Playing Mom

Dear parents… question… do you play with your children? And I mean adult children? Do you ‘chat’ with them? Do you know their secrets? Or better yet, do they tell you their secrets without you asking?

Do you want to know how I do it? I play with them. I let them beat me at scrabble… no tricks but because they are really better at it. That’s why I am very happy when I win. It is gives me pleasure to beat my kids at scrabble. And when they beat me, they know it is because they are good at it.

thH4EYGPVB

I chat with them. One on one time whenever there is opportunity sometimes impromptu.. wherever we may be – eating, shopping, or just watching Netflix together. I tell them what I do with my friends. I share funny stories. I tell jokes about myself, I let them laugh at me even as I laughed at my ‘silly’ moments. I play cool when their dad made fun of me with them.
thWAR6GBSF

Have I ever feel the itch to be nosy… curious to know about their personal life? Yes, I do. But I have to curb the urge and control myself – not to be nosy and intrusive. Have I ever worry about them staying single? What if they don’t have someone to take care of them in old age? Well, worry does not solve the issue. So I keep the concern in my heart. God knows my heart. He will take care of it.

In their own time, they come to me and tell me about it. When they do, listening is best. No judging please.. zip my mouth and open my ears. Not even when I think they did wrong or should have done better. And ‘I told you so’ does not help at all. No need to rub it in. If I add salt to the wound, there will be no next time. No more confession, no more secret revelation.

I remember when one of them came to me about having a ‘relationship’ in high school. I was surprised. I was not aware she had someone. I listened and told her gently but firmly, it is alright to have a special friend. You are still young. Many possibilities and opportunities still ahead – many years of study to do yet. I trusted her enough to let go so she can make her own mind and do what is right. Eventually, she learned that study is her priority and she gave up the relationship without any intervention on my part.
untitled.png

God is good. He gives wisdom and guidance to our children when we teach them in the right way – the way of God. God takes care of them. Many times, many thoughts came into my mind and concerns crowd my heart, I cant help but wonder if there is anything I could do better or say more to help things along. Such is the dilemma of a mom – to strike a balance between being close and giving them space… between asking and listening… between being passive or active… But always in grace by grace through the grace of God.

So dear parents, you can do it… be a good parent that God calls you to be – to your natural or spiritual children… play with them, pray with them and pray for them. Give them time and a listening ear, an understanding heart… a heart of love.
teach them to love God.png

 

Advertisements

Where is God when it hurts?

Question… If you were to wake one day and all that you have were taken from you in an instant: all your possessions, your wealth and even your children, how would you respond? If you were left with nothing but pain and suffering, physical, mental, emotional torture in your soul, what would you do? If you believe in God, what would you say about him? What would you say to him?

Job is a Biblical character known for his great suffering sandwiched between his two great periods of prosperity. (See Job 1:1-5; 42:10-16) He started very wealthy. He had lots of animals and servants. He died at 140 – an old man full of days. He was greatest of all men in the east. Why? Aside from his great external resources, he had great internal values.

He was “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” (1:1) Job was first and foremost described as a good man. He had great integrity. There was no guilt in him. He believed in God and because of his belief, he did not want to do anything wrong to offend God. He even made daily sacrifices for all his ten children – saying perhaps they have ‘sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ (1:5)

So what started his suffering? Who started it? It all started when God ‘bragged’ about Job to Satan: Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.  Well, of course he is good – you have blessed him so much. Take away everything. He ‘will surely curse You to Your face.’ 

This was the first challenge. God ‘allowed’ Satan to test Job. (1:12) “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” `

What happened then? Long story short, in a day, no more oxen and donkeys; dead sheep and camels… and last but not the least, goodbye sons and daughters! (see 1:13-18)

What did Job do? Job stood up, tore his clothes and shaved his head. That was the custom of their day when one is in mourning. He fell to the ground and worshiped. What did he say?

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

c1ed07f42365e58780cdbd9293f2a87a--quotes-of-inspiration-job---bible

What was the challenge again? Take away everything from him and he will surely curse you to your face! Ding! Round one goes to God. Job did not curse God. He blessed God. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (1:22)

Job did not sin. Curse God – that is the sin. How about blame God? Surely, God caused his trouble. To blame is to ‘ascribe unseemliness to’ (NASB footnote). To blame is to credit responsibility for something wrong. Yes, God was responsible for it. He allowed Satan to take away all that Job had. (1:12) Job blessed God because he knew one truth: He came into the world with nothing. When he dies, he takes nothing to the grave. All that he had came from God. If God is the one who gave, he also has the right to take away. There is no wrong in that.

