filled him with bitterness (v.5,15,19). Wormwood (v.15,19) is the Artemisia absinthium of botanists. It is noted for its intense bitterness ( Deuteronomy 29:18 ; Proverbs 5:4 ; Jeremiah 9:15 ; Amos 5:7 ). It is a type of bitterness, affliction, remorse, punitive suffering.

Lamentations 3

 1 I am one who has seen affliction

    under the rod of God’s wrath;

2 he has driven and brought me

    into darkness without any light;

3 against me alone he turns his hand,

    again and again, all day long.

4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,

    and broken my bones;

5 he has besieged and enveloped me

    with bitterness and tribulation;

6 he has made me sit in darkness

    like the dead of long ago.

7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;

    he has put heavy chains on me;

8 though I call and cry for help,

    he shuts out my prayer;

9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,

    he has made my paths crooked.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,

    a lion in hiding;

11 he led me off my way and tore me to pieces;

    he has made me desolate;

12 he bent his bow and set me

    as a mark for his arrow.

13 He shot into my vitals

    the arrows of his quiver;

14 I have become the laughingstock of all my people,

    the object of their taunt-songs all day long.

15 He has filled me with bitterness,

    he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,

    and made me cower in ashes;

(vv. 1-16 God is the one responsible for all the troubles, sorrows and bitterness in his life. Vv. 17-20, Jeremiah describes how he feels – the deepest pit of sorrow where peace and joy are missing.. the hopeless state of mind…)

17 my soul is bereft of peace;

    I have forgotten what happiness is;

18 so I say, “Gone is my glory,

    and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”

19 The thought of my affliction and my homelessness

    is wormwood and gall!

20 My soul continually thinks of it

    and is bowed down within me.

V.21 is the turning point, BUT… in spite of the sad state of his soul, he chooses to remember… his memories bring forth hope.

21 But this I call to mind,

    and therefore I have hope:

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24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.”

In the midst of suffering, we need to remember one unchangeable truth – the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. God’s love is steadfast – firm and tight – holding on to us and never letting go. His love and mercies do not stop even in the midst of troubles. His love and mercies are continually renewing – unchangeably transforming and refreshing us each morning… just according to our changing needs. God’s great faithfulness gives us hope. His promises stand – what he says, he always fulfills.

\27 It is good for one to bear

    the yoke in youth,

28 to sit alone in silence

    when the Lord has imposed it,

29 to put one’s mouth to the dust

    (there may yet be hope),

30 to give one’s cheek to the smiter,

    and be filled with insults.

Out of all the bad that is happening, good is mentioned 3x (vv.25-27).

First, the Lord is good. We need to remember that the person who causes all our troubles is the same Lord who is good. He is good to those who wait for him. To wait on the Lord is to actively seek the Lord with our soul – the deep yearning of the heart. The longing that David speaks of as the deer panteth for the waters so my soul longeth after thee. You alone are my heart’s desire.

Second, it is good to wait. How are we to wait? We are to wait quietly. To wait quietly is to yield all that is within us to him… to stop struggling, to let go. What are we waiting for? For the salvation of the Lord. To wait is to be still and let God do the saving. It is an actively quiet wait – waiting with hope and in hope. Hope is not a passive verb – it is an active one because it is expecting of something good – something new, a definite action to follow – the salvation of the Lord.

Third, it is good to bear the yoke. This is the active good based on the first two good. To bear the yoke in youth, to sit alone in silence ‘when the Lord imposed it.’ God is responsible for it. To bear and to sit are synonymous to waiting. To put one’s mouth to dust – how does one talk when there is dust in the mouth? Cannot.. so then it is to be quiet… to give one’s cheek to the smiter – to turn the other cheek and take it all in. There is power in bearing, sitting, being silent, turning the other cheek. It is power in actively waiting on the Lord to do something. Because…

31 For the Lord will not

    reject forever.

32 Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

33 for he does not willingly afflict

    or grieve anyone.

FOR the Lord does not turn his face away forever. There is an end to his punishment. Because of his abundant compassion and steadfast love – that is forever, his anger is not forever. He does not delight in afflicting or causing grief to anyone.

34 When all the prisoners of the land

    are crushed under foot,

35 when human rights are perverted

    in the presence of the Most High,

36 when one’s case is subverted

does the Lord not see it?

Bottom line: Even when times are dark and we seem like prisoners oppressed and crushed under the enemies, even when human dignity and rights are deprived – the Most High is present. Does the Lord not see it all? And the answer is a resounding ‘YES!’

Return to Me…

…yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.

This phrase appeared 5x in Amos 4 (vv 6-11). What came before these words each time? Not good…

Who did Amos, the prophet address in this passage?

1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!”

Ladies, how would you like to be called cows?! And cows of Bashan at that… Bashan today as in ancient times is known for its cattles. And how did these ‘cows’ get fat? They oppress the poor to gain wealth.

2 The Lord God has sworn by His holiness,
“Behold, the days are coming upon you
When they will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks.
3 “You will go out through breaches in the walls,
Each one straight before her,
And you will be cast to Harmon,” declares the Lord.
4 “Enter Bethel and transgress;
In Gilgal multiply transgression!
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
5 “Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,”
Declares the Lord God.

vv. 2-3 God has made an oath – a promise by his holiness: it is a certainty because God always does what He says. God pronounced judgment – they would be punished for their injustice.

vv. 4-5 God mocked them; He’s being sarcastic – he told them to go and sin; to bring their sacrifices and perform their customary religious rites and practices because they were proud of these.

