Devotion: Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it

PHOTO: Michael Chan

PHOTO: Michael Chan

So the parent birds have to keep flying very fast, all day long, collecting food for their family but, however many times they come, they never have to use the exhortation of our text! The little birds in their nests are far more sensible than we are. When God hovers over us with His wide-spread wings and covers us with His warm feathers, He has need to say to each one of us, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” But the little birds take good care, without any teaching, to open their mouths wide that their mothers may fill them.

You probably will know, by putting it in practice, better than by any explanation that I can give you, but, certainly, first of all, I should say that it means that there should be a greater sense of your need. The wide-open mouth means that you hunger. The little birds need no instruction in opening their mouths except the inward monitor. They feel a lack of food—they are growing, and growing fast, and feathers have to be made—and they need much food and those strong needs of theirs make them open their mouths by instinct, as we say.

Brothers, if we had more sense of our need, prayer would be more of an instinct with us—we would pray because we could not help praying! We would pray, perhaps, less methodically, but we would pray, probably more truly, if we prayed because there were groans within us caused by intense pain and moaning that came out of inward agony and longings that came out of the consciousness of our dire necessities. Surely, this kind of opening of the mouth, by the sense of our need, ought to be easy to us, for our needs are very great.

I must not say that they are infinite, for we are only finite beings, but they are so vast that only Infinity can ever supply them! What is there that you do not need, my Brother? Someone said in prayer, the other day, that we were “a bag of needs.” That was a very accurate description. Are we all conscious of our many needs?

An abstract from a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon, April 7, 1876

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ensures even the little birds are fed. Are we not more valuable than these? Let’s have a greater sense of our need and God’s role in meeting our need. Our desire for God to meet our need will materialize in us praying to Him more because that desire is an expression of our human weakness and an opportunity for God’s divine ability to meet our need. God is a God who wants to meet our need if we hunger for Him and seek Him in prayer.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10.

Writer’s Note: I shared this devotion with my cell group and was pleasantly surprised to see my friend, the talented Michael Chan‘s beautiful capture of a mother sunbird feeding her offspring on Facebook. It reminded me and painted a beautiful picture of us as believers coming to God with our needs, and God meeting all of them. Thanks Mich!

References:

Christian Classics Etheral Library, n.d. The Wide-open Mouth Filled. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons50.xvi.html

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Keep Church as Church

I have been a believer for a decade and have seen much within that (short/long) time frame. One of the issues I am concerned about is the issue of the viewing of Church as a ‘Marketplace’.

Made popular by Christian ministers in recent years, more pastors are preaching sermons about the 7 Mountains of Influence/Culture. These include the realm of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. In order for the Gospel to effectively reach the Lost, Christians must ascend to the top of the different Mountains of Influence and create change from above.

One area that has been in the focus is the area of business or the ‘Marketplace’. The ‘Marketplace’ is a buzzword that has been around for quite a while and is defined as an ‘arena of competitive or commercial dealings’ according to Google. Christians are reminded to not just make a living, but to make a difference and be effective salt and light in the marketplace. While I fully agree and subscribe to the notion of bringing Christ to culture especially in the corporate world, I have major concerns about turning the Church itself into a place of commerce, or the marketplace.

Before I proceed any further, I must clarify that I do not write this post with the intention of singling anyone out, much less to criticize them. This is my thought process.

In my 10 years of attending and serving at my local Church, I have been approached by brethren to purchase insurance, savings plan, and most recently to buy into a MLM program. While I do not have the financial capability yet, there are possibly ‘property brethren’ waiting to approach me when I do so. This can be applied to the F&B outlet, clothing, car dealership, and the list goes on.

While I get it that I am your warm contact, I am your brethren and I should support you yada yada, I would appreciate that you do not see me as a dollar sign. The thing is, I understand that you probably have policies, products, service and programs that can benefit me, I would hope to actually have a relationship with you (first).

And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

Matthew 21:13

I had non-believers telling me, “You will be successful as a insurance/property agent since there’s so many people (friends) in your church you can approach.”