Job knew his God. The God who gives. He did not know God’s conversation with Satan. He did not hear God said “Only do not put forth your hand on him.” But we do. We need to remember that even in suffering and trials, God extends his mercy.

So here comes round 2 of the challenge: God again praised Job to Satan. (2:3) Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Yes, but a man would do anything to save himself. “However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.” (2:5)

God said “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” Again God is merciful.

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes.

What happened next? Mrs. Job had something to say to him: Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die (2:9). End your misery!

You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?

d9f84e592793b75b5271246502184660

Job was consistent with his knowledge of God. Just as God gives and takes away, God gives both the good and the bad. Another truth to learn.

So here are the two important lessons we can learn from Job’s response to sufferings.

Our Being

In suffering, we need to remember our being. We came into the world in our birthday suit. When we leave this world, we take nothing with us.

Our God

Our life begins and ends with nothing. Everything in between comes from God. Through this lens comes a different view to suffering. Just as God allows suffering, he extends his mercy. Suffering does end.

Our World

The reality of the world is that it is filled with both good and bad. It started very good. God created all things good. Sin came into the world because of man’s disobedience – because of the desire to be like God. God in his mercy still made animal covering for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. God in his mercy sent His Son Jesus to die for our sins. There is so much evil in the world, so much suffering because of so many bad things sinful men do. Man has a choice to do good or do evil. God allows it.

Shall we accept good from God and not adversity? This lens helped Job in his suffering. God is in control. He gives and he takes away. He gives good and he allows evil. He allows evil and he extends mercy. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Where is God when it hurts? He is with me in my suffering. He loves me. He loves you too.

 

Joy of a different kind

Question… what makes a joyful church? What do churches of today celebrate about? Anniversaries mostly. They are happy when they have built bigger and grander places for worship and assembly. They pride themselves for being mega churches with thousands of membership and being globally known all over the world. They raise their hands in praise to the sound of grand accompaniments, with worship leaders in big air-conditioned and beautiful sanctuaries – in much comfort and ecstatic feeling of being together with so many people – so festive and elating. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being big in resources whether human or material.

Yet a blessed church is more than just about the external and the quantifiable – the tangible ‘blessings.’ In the early church recorded in the book of Acts, it was a different kind of joy that believers celebrate. I previously wrote about their joy of sharing their resources – there was no needy person among them because they had one ownership of everything they had. Everything they had they gave to benefit the whole church.

Another kind of sharing that brought them joy is the joy of sharing in the suffering for Jesus’ name.

1c97d9ec825e79ef0f15b7252286825c.jpg

Acts 5
41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

So what happened here? After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and they were empowered to speak the good news of Jesus. Peter preached and thousands believed in Jesus. The early church led by the apostles of Jesus was growing in numbers. Miracles were happening – the sick healed, the needy provided for, thousands were added to the church (Acts 5:12-16) in spite of deep and severe persecutions from those who opposed Jesus. The apostles were imprisoned, threatened and flogged. (5:18, 40) Even after all these, Peter still preached and condemned them for putting Jesus on the cross. The temple leaders were so enraged they wanted to kill the apostles. They were released only because Gamaliel, a Pharisee, a respected leader stood up to give this advice:”stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” (38-39)

So how was it to be ‘rejoicing’ after being imprisoned, threatened, flogged and shamed? For what? These believers had a different kind of motivation – they pride themselves for being ‘considered worthy’ – that they were good enough to suffer for the cause of making Jesus known.

Today, many of us believers are too comfortable living our faith – we only hear of persecutions in other places – of lives being taken, of imprisonments, of the horrors of suffering for being Christian. Yet it is often those suffering Christians who are more joyful than those who are living freely and comfortably. How sad…

So how do I apply this lesson? I need to be more grateful for the things I take for granted – freedom to worship, freedom to share God’s Word, freedom to make my life count – to further the cause of the gospel. I need to beware of taking life too easy – complacent in my comfort zone. I must learn to choose joy when things are not to my liking or expectations. Suffering or problems in life are relative – there is always the issue of comparison – with what or with whom are we comparing our issues and challenges?

