Candor vs Tact

What kind of friend do u find most likeable on FB? Mine… a friend comes into mind for her candor.. I like her posts because she can be candidly funny.

What kind of inspirational speaker do u find most inspiring? Mine.. two friends come to mind: one speaks of all her achievements and how she achieve them; the other shares her success stories and candidly tells of her not-so-successful ones. Of these two, i prefer the latter.

And so I want to talk about candor. What does it mean to be candid? To be candid is to be honest, frank and speaking the truth without a facade. For me, the word seems to carry a sense of happiness and brightness. I searched for its origin. In latin, it is whiteness. Words associated with candor are integrity, sincerity, fairness, guilelessness and naiveté.

To be guileless and naive is to be childlike – without deceit. How does a child do that? At times, to the point of being rude, right? But we know that behind his truthfulness, he did not mean to hurt. Let me illustrate an example: I was embarrassed when my young daughter candidly told a friend that her gift was too small to fit her. She answered in reply to the friend’s asking. She was too young to be tactful about it.

Tact is sensitivity, understanding and thoughtfulness in dealing with difficult situations. Its Latin origin is to touch, or sense of touch.

I appreciate the candor of my adult friends and I observed that my child needs tact in her candor. What is the difference of their candor? The candor of my friends is illustrated when they shared truths about themselves – even their own weaknesses or the not-so-good stuffs in their lives to share lessons they learned. Candor is authenticity. On the other hand, I teach my child that she needs to be tactful even as she is honest.

The Bible sums it up nicely: Speak the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) Paul taught the Ephesians to grow in Christ. To be mature in Christ is about integrity and about love. How? We need to be honest with each other and we need to be sensitive to one another. Candor with tact – speak the truth in love.

Are you a wise judge?

Question: When you see a wrong, how do you respond? Do you say something, do something to right the wrong? Or do you maintain status quo, or mind your own business?

It depends. Whenever I see people not queuing properly, my conscience urged me to point out the wrong. There’s the end of the line.

When friends share with me their struggles or candidly tell of their stories, I sometimes need to control myself from speaking out and remind myself not to judge even when instinctively I think something’s not right. I confess that it can be tricky – when to right a wrong or point out a mistake; when to speak the truth or when to stay silent. It takes both discernment and courage to make the right choice.

To judge or not to judge?

Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 7:1-3
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

The principle behind this teaching is not to measure others by another yardstick with which I use for myself. When I am critical of other people, I need to examine myself whether I am doing the same. This principle applies to the family of faith – fellow Christians – believers and followers of Jesus.

What about the outsiders – those who do not know Jesus? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5 an important principle.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.

The background on this teaching was that there was someone sleeping with his father’s wife in the church. Paul rebuked them for condoning immorality in the church. (vv.1-2)
Paul’s response: He condemned the sinner for his adultery. (vv. 3-5)
Paul taught a parable on the leaven and unleavened dough. (vv. 6-8) Leaven is a substance like the yeast that makes the dough rise. As a verb, it is to cause (dough or bread) to ferment and rise by adding leaven. “leavened breads are forbidden during Passover” Paul pointed out the importance not to let sin influence the whole church. Instead, the sinner should be reprimanded and taken out.

Do we associate with immoral people or not? No and yes. Read vv. 9-11.
When Paul said not to associate with immoral people, he did not mean sinful people of the world. Why? Because that is not possible – because to do so, one has to be a hermit. v.10
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. v.11

When we maintain status quo, when we turn a blind eye to sin, when we do not speak the truth and point out the wrong, when we continue to befriend a sinner, we are allowing the person to continue in his sin.

To ponder:
When I am critical of fellow Christians, let me check myself… What would I do if I were in the same situation? Would I do the same? Is there perhaps something I am not aware of? What would it be like to be in his/her shoes?

On the other hand, why am I keeping quiet? Is it time to speak the truth? What are the consequences of my silence? Is my indifference and apathy a cause for others to continue in sin? How does it affect fellow believers when I keep quiet?

Lord, help me to be wise – to judge or not to judge, May your Spirit teach and guide me to search inward and look upward so that I can be light and salt in the world.

Authentic vs Original

In today’s world of fast-paced cut-throat competition, to be first is to take home the bacon. To be first is to be original: a model for others to imitate. It is an advantage to be original in ideas whether in food, products, services, in movies, and everything else there is to market.