If we turn the Church into a place of commerce, how different are we then from the world? How do we show the better Way if we respond and conduct ourselves just as how everyone else does? A salt that is ineffective is good for nothing and thrown out (Matthew 5:13). Build the relationship (first). Think about it, if you enjoy someone’s presence and you know that they have a good product/service, would you not approach them to get the policies on your own accord?

We want to support you! Just don’t force-feed us with your products or services!

Let’s keep Church as Church. Let’s keep Church as a place of worship. Let’s keep Church as a place of communion and fellowship. Most importantly, let’s keep Church as a place to meet God.

Shalom.

“Fathers, don’t piss your children off”

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1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

Ephesians 6:1-3

Parents play a paramount role in the growth and development of their kids. For mothers, while their responsibilities may vary from mother to mother, the mother is indisputably responsible for carrying the child for 9 months, and bringing him/her into existence. The father however, has the principal responsibility to care, provide1 and to lead/guide his family. The relationship between the father and child is placed with utmost significance in the Kingdom of God such that God Himself liken His relationship with us to that between a father and son.

Bible Scholars inferred that husbands/fathers automatically assumes 3 primary roles; the Prophet, the Priest and the King2. The importance (or lack) of (good) fathers can be observed in our generation where single mom families or families with absentee fathers are highly dysfunctional, resulting in problematic/dysfunctional families and kids. Furthermore, instead of providing wise council and teaching their children (in the ways of the Lord), fathers are hated by their children. Rather than coming under the tutelage of their fathers, the furthest fathers can get to in conversation with their children is “Have you eaten?”, “Need money?” or “Come home early”. Why?

Parents often quote Confucian value of filial piety to their children – or shove it down their throats – while Christian parents quote Ephesians 6 to their children. *Much similarities has been observed between the values advocated in Christianity and Confucianism. The father works especially hard to provide for his children’s every need. However, why is it so that his children detest him?

People often quote Ephesians 6:1-3, but they often forget about the adjacent verse;

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Ephesians 6:4

It seems that the God of the Bible has already foreseen ahead of time that fathers will aggravate their children, and children will hate their fathers huh?

Do fathers not love their children? Of course not. But could it be that their actions and words negate the good they have done? While monetary provision/support is important, emotional, mental (and spiritual) support is just as important. “But when I was young, my father treated me like this too. He said and did the same things. That’s what I was taught about fatherhood.” You must understand that this is the 21st century. Not the 70s, 60s or 50s. Not 100 B.C or 100 A.D.

“That’s my way of loving them.” Times has changed. Call it strawberry generation if you like, but this generation – and how they function – is here to stay. Fathers, you can’t simply be the Provider that provides the dough and say “I can do whatever the hell I want, say whatever I want to say because I bring in the dough and I am your father and that is for your own good.” It just doesn’t work in this century.  And precisely because your father taught you in such a way that you know to be displeasing, all the more that method of parenting should stop at his generation. Not because you don’t love and honor your father but because you love and honor your own children.

“FOR A COUPLE OF hundred years now, each generation of fathers has passed on less and less to his sons–not just less power but less wisdom. And less love. We finally reached a point where many fathers were largely irrelevant in the lives of their sons… Being a father is life’s fullest expression of masculinity. But for many males, life consists of a search for the lost father.”

Abstract from ‘Fathers and Sons’ article on Psychology Today 3

Here’s my own story. Growing up, I was extremely fearful of my father. I was ‘taught’ to ‘behave’ for not doing so will result in several physical chastisement. As I grew up, I grew in resentment of my father to the point of hate until I was gloriously saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. But even as a believer, it is not easy for me to love and forgive. Today, the physical chastisement may no longer be applicable, the verbal toxins continues to grieve my heart. I have to choose love over hate every single day.