To reflect… how do I rejoice when life is not easy? What do I consider to be worthy to be joyful for? What causes me to celebrate? What is the purpose of my existence? Motivation and purpose of living – this directs our perspective and influence us in the way of joyful living. Is it for the cause of Jesus?

cf1d478e68256dc5328a5ff1bcd4d897.jpg

When my child is better than I am…

I went with my youngest to attend a family conference at a school. She was asked several questions on competence and on conscience. As I listened to her answers, I went through a few emotional discoveries.

It pleasantly surprised me that her motivation for learning and studying diligently is not grades but thirst for knowledge. It humbles me to know that my child is a better student than I was. She is more industrious than I was. She is less grade-conscious than I am. 😀 I must admit whenever she gives me test papers to sign, I often just looked at her grades. As I think about her responses, I thank God for His grace – this gift of a diligent child – who seeks to learn and grow in knowledge.

What for you is right? She paused for a few seconds and answered. Right is when someone is helped or gets benefited.

On cheating, have you encountered or witnessed anyone cheating? What did u do? Yes, i asked him why did you cheat. He didn’t study. What else did you do? ‘I saw you.’ It in a way gave him a nudge that somebody saw him.

On bullying, have you encountered any bullying incident? What did you do? Yes, I did. Name calling.. a classmate was being called different names. I was new in school. No one would listen to me. I just did not participate. I jokingly told them to stop and said ‘You’re so mean.’

The interviewer asked me if i have anything to add to these two issues: cheating and bullying

When she was younger, she told the teacher to correct her score in the test paper for a wrong answer which was marked right.

As a new student in grade 2, she was bullied. She came home crying one day because a classmate told some friends not to be friends with her. I comforted her and encouraged her to just find other friends. Today that classmate is one of her closest friends.

I am reminded that children are heritage from the Lord. Parenting is by grace in grace. I treasured the heritage of my mom – training me in the way that I should go so that even when old I will not depart from it. I pray that God grant me wisdom and discernment and diligence to do the same. I confess my shortcomings and often taking for granted His gift – precious heritage of giving me children to have and to hold, to rear and nurture.

How to pray when there is sin

If I were the senior pastor and my pastoral team all got themselves wives who were unbelievers, going against God’s wishes, would I rend my clothes, pull out my hair in frustration, sit in utter humiliation on the ground? That’s exactly what Ezra did! He was devastated. (Ezra 9:3 HCSB).

His prayer of confession is one good example – how to go to God in humble contrition, sincere and open confession of their sins. See Ezra 9:4-15.

1) His humiliation before the people: Ezra’s appearance and response drew people with the same sentiments to gather around him in mourning. His outward appearance portrayed what he felt inside – disappointment and frustration.. v.4-5
2) His shame and embarrassment before his God: More than being humiliated outside towards all the people, Ezra told God: “I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to You.” V.6a
3) Confession: He confessed the extent of their iniquities – how serious they offended God. V.6b
4) Consequences of their sins: He knew that their sins led to their rightful consequences of being in captivity, killed, in shame and brought into slavery, subjects of their enemies. V.7
5) God’s grace: Ezra acknowledged that even in their captivity, God extended His grace – leaving them a remnant of people – (did not wipe them out of the map!); giving them favor with their foreign rulers that they were even given permission to go repair God’s temple! V. 8-9
6) Their sinful response: Ezra described in full details how they repaid God’s goodness – with disobedience by intermarrying with foreign people – practicing idolatry – being unfaithful to God who’s been so faithful to them! V.10-12
7) God’s righteousness: Ezra said ‘We deserve this punishment. You are merciful – because you’ve ‘punished us less than our sins deserve’. You are right to be angry with us. We are guilty yet you spare us – letting us survive and stand in your presence. V.13-15

Application: How often do I disobey God – going against His wishes in willful rebellion? And when the consequences of my wrongs come, how do I respond? Do I wonder – how can this happen to me if God loves me? Let me evaluate myself and realize that God is still gracious and merciful – he punishes less than what I deserve. In grace, God has given me a new life and light. V.8 He has not abandoned me. V. 9. There is hope in His righteous anger, because I can approach His throne of grace to confess my sins and He always forgives.

God’s forgiveness does not spare us from the consequences of our sins. The people sinned by marrying foreign women who do not know God. They went against God’s commandments to worship idols of their foreign wives who did not know God. They were called to turn from their sins by leaving their wives and their children. How sad but necessary. God forgives when we return to him to true repentance. We need to leave our sins and stop sinning. Bad and sad consequences of sin cannot be reversed. We need to learn from these mistakes. Get up and sin no more.