To be authentic, on the other hand, is to be genuine; not fake. Henri Nouwen impressed on me a thought which I like. He said: I seek not to be original but to be authentic (Here and Now, 13)

In the literary world, plagiarism is a big issue. Ideas/thoughts in words, phrases or sentences are to be printed with quotation marks, notations, citations with the intention to give credit to the ‘original’ writer. While I agree that to copy other people’s ideas and claim it as your own is not right, I think that thoughts and ideas can be authentic because the mind is authentically created by an authentic Creator.

One can be authentic while he might not be the first or original. In contrast, being the first or original does not precede authenticity.

I like to write: to express my thoughts in black and white. Many of my words and ideas are not original. They are by-products of the experiences I shared with the people around me, from those before me whether heard or seen. But even as my words might not be original, they are to be authentic: whether happy or sad; eloquent or not. What is truth? How can we tell which is genuine or fake?

Words are products of the heart. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). Yes, it is not easy to see the heart of a person. To an outsider, ‘Action often speaks louder than words.’ For the insider, what is from his heart will somehow be revealed in his words and deeds. Authenticity comes from within.

God’s Word, the Bible is the perfect model of words expressed in authenticity because God’s Word is Truth. God’s character, his will, his purpose, his heart validates his authenticity. He is the Only ‘True’ God; Creator of all things: original and authentic!

Whispers of Prayer

From a bible study series entitled Whisper by Mark Batterson, I learned that prayer is about leaning in close to God’s heart to hear His voice.

In our study, someone asked how come she prayed and prayed and there seemed to be no answer to her prayers. This honest and authentic question is also a dilemma for many of us.

A friend’s insightful response stayed with me. God’s answer to our prayers is not a dot or a specific point in the map of destinations. It is a combination of several steps in the journey.

I learned and am still learning that prayer is more than just me asking God for specific answers to specific concerns. Unlike Biblical heroes of olden times, I do not hear God’s audible voice telling me exactly what to do in life’s hard decisions.

God gives me the freedom to choose and make decisions within the boundaries of His two great commandments – love Him and love neighbours. He also grants wisdom through the Holy Spirit to help me choose wisely.

I sometimes wish and pray that God would tell me option 1 or option 2 so I know that it’s the perfect one coz I know God’s ways are perfect. But He does not do that. I realised that I need to decide and choose wisely with all considerations. As I act and step out in faith and obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading, God opens and closes doors along the way.

Let me give an example. In the pandemic lockdown, I had to be referee/peacemaker because of quarrels among my helpers. On one occasion, the issue was resolved and they made up after we prayed together. On the 2nd occasion, one left not because they did not make up but because God worked out circumstances that way.

I prayed: Lord, if you think that she needs to stay with us so she can still grow in her Christian walk, then work things out so she would stay. But she left. Does it mean God did not answer my prayer? Not at all. God answered it in a different way. I pray and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to work even as she continues to join their weekly virtual Bible study.

I learned that prayers are God’s means to teach me to depend on Him for wisdom to act justly, extend kindness and do good every day. God does not want to me to stay in the elementary level passing tests with easy multiple choice questions. How I respond in faith and obedience to the hard and tough essays allows me to move on to a higher level – to experience and know God more: his character – his faithfulness, kindness, justice and goodness.

I need to lean in and put my ears close to the heart of God – to hear his soft whisper. How? I need more time with him than social media, more thoughts on His desires for me.. than other distractions and struggles with worries, fears, anger, etc… I need to turn off the noises of the world and turn on the whisper of the Word…to tune out the lies of the evil one and tune in to the truths of God.

Seeing Truly

In John 9:1-23, Jesus healed a man born blind. This miracle story is not only about physical healing to see but also an eyeopener; the spiritual lens and insights on life and living.

John recorded many “signs” that Jesus did in his presentation of the ‘good news.’ This particular sign was narrated in much details – from the ‘perspectives’ of the different people who witnessed or heard of the miracle.

I remember our seminary professor had our class role-play this story in groups: disciples (v. 2), neighbours (v. 8), Pharisees (v.13), Jews (religious leaders) and the man’s parents (v. 18).

I realised that our professor wanted us to present the story through the ‘eyes’ of each group of people.

1) The disciples were interested in the why. They asked Jesus, why the man was born blind, was it because of his sin or his parents’? Their question implied their understanding of suffering and sin. The man was born blind because he was being punished for his sin or because his parents sinned.