Does my father not love me? Absolutely not! When I wanted an iPad and a DSLR, he got them for me. But he made me feel terrible (about myself). I am human, and what I feel will be a result of his actions and words. I do not write this in condemnation of my own father for that will be sin onto me. My point of this entry is to share my point of view of (Godly or lack of sound) fatherhood and its consequences in human society. Pastor Paul Scanlon from Life Church wrote a fantastic book titled ‘I am not my father’. The main gist of the content can be condensed into two main points;

  1. I am not my father – If I have a father who may not have performed their duty to love, protect and care for their children, then I am not my father. Not that I hate my father, I love my father nevertheless. But I do not subscribe to the methods of my father. I do not become like my father. I become a better father to my children just as Christ has called me to be.
  2. I am not my father – If I have a father who was exemplary in his teachings to me, and has performed his duty to love, protect and care for my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs, I honor him for it. But I am not my father because every good father would wish for their children to excel and do better and parenting than they will ever do. My father would have wished for me to become the bestest father to my children than he will ever be.

Fathers enter fatherhood with the birth of a child. But fatherhood is also an art – that takes a lifetime to master.

Fathers, you have a holy calling by the Lord to train your child (in the ways of the Lord – Proverbs 22:6). But your words and actions may be provoking and as a result, creating distance between you and your children. Fathers, before you say or do something, think about how your children will feel. Unfortunately, your words and actions have the potential to negate the good you have done. But isn’t that the same for everyone else? Someone once said, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” Some people are living under the same roof but the distance between them is like from planet to planet. That is NOT what God called for you and your children.

“Becoming Father the Nurturer rather than just Father the Provider enables a man to fully feet and express his humanity and masculinity. Fathering is the most masculine thing a man can do.”

Abstract from ‘Fathers and Sons’ article on Psychology Today

Fathers, you may ask “Is there hope in the restoration of my relationship with my son?” Yes there is. The thing is, no matter how strained the relationship currently is, all children longed for an intimate relationship with their fathers deep down in their heart – even if their outward demeanor says otherwise. Because God Himself has sanctioned that His relationship with us His children is that of Father and child, there is hope.

Fathers, ask yourself honestly today, what are the actions and words you partake in that ‘offends’ your children? Is it extremely necessary for you to say or perform that action – not doing so will result in significant monetary/life/health damage? If yes, is there another way you can bring your good intentions across? If your answer is no, then can you agree to disagree? Or is there another alternative or method to bring your advice across?

The truth is, your children are learning how to manage you as their father as you are learning how to manage them as your children.

Sons and daughters, you may ask “Is there hope in my being able to communicate with my own father?” Yes there is hope.

“.. the Old Testament ends with a great prospect – a time when there will be reconciliation between children and their earthly fathers, and by implication – between human beings and the Perfect Father.”

Abstract from 100 Verse Bible: The essence of the world’s most popular book 

How do I take active steps to do so? First, you got to pray to God. Chances are, we all have bitterness and unforgiveness against our fathers. Prayer softens our resolve to bear those grudges. Pray to God the Perfect Father who heals your hurts and helps you to forgive. Prayer helps us to look at the situation objectively, thus allowing us to remember all the good our fathers have done for us. Recognize that your father is also human and he will err. But it does not remove all the good or isolate his love for you.

Next, pray for your father. He too will have had hurts accumulated in his own life. Pressures of life (work stress, financial stress, health problems, or even his relationship with your mother, etc) which we do not know about can also affect him adversely. Pray for him. If you are the only believer in your family, it will be significantly difficult to reconcile but impossible is not in God’s dictionary, neither should it be in yours. We always quote “When one in the household is saved, the household will be saved” or “You are the salt of the earth, light of the world”… time to believe in what you preach.

Good fathers (read: dad) are not extinct. I believe that current strained relationships can be restored and new fathers can be better fathers than their own fathers. I believe that the dysfunctional family unit is an attack by the devil. Dysfunctional family births forth individuals who make bad choices. The dysfunctional individual affects the family, which in turn affects the community, affecting the marketplace, then affecting the society, country and the world as we know it. But Jesus is our Hope! The family unit must be restored and made strong so that change can be present one level at a time until society is transformed.