6“But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.
7 “Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you
While there were still three months until harvest.
Then I would send rain on one city
And on another city I would not send rain;
One part would be rained on,
While the part not rained on would dry up.
8 “So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water,
But would not be satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.
9 “I smote you with scorching wind and mildew;
And the caterpillar was devouring
Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.
10 “I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;
I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses,
And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.
11 “I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze;
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.

Main truth: God’s purpose in all these punishments is for the sinner to return to Him. Yet you have not returned to me…

12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
Because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
13 For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
And declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,

Prepare to meet your God… God called… He declared an announcement – get ready to see me in person… to know who I am… Who is God?

 

How gracious! The One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, is the same God who reveals/shows himself – the Creator tells His creatures what He is thinking. He is the Lord God Almighty who turns light to darkness… the one who is on top of the world.

Lessons to learn/Truths to apply:

1) God hates injustice. He punishes those who oppress and take advantage of the poor and the needy. He cares for the marginalized; the disadvantaged.

2) When God punishes, He is waiting for the punished to return to Him. Again and again, disasters came upon Israel, yet they did not return to God. There are two responses from people when problems or bad things come their way: they turn to God or they turn away from God.

3) God calls us to meet Him – to know who He is, what He did, what He is doing and what He will do. He reveals his thoughts to us. What a comfort and assurance to hold on to.

Yes, bad things are God’s means for people to return to Him, to know Him. The world is a sad place where evil seems to reign. For those who turn to God, God shows Himself. He is the Lord God Almighty, who forms the mountains and creates the wind, He reveals His thoughts to man. Turn to God and He will show himself to you.

Reminiscing in time

On April 25, 2015, I wrote:

This morning, I was happy that after his nap and early lunch, my papa was alert and awake enough to talk with me. Really treasured memories of the chat:
Pa: 薇,我会替妳祷告。祷告有力量。(Bee, I will pray for you. Prayer is power.)
Pa: 薇,toh sia di lai khuah goa. (Bee, thank you for visiting me.)
whoa, i feel like crying..
Me: Pa, don’t thank me, it’s just right that I visit you.


Lessons for me:
1) Take every opportunity to make memories with ageing parents.
2) Time to talk and time to just be with them; even with so few words and not very long periods of time, so precious the moments.
3) When I get old, i need to remember to be appreciative of what my children do for me – even little moments of presence and attention mean a lot.
I have to stop now.. coz i’m being drama queen again.. sniffle sniffle..

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Today, papa is in another place where I cannot ‘yet’ be. I can no longer listen to him speaking words of love to me. But I can remember and treasure the words he spoke to me. I can still visualise how he was on his bed – curled up on his side with his hand inside his shirt. I can imagine his voice speaking to me – calling my name ‘薇‘ and asking ‘Kui tiam?’ What time is it?

Time – such a precious gift… time to be together, time to love, time to speak in love, time to experience love.

A Chinese proverb: 一寸光阴,一寸金,寸金难買寸光阴。An inch of time, an inch of gold. An inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time.

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The eternal God – the Alpha and the Omega (the beginning and the end), the timeless God created time when he breathed into man the gift of life. He gifted man with time to live and to love… a time to be born and a time to die…

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My many faces

The many faces of me…
🙃😕😣🙂😊😀😂🤣😍😜😨😱😛

Please excuse my self-musings.. I’ve been thinking that as I grow older, I seem to be evolving into a multi-complex person – the serious side, the funny side, the seemingly extrovert who’s really an introvert, someone who’s playing “Knock, knock, who’s there” with myself.. as I live in this complicated world.

And we are familiar with the FB culture that it is the natural thing to do – that we choose the best profile pic we can find, we post the pleasant inspiring thoughts we have, we share the happy events and smiling faces of our friends and loved ones. Yet behind all these ‘faces’ we show the world, there is a side of us, that we keep to ourselves, that our family members know, that only our helpers at home see. And even some blind spots of ourselves that only God sees.

One thing I know is that the Holy Spirit is my guide and teacher, constantly molding and transforming me into the person that God wants me to be.

As I look back, what a long way I’ve come from the child who would go hide in the bedroom whenever visitors came to our home – having my mom explained: Oh, please excuse her, she’s shy.

I also remember one comment in my report card where the teacher put: No initiative. 🙂 And how about the ‘snob’ image of an awkward adolescent, feeling sad and bad and even jealous of her more popular friends. Ironically, these friends were my security blanket. I was contented that I was their shadow or in their shadow. It’s good to be a follower to their programs and ideas. And in our ‘barkada’, I felt secure and accepted.

Indeed, God has a way of working all things for my good. One by one, members of this barkada, left me. But God led me to a group of ‘older’ church friends who are my models and mentors to this day. And God led me to hubby to continuously hammer and put me through fire so that I can be molded to be a better person. Not that I have arrived and become the best that I can be. I am a work-in-progress. Sometimes I go forward and many times I go backward or I slip and fall. But always God puts me back on my feet. It was painful but time heals and God’s grace is sufficient always.