Today, many believe the same. It is sad to hear people telling friends who are suffering or sick to repent and be healed. While it is true that sin has disastrous consequences, not all deformities, diseases or sufferings are God’s means to punish sinners. God ‘allows’ sufferings to transform his children to be more and more like Jesus. Sufferings are God’s means of ‘sanctification’ in his children for his glory.

Jesus answered his disciples: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (vv. 3-5). Jesus gave lessons to gain from the man’s blindness – for God’s works to be revealed – so that people would see and gain spiritual inSights. Jesus is the light of the world – those who know him will see clearly.

2) The neighbours focused on how. How was it possible that this blind man got healed? Is this really the blind man? How was he healed? “How were your eyes opened?” (v.10) Their question showed that their focus was on the physiological – what is doable, how things are done. They were like reporters seeking to find out the truth – the veracity of the miracle.

3) The man was brought (he did not voluntarily go) to the Pharisees. (v. 13) The Pharisees’ concern was the legality of the act of healing. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. It was illegal to work on that day. v. 16 This man is not from God because he violated the law of the Sabbath. The debate came out of it: How can a sinner do such signs? The blind man said: He is a prophet.

4) The Jews (v.18 – referring to the Jewish religious leaders) called the man’s parents to verify that the man was really born blind. The reason was because they did not believe the miracle happened. The parents’ answers tell us that their concern was being put out of the synagogue if they were to admit their belief in Jesus as the Christ. (v. 22)

Unbelief: that is the cause on all the issues raised by these people… neighbours, Pharisees, Jews. They did not know Jesus. They could not accept and did not believe He could heal because they could not see Him for who He is.

How we live life and how we overcome challenges we face each day are affected by our perspectives: a point of view. What you choose to focus on determines how you respond and solve a problem.

Pastor Johann Lai once preached about perspective on suffering in life. Many pondered on ‘WHY’ God allows sufferings to come into their lives. Why Lord am I sick with cancer? Why Lord do I have to bear the abuse? Why me? The important take-away I got from that sermon is: Instead of asking why, ask ‘HOW?’ How, Lord? Help me to go through this suffering. How can I grow from this trial? How will I surpass this crisis? “How” directs our focus to the source of our strength and wisdom – the Creator who made us in His own image… we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

It is not easy when we cannot see the future. It is also not easy even when we do see the present. But when we look back to HOW God see us through all the challenges of the past, then we can move forward in trust and hope.

HIndsight: understanding of a situation after it happened… synonym is wisdom learning from the past.
Foresight: ability to judge correctly what will happen in the future… synonym is wisdom planning for the future.

The Holy Spirit gives wisdom when we ask. James 1:5 says
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Today is another new day to ‘see’ better. We don’t know what’s for tomorrow. We can ask God for wisdom to live wisely. The Holy Spirit is our guide and counsellor. We pray that the Spirit grant us discerning eyes to see clearly – to focus on the important things – things that matter to God.

Dear Lord, all-wise loving Father, I praise you for you are gracious and merciful. Enable me today to see what you see so I may live wisely. Amen.

Strong and Brave: The how’s and why’s of it

Have you ever tried taking up a job you’ve never done before… stepping into the shoes of someone whose feet might be too big for you? Someone whose epitaph was:

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

After Moses died, God gave Joshua his first assignment.
He told Joshua to get ready to cross the Jordan River and lead the Israelites to enter the promise land. (vv. 1-2)

God’s promise: (vv. 3-5)
1) I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. How big is ‘every place?’ From the desert of Lebanon, from the great river, the Euphrates, all the Hittite country to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. (vv.3-4)

2) No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. You will be winning battles all your life! (v. 5a) How?
3) As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. (v. 5b)

God’s instructions: (vv. 6-9)
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” v. 6

God gave Joshua the reason why he needed to be strong and brave. He had a big job to do – to partner with God to fulfill His promise to their people.

“Be strong and ‘very’ courageous” (v. 7a). Repeated words are important… and VERY so! God ‘commanded’ Joshua 3x (vv. 6,7a,9). “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

The secret to being strong and brave…
1) Obey God’s command (vv.7b-8)
“Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

God’s Word is our roadmap for living. Life is about making the right choices… what to do, where to go, how to do, when to do, why do or do not do…

How do we let God’s Word be our guide? We need to always read it, say it, memorize it, think about it day and night, obey it – everything that is written in the Bible.