Lastly, may I invite each and every one of you to pray this simple prayer with me that the family unit in Singapore will be strong and that God will bring reconciliation for fathers to children, children to fathers.From Fathers to Dads

Father God,

Thank You for being our Perfect Heavenly Father.
In You there is no blemish or spots.
Thank You for gloriously saving me.
I pray that You will come and bless the family unit in Singapore,
Reconcile fathers to sons, sons to fathers,
Reconcile fathers to daughters, daughters to fathers.
I rebuke the attacks of Satan on the family unit.
Devil you have no place in the family unit.
Father I pray that You will receive Love and Forgiveness in every household.
I pray that You will empower every Father to live out his calling as Prophet, Priest and King.
In Jesus Name I pray,

Amen.

Footnotes and References

Although in modern times, women are drawing higher salaries and taking up higher positions in the workforce due to the feminist movement; hence commanding a greater voice in the family unit.

Fesko, J. Every Father a Prophet, Priest, and King. Retrieved from http://www.genevaopc.org/articles/theology/93-every-father-a-prophet-priest-and-king.html

Pittman, F. 1993. Fathers and Sons. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200910/fathers-and-sons

4 Stibbe, M. 2010. 100 Verse Bible: The essence of the world’s most popular book. UK: Monarch Books.

THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE – Pst Tan (10/1/15)

Luke 20:17
Luke 19:45 – Luke 21:37-38
Today’s message is in relation to the temple of God.

Parable of the vinedressers
V9-16 – What is this vineyard? Vineyard refers to The temple.
A place where God meets with men.
Who are the vine dressers?
Luke 20:1, 19

V17 – the builders
They are building the temple
The builders are the scribes and the pharisees
They were supposed to be educated and full of knowledge

But the builders (the scribes and Pharisees) rejects the keystone and throws the stone away.

Cornerstone
Jesus Christ is that keystone that keeps everything in place in our life

Could it be that we are so educated that we put our trust in many things and we look at the stone of Jesus Christ and throw it away?
Are there things more important in life than God that we throw it away in our cleverness just like the builders did?

Psalm 118:22 “head stone of the corner (Heb. Pinnah)

Example: bridge
But when the keystone is in place, it can even take heavy weights!

The one that is rejected has become.
God takes the base things of the world, the things People has rejected, and uses them.
The scribes, Pharisees and elders rejected Jesus because Jesus was not born a Levi, or trained in the best seminaries, and not a elder of His tribe.
But isn’t that the same for us, we were aliens out of Israel, but God calls us His royal priesthood.

Luke 19:35-39
V40 – even the stones know Jesus is more important
Realign your focus on what is the key focus in your life
The challenges will surely come.
But if you have the keystone in your life, trucks can go through. Even if you have challenges, the keystone will hold everything in place.

“Mini Gospel”
Jesus’ baptism – Luke 20:1-8
Jesus the Son rejected – Luke 20:9-19
Jesus rendered to God as an offering – Luke 20:20-26
Jesus’ Resurrection – Luke 20:27-40
jesus Ascension – Luke 20:41-44

Luke 20:42-45
Jesus is trying to tell them God has all along planned since the Messianic period

Luke 20:1

Luke 29:48

What are the fruits that should come out of this vineyard?
Luke 20:10-11
It could be that they have no fruit. They did not bear the fruit that The Lord originally intended for the temple.
It could be that they we’re not stewards of the vineyard!
Luke 19:45-46
Instead of managing the vineyard, they have been managing their own business of buying and selling.
Don’t turn the house of God into a place of transaction.
Transaction – willing buyer, willing seller.
Is our relationship with God like a transaction?
It shouldn’t be that “God if you do this for me, I will pray.”
Prayer shouldn’t be passive (I’m not going to pray because if God wants to give it to me, He will give it to me)
Prayer shouldn’t be willful (I’m going to be angry if You don’t give me what I want when I pray).
Prayer should be willing.
When things don’t work according to our way, we accept that and believe that He has something better.
Humility.
Not my will, but Your will be done.

