Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Timothy Chew

The post "Losing a child" that was posted on 2nd Feb 2015 encourages many people. In fact, it encourages me when I read it again recently. I think it is in order to give an update about Timothy my son. He was borned on the 18th May 2015. He is over 2 years old now. Praise the Lord. Being a new baby in the house after so many years, he brings much joy to my wife & I, my daughter and both sides of the family. Below are some of his photos. Every time we look at him, he reminds us of God's faithfulness in our lives.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bear the cross and follow Him - what does it mean?

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 
(Luke 14:27, NKJV)

I always find the verse above hard to understand. What does the Lord mean when He said that? What is our cross? I tried to do some word studies. The words that make up the verse are simple words that are straight forward - no hidden meaning there. The only way to do this is by reading in context.

In the verses before Luke 14:25, the Lord was invited to the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. There the Lord taught them about taking the lower places and be exalted by the host, seeing that the guests were choosing the best seats to promote themselves. The Lord also shared a story of a man (probably referring to God) who prepared a supper and asked his servants to bring in the invited guests. However, the invited guests found excuses (need to see a field that has been purchased, need to try out oxen that has been purchased and need to go back to a wife) not to attend the supper.

From verse 25 onward the Lord has left the Pharisee's place and the common people were walking with him. That is when he shared a few things with them, one of which is carrying the cross to follow him. Read the verses below.

Luke 14 (NKJV)
25 Now great multitudes (a casual collection of people) went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

To understand verse 27, we need to look at it in context of what the Lord was telling the multitudes (multitudes here mean a casual collection of common people, not rulers and not only the Jews but gentiles as well). If we look at the verses from 25 to 33, we see that the Lord gave 3 illustrations (I color coded each example in the verses above) followed by a summary to conclude His point. 

First illustration - 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
Second illustration - 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
Third illustration -  28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it 29 lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 
Summary point -  33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

So from verse 33, we can see the Lord was making the point that to follow Him and be His disciples, we need to forsake what we have in this life and follow Him. That is the point He is making.

When the Lord was in the Pharisee's house, the guests (probably rulers and dignitaries) wanted to give honor to themselves by choosing the best seat. The Pharisees will not be able to follow the Lord because they could not forsake self glorification. In his story about the man (probably a reference to God during the marriage supper of the Lamb, Rev 19:9) who could not get his invited guests into His supper, the invited guests were held back by wealth (the field), occupation (the oxen, probably used to plow the field) and relationship (wife). The Lord called these 3 reasons excuses. They do not need to check on those things, but it is because of those things that held them back and caused them to avoid leaving to attend the supper. For why must a person go and see a field he has already purchased? He would have seen it when he was purchasing it. Similarly you would not have purchased oxen without testing them. The last person is the most honest - he has chosen not to join in the supper because of his wife. Because the guests could not forsake the cares of this world, they chose not to follow the Lord into His supper.

The 3 illustrations the Lord gave to the multitudes is for them to learn about what He was also trying to tell the Pharisees earlier. 
  • In the first illustration, the Lord is saying that we cannot place earthly relationship above Him. 
  • In the second illustration, a person carrying the cross is stripped of all earthly possessions and status. That's what happened to the Lord when He was carrying His cross to Calvary. The Lord is saying that His disciple need to be able to give up all his earthly possessions and status and follow Him.
  • In the third illustration, the Lord likened following him to be an enterprise that can bring about safety (tower) and victory (war against a king) but there is a cost in doing that. The third illustration is different from the first and the second, because the third is an analogy. The Lord uses analogy in both Old Testament as well as New Testament. He will first use an example to appeal to our own experience and what we will do. Then he will apply the same example to His context and help us see why He does what He does. Matthew 7 has an example of how the Lord uses analogy:
Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7, NKJV)
Verse 9 and 10 appeals to our everyday experience using the example of how a father will provide for a son. Verse 11 applies the same example to the context of God being the Father and men being His Sons.
In this illustration, the Lord uses the examples of how people will count the cost when they are building a tower or planning to go to war. Here, the examples are about defending and fighting to gain victory. The Lord by applying the same examples to His context as an analogy, not only saying that we should consider the cost of following him, but He is also alluding to the fact that following Him is really the way to winning the battles in our lives.
What the Pharisees and multitudes do not know is that someone who forsake all he has to pursue the