That… you may be successful wherever you go. (7b)
Then… you will be prosperous and successful. (8)

Successful and prosperous… not according to the worldly standard but according to God’s purpose and mission for me. To be successful is to be able to do what God tells me to do. To be prosperous is to claim God’s promise that He is with me wherever I will go. When God is with me, why then should I be afraid? When I am not afraid, I can be strong. My knees will not shake with fear.

2) Believe God’s promise (v. 9b)
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

When I worry, when I give up, is it because I doubt God’s presence? Is it because I think I might fail in the mission? Am I going to do it alone? Do I need to remember God’s promise and fully trust that the Lord, my God will be with me wherever I go?

Be strong and courageous. When someone tells me to be strong, it is a reminder that I am weak. I need to gear up. Strength and courage go together. I can grow weak with fear. When I take courage, it makes me stronger. Courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of God, so they say. It is easier said than done. And it is possible by the grace and mercy of God.

Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey. So help me, Lord. Amen.

New Year’s Day Musings 2021: The New out of the Old

Today, I cooked kiam peng (Chinese paella) for lunch. It is one staple food I learned from my mom-in-law. Every Sunday, after church worship, she would cook kiam peng for lunch: practical, fast and easy to put together. She cooked it in her traditional way: in a wok on the stove. No measuring cup or spoon as to how much water, oil, soy sauce etc. and the two main ingredients either beef or chicken paired with radish or mushroom. The only sure consistent measured ingredient: cups of rice.

I learned to cook by watching. It used to be that I would use the screw on the wok as my measuring line for how much water to use. 😅 If you give me a new wok, then i’d be lost. 😂

It’s been perhaps more than 2 decades since we last ate amah’s kiampeng. Through the years, my kiampeng had gone through makeovers: on woks – different sizes, combined wok and rice cooker, sliced meat, fillet or sukiyaki. On this new year’s day, our kiam peng lunch is still new and different from all the rest.

And so here’s the main point of my new year’s musings: There is always something new to create out of something old. There are often new ways of doing things; new approaches to make things work. There are new lenses to put on to see life’s same old challenges. It is possible to make something fresh out of the routine. It is thinking out of the box – to see beyond the obvious.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Gen. 1:1-3)

This passage is quite familiar and old. Yet few months ago, when I read it again in our Bible Study Fellowship season of Genesis, these first 3 verses stood out for me. God created light out of the formless, desolate empty darkness of the earth. HIs Spirit was hovering over the surface of the deep. To hover is to remain poised in one place or between two states. God is in the midst of the void, empty, dark spaces of the earth.

God exists before the beginning of time – to create something out of nothing, to make form out of the formless, to fill up the empty and to enlighten the darkness. He is in the middle of it all.

2020 is now behind us. 2021 is before us. How should we live today? What does the Bible say about the past, the present and the future?

Two passages summarised for me – what to do with the past and what to do in the present and how to look at the future.

Isaiah 43:18-19
“Do not call to mind the former things, Or consider things of the past. Behold, I am going to do something new,”

There were many things in my past which I did wrong, where I could have done better. They are past – there’s nothing more to do than to learn from them. To let go is to be free from things that hold me down – past hurts, mistakes, disappointments, griefs and sins. God has forgiven me and set me free by Jesus’ work on the cross. He remembers my sins no more.

Even as I forget things which held me down, I need to remember past grace and blessings that pulled me through the dark times. I praise God for his sufficient grace that accompanied me and my family in the pandemic 2020. Each moment, each day is all by His amazing grace and boundless mercy.

God is constantly doing something new in each and every moment of my life. How attentive am I to his voice? Do I stop, look and listen? Am I thankful? Do I trust and obey?

Paul encouraged the Philippians with his own story -to forget his past status – not to put confidence in his position, prestige of who he was (vv. 1-6) BUT to press on….
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (3:12-14)

As a follower of Jesus, I need to live today in the image of the Creator from whom I was created. Tomorrow, I need to be better than I am today. I press on towards the goal of becoming more and more like Jesus. Do I reflect the light of the world? When people see me do they see Jesus?

2020 is a year of a deep dark world gripped with fear, grief and death. Today, I thank God that I am still breathing.. that I can still read His Word, that I still have life in me. Each breath that I take is His precious gift especially in the context of COVID-stricken world today.