Luke 18:9-14
Wrong fruit – becoming a believer and becoming very sensitive to other people’s sin!

Don’t treat God like a vending machine just because we pray, fast and tithe.
God wants to see us taking up the cross in humility and self-sacrifice
God will raise you up – whoever who humbles himself will be exalted

Ephesians 2:19-22
Every aspect in our life should be taken in relation and reference of Christ!
Redefine and re-understand everything in the light of Jesus Christ.
Gentile separated from Jews..
But Jesus was willing to cross every boundary to pray for the Centurion servant!

3 relationships Jesus talked about:

1. Husband and wife
2. Parent and children
3. Master and servant (boss and employee)
Ephesians 5:21-26, 28
Ephesians 6:1-4, 5-8
There is no partiality to Him. We are all under one Master; Jesus.
We are all the same status to God.

So Jesus becomes the keystone that the people has rejected.
Put Jesus as the keystone in our life, with Him holding everything up
His lifestyle, the way He speaks, His sacrificial life, let these be our example

Ephesians 4:13
Acts 4:10-12

To Forgive is not to Forget

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Had the rare opportunity to go home early last Monday. Caught the sunset. It was beautiful as usual; no haze could dampen those colors.

I’ve been thinking of the word ‘Forgive’ all week (among many other things I think about, haha). In the Christendom, we always say “forgive and forget”, or “you can only truly forgive when you truly forgotten.”

I often hear believers and even leaders say that one has never truly forgiven unless one has forgotten the others offenses. And for years I subscribed to this notion because there is much truth in it. The bible says in Isaiah 43:25 that God blots out our transgressions,  remembering them no more. As believers, we are called to be like Christ. That is to emulate Christ and His attributes. Jesus says as our sins are forgiven and He will even remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), we are to do the same for our counterparts. The condition for our salvation, for our forgiveness is also to forgive others who have sinned against us. As such, we are to forgive and forget.

But is it? What if you’re a victim of abuse? What if you suffer a detrimental (financial or property) loss because of somebody? What if you lost a loved one to a murderer? What if you were dealt a great wrong from someone whom you used to trust? How is it right to demand of these victims to not just forgive that person, but to even forget his or her wrongdoing?

As a believer, I advocate forgiveness without a shadow of a doubt. To not forgive and to hate is to drink poison and hope the other person dies. However, I feel that forgiving someone doesn’t always have to be tied with forgetting his or her (grave) wrongdoing. There you have it, another contradicting statement by a Christian – me. But see, not everything is in shades of black or gallant white. In life, there’s a lot of grey and not everything can simply be segregated into black or white.

I picture myself as a victim of a great wrong, to forgive is hard enough. How can I actually forget?! When Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven (an allegory to forgive always), He didn’t said anything about “forget seventy times seven.” Being a Christian is not to say that “I forgive you and will even forget the great wrong you have done to me. We can be bestest friends from henceforth and live life happily ever after.” We need to forgive, yes, no questions asked. But depending on the gravity of the wrongdoing, we forget not.

I remember an incident nine years ago – after being a believer for about 4 months, I raised my hand at a cell group meeting to ask God to help me to forgive a family member and to help me release the grudge I held against him. Tears rolled down my eyes as I was being prayed for. I thank God that when I was asked to forgive, He didn’t ask me to forget because a decade of wrong can’t simply be blotted out!

To the victim, the pain is real and it is not [easily] forgotten just when he or she wants to. I [would like to] believe that God knows and respects that we are imperfect and are unable to forget as He does. Everything that happens in our lives; the good and the bad, we can’t simply just delete these scenes from our lives like a video clip being edited on Windows Movie Maker. The irony of life is there will be the good, and there will be the bad moments where we might feel so indignant for the wrong done to us. But that is also the beauty of life, for the bad also serves to illuminate the good, to develop our character, to make us wiser peoples.

To forgive doesn’t mean we will forget the emotions and the pain that was felt as though it will just go away – it probably won’t. But being a Christian means we need to learn to forgive.