This is the way of true prayer of confession and contrition. Turn from sin and sin no more.

Pray and Let Go

A pastor once told of his young son asking him to keep his marbles for him while he played. So the father put the marbles in his pocket to keep for his son. Soon, the boy returned: Dad, can I have my marbles back? Not long after, he came back crying. Why? He lost his marbles. 

Are we not like that too? We go to God with our prayer concerns and ask Him to keep them for us – that He take care of our requests, that He provide for our needs, that He take our worries and our fears, etc etc. Then after praying, we take it all back. We find solutions to our problems. We depend on our abilities to fix things and make it better. We worry and we fret. And we go crying to Him, how come the results are not as we would like them to be.

I know it is easier said than done… because I’ve been like the little boy. I asked God to safe keep my treasures or take away my anxious thoughts and heavy burdens. Then I changed my mind and thought I could do better. But many times, God taught me to be patient. He wants me to trust Him completely and patiently. I’ve learned that rushing things do not make it faster or better. 

I once asked the botanist who helped me with our plants at home: how long before the flowers bloom? How long will the flowers last? How often do I have to water them? All these questions concern time. Time is what it takes to grow flowers. Time is needed to make buds open. Watering them more often does not make it grow quicker. Watering too much might actually kill the plants.  

Time is needed for me to learn patience. I need to wait and in waiting, I need to fully trust and obey.

In the right time, I will learn to pray rightly and trust fully, perfectly, to let God safe keep my marbles always.

17-best-trusting-god-quotes-on-pinterest-faith-in-god-quotes-968912

How Jesus Prayed for His Disciples..

I’ve noticed that people often ask pastors or spiritual leaders to pray for them… especially for important concerns and issues in their lives. It seems that there is more power in the prayers of these ‘spiritual’ giants, isn’t it? Perhaps we feel that they know how to pray better. Maybe, their prayers are more effective?

What is the basis for effective prayers? Is it about the ‘pray-er’? Or is it about the content of the prayer? Or is it about the object of prayer – to whom the prayer is addressed? for whom the prayer is about?

Jesus prayed for his disciples too. At the crucial period in his ministry with his disciples, just before he was to go the way of the cross, Jesus uttered out loud words of intercession for his disciples. It was Jesus’ way of assuring his disciples. He modelled for us why it is so important to pray and what to pray for.

How did He pray for them? Read John 17. The Ins and Outs of His prayer:

1) For whom did Jesus pray? His disciples – these are men given by the Father to Him:

57be50aa630741668f4d8b78b015f604.jpg

1.1. ‘out’ of the world (v.6) – Jesus chose and called them out of the world – from their different profession/position in life. They were fishermen, tax collector before they met Jesus. They were called to be fishers of men – to follow Jesus.

1.2. ‘in’ the world (v 11) – Even as they were called ‘out’ of the world, they still lived ‘in’ the world. It is a world of sin, of discord and disunity. Jesus saw the importance of asking for God to protect them as they lived ‘in’ the world.

1.3. ‘not of’ the world (v.14) – Jesus asked for God’s Word to protect his disciples because even as they were in the world, they were ‘not of’ the world. It’s like being in a place where they did not belong. They were to be different from the world – to stand out of the world.

2) Pray for what? How did Jesus pray for them?
2.1. In Your Name: 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me.

John_17_11_Jesus_Quote

God’s Name: We are children of our Father. His Name binds us together to be as one. His name signifies our status and our rights and privileges to all His resources. While in the world, we are children bearing God’s name – we pray in God’s name to be united in God’s name even as we are in the world.

2.2. In Your Truth: God’s Word is truth. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

17.14

God’s Word: How do we cope with living in the world and not of the world – by God’s truth – His Word sanctifies us and enables us to live a victorious life. His Word in us keeps us from the evil one. God’s Word keeps us and shows us how to be in the world and ‘not of’ the world. God’s Word is our weapon to fight the evil one. Reading the Bible keeps us from sinning if we obey what it says.

2.3. In Your Love: 25 “O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; 26 and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the LOVE with which YOU loved Me may be IN them, and I in them.”

17.23

God’s Love motivates us to love one another and be united in His name. Love connects the Father to the Son. Love connects the Son to His followers. Love connects us all together.

Brothers and sisters, let us be encouraged that in the world we have tribulation, but Jesus prays for us – We are kept safe in God’s Name, united and strengthened in God’s Name. We are sanctified in God’s Truth – God’s Word. And we are supported and held together in God’s Love!