2021 is ahead of me. A fitting song (by Alison Kraus, the Cox Family) comes to mind. This song sums up nicely what I pray to do with tomorrow.

Verse 1
I don’t know about tomorrow
I just live for day to day
I don’t borrow from the sunshine
For it’s skies may turn to gray

I don’t worry o’er the future
For I know what Jesus said
And today I’ll walk beside Him
For He knows what lies ahead

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Verse 2
Ev’ry step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb
Ev’ry burden’s getting lighter
Ev’ry cloud is silver lined

There the sun is always shining
There no tear will dim the eye
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.

1) No worries: I need to look to the future without fear because I know God holds tomorrow in His mighty hands.

2) Hope: I can look to tomorrow in hope and joy because I know Jesus is coming soon. When He returns, I shall be with my Creator who is the beginning and the end. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.

Christmas Musings in Covid times

A year ago today, I wrote a reflection from verses in Habakkuk. I did not know then that a few months after, COVID19 would hit the world. God’s Word is always timely. As it was then, it is today and forever will be Truth!

Habakkuk’s lament and prayer (written on Christmas Day, 2019)

Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets whose prophecy started with a complaint and ended with praise. The first 4 verses of the book could sound like the scenario of any country on earth.. even where I am now.

Habakkuk 1
1 The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralysed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

Yet the ending verses of Habakkuk are one of the most encouraging and comforting words I love in the books of the prophets.

In spite of the dire circumstances of life, in the face of seemingly unsurmountable challenges he faced, Habakkuk prayed and praised his Lord. He declared with much conviction his joy and trust in the Sovereign Lord.

Habakkuk 3
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
2 Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
16 I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

Who would wait patiently for disaster? Disaster on who? The nation invading the Israel was Babylon. Babylon was a wicked nation whom God used to judge Israel. (1:6) Habakkuk looked to the day when God would judge Babylon for its wickedness as well.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.

Verse 17 lists the bad and sad realities which surround Habakkuk – he could see nothing good all around him, Fig, vine, olive, sheep and cattle were all staples in his time. To be without all of these means to be in total disaster in dire circumstances. YET amidst the gloomy hard places in life, he chose to celebrate in the Lord. He chose to rejoice in the Lord – just like what Paul wrote in Philippians. How could he do that? Because the joy of the Lord is his strength – reminds me of another verse from Nehemiah 8:10.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah spoke these words in response to the people’s lament upon their sins. They were crying because they realised how rebellious and disobedient they were to the commandments of God.

Habakkuk 3
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. (NIV)
19 The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. (NASB)

The feet of a deer are good for scaling the heights of rocky mountains.
A hind is a female deer that can place her back feet exactly where her front feet stepped. Not one inch off! She is able to run with abandonment! In times of danger, she is able to run securely and not get “off track.” The hind is able to scale unusually difficult terrain and elude predators.
(Taken from…/what-is-the…)

By my own strength, I cannot walk on high places when the way is rough, stony and steep. Many things in life are beyond my control. Realities in life are unavoidable but how I choose to respond to challenges in the journey sets me in the right attitude how I go through them.

Though the fig tree does not bud, there are no grapes in the vines, the olive crop fails, the fields produce no food… even when I cannot see any good of the work I’ve done, even when there is no reward, no fruit for all my labour, even when I feel unappreciated, even when there is seemingly nothing good to be happy about…

I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the Lord. I will choose joy. It might not be easy. It is not about being a masochist – enjoying the suffering. It is choosing to trust the goodness of the Lord. It is trusting that the Sovereign Lord is my strength. He gives me strength. He enables me to climb the heights – just as He created the hind with feet to walk on steep, stony, even stormy heights.

2019 is about to end. It was a year filled with highs and lows, joy and grief, victories and failures – the ups and downs of the journey of life. I look forward to 2020 in hope, faith and love because the Sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the hind’s. The Lord God makes me walk on high places. Praise His name!

Today is Christmas, 2020 – the year of COVID19.
Because the Sovereign Lord is my strength, I look forward STILL to 2021 in HOPE by FAITH to live LOVE.. so help me God.

Knowing God

The top question concerning God when I was in high school: How can we know God’s will? How do you know what a person’s plan is? Simple: He tells you! What if he did not? If you know him well enough, you might have a clue. Ezekiel 11-13 mentioned 8 times “Then you will know that I am the Lord”. Under what circumstances did God say ‘THEN’ we will KNOW Him?