We forgive but we forget not – because what’s done cannot be undone or simply be swept under the carpet.

We forgive but we forget not – the pain that was felt cannot be erased, but the experience can be used to strengthen our heart and even to help someone else who went through a similar predicament (see Paul encouraging New Testament believers with his three-time shipwreck, snake biting, his receiving 195 stroke of the lashes, and multiple prison experience).

We forgive but we forget not – at one point we could still be friends on a very nominal level, but that’s as far as we can go.

We forgive but we forget not – so that we can also see how God has moved in our heart and through our heart to draw out mercy of such magnitude it is able to actually forgive the offender of the great wrong he or she has dealt to us.

We forgive but we forget not – so that we recognize that in our weakness we are made strong through Christ, to the point of even loving our offenders in spite of their trespasses against us.

But at the same time, we need to forget in some areas too.

We need to forget our vendetta against the offender.

We need to forget that the offender ‘owes’ us.

We need to forget how the wrong has caused us to hate, to be disillusioned about life and people, or to be cynical.

We need to forget how we thought that (this offender and) this offense will stop us from moving on with our lives.

We need to forget our condemning mindset that the offender will never change.

We need to forget, to disassociate and isolate the pain and offense away from the offender.

Even so, it is still difficult to just forgive our enemies. But Jesus says that we can obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) to help us to forgive… and to forget.

There are so many people who need to forgive, and who need the Lord, but do not come before Him because they have a misconception that they need to forget in order to qualify. I wish I can tell you that God knows the pain you felt, He has also felt the pain you felt. God is not expecting you to forget that that ever happened. Let Jesus do the heavy-lifting, let Jesus do the forgetting. But Jesus does want us to forgive, Jesus does want us to ‘forget’ – to move on from the unfortunate incident and to live an abundant life.

Forgive abundantly, forget wisely. In all things, choose life, choose love.

Disclaimer: The contents in this entry is solely the writer’s thoughts and beliefs. It does not reflect the shared sentiments of any organization or community that the writer subscribes to and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Notes from Rev. Dominic Yeo’s Service 15/3/14

WHEN THE BROOK DRIES UP

What is faith?
Faith is God’s currency in heaven
Activate your faith – Example: the woman with the issue of blood
Faith in reality is putting one’s weight upon.
Example: the four brothers who lied on one another without any chair

1 Kings 17:1-24(NIV)
The story of Elijah – you are walking in abundant blessings and suddenly the brook dries up

1. When the brook dries up, the heart of faith needs to know that God is up to something great.

Look at the indication of God’s past.
The past indicator of what God has done in your life is what He is going to do in your future.
David relied on the track record of God
Faith is putting your entire weight on who God is, on God’s character, on what He has done in the past, present and the future!

God wants us to grow up.
So that when the brook dries up, Elijah has to get moving – God moment.
The heart of faith knows that God is up to something great because He is pushing us out of our comfort zone.

2. When the brook dries up, the ears of faith must hear from God for a miracle

For a breakthrough.
V8
When the brook dries up, the prophetic word of God comes
It is God’s nature to communicate with us regardless if we have sinned or not
The ability to hear God’s voice has to do with your proximity with God.

God is not going to compete with your distractions.
You have to get into the place of proximity.
The place of proximity is the place of intimacy and revelation

3. When the brook dries up, the walk of faith takes us to the blessing

Zarephath – the place of evil: requires a lot of faith!!
The walk of faith usually takes you to unlikely places
God’s track record is an indication of what He will do

Faith is putting your entire faith on who God is.
Faith operates on God’s economy (not subjected to the world’s economy)

4. When the brook dries up, the eyes of faith sees the accomplished before it happens

1 Kings 17:13
Elijah saw the cake even before it happens.
The eyes of faith sees the accomplished work of God before it happens.
V12
The eyes of faith see what you have, and not what you do not have.
The eyes of faith sees what you wish for.
The eyes of faith see what we have in God.