1) When He executes judgement… when consequences of our sins come upon us, we will know that He is the Lord.

Ezekiel 11:10 You will fall by the sword, and I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 11 This city will not be a pot for you, nor will you be the meat in it; I will execute judgment on you at the borders of Israel. 12 And you will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.”

2) God himself is the one who enables us to know Him and follow what He wants for us. He gives us an undivided heart and a new spirit; a heart of flesh to follow His will.

18 “They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

3) God’s purpose: even in His judgement, He is merciful. He will spare His people SO THAT people will realise their sins. By the examples of the His people, other nations who do not know God will know that He is the Lord.

Ezekiel 12
15 “They will know that I am the Lord, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them through the countries. 16 But I will spare a few of them from the sword, famine and plague, so that in the nations where they go they may acknowledge all their detestable practices. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”

20 The inhabited towns will be laid waste and the land will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

4) God’s will will be fulfilled without delay. Whatever He says will come to pass.
25 But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious people, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

26 The word of the Lord came to me: 27 “Son of man, the Israelites are saying, ‘The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.’

28 “Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: None of my words will be delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

5) God’s will is for us to know that He is the SOVEREIGN LORD. That He prevails against those who telling lies; who lead people astray – proclaiming false security; false hope; saying peace, peace when there is no peace.

Ezekiel 13
9 My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign Lord.

17 “Now, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination. Prophesy against them 18 and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the women who sew magic charms on all their wrists and make veils of various lengths for their heads in order to ensnare people. Will you ensnare the lives of my people but preserve your own? 19 You have profaned me among my people for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread. By lying to my people, who listen to lies, you have killed those who should not have died and have spared those who should not live.

20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. 21 I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord. 22 Because you disheartened the righteous with your lies, when I had brought them no grief, and because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, 23 therefore you will no longer see false visions or practice divination. I will save my people from your hands. And then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

True Disciple of Jesus

Transparent.. this is how a friend described me. In a sentence, transparency is wysiwyg: What you see is what you get.

“Thank you for your transparency.” says my shepherd leader when I bared my weakness and struggles to our bible study prayer group.

I guess in short: transparent = honest = genuine = authentic.

Authentic vs Original

In today’s world of fast-paced cut-throat competition, to be first is to take home the bacon. To be first is to be original: existing from the beginning, which can also serve as a model for others to follow or imitate. It is an advantage to be original in ideas whether in food, inventions, in movies, in fad and everything else there is to market.

To be authentic, on the other hand, is to be genuine; not fake. I like what Henri Nouwen said: I seek not to be original but to be authentic.

In the literary world, plagiarism is a big issue. Ideas/thoughts in words, phrases or sentences are to be printed with quotation marks, notations, citations to give credit to the ‘original’ writer. While I agree that to copy other people’s ideas and claim it as your own is not right, I think that thoughts and ideas can be authentic because the mind is authentically created by an authentic Creator.

One can be authentic even if he is not the first or original. On the other hand, being the first or original does not guarantee authenticity.

I like to write to express my thoughts. Many of my words and ideas are not original. They are by-products of the experiences I shared with the people around me, from the people before me: what I read from the thoughts they shared. But even as my words might not be original, my words are to be authentic: whether they be happy or sad; pleasant or not.

What is authentic? How can we tell whether something, someone is genuine or fake?

Words come from the heart. Luke 11:45 tells us A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Yes, it is difficult to discern the heart of a person. For the outsider: ‘Action speaks louder than words.’ For the insider, what is from his heart will somehow be revealed in his words and deeds. Authenticity comes from within.

Let me be an authentic follower of Jesus.

I heard Rev. James Taylor IV shared that a pastor used Jesus’ followers instead of Christians throughout his sermon. After the sermon, someone asked the pastor why he did not call them Christians. The pastor said because sadly, the world views Christians as 1) 自以为義self-righteous 2) 假冒為善 hypocrites.

To be authentic is to be honest that I have weaknesses. I am not without fault. To be authentic is to be true to what I believe – to walk my talk.

God’s Word, the Bible is the perfect model of words expressed in authenticity because God’s Word is Truth. God’s character, his will, his purpose, his heart validates his authenticity. He is the Only ‘True’ God; Creator of all things: original and authentic!

To be an authentic follower of Jesus is let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. Not I but God and God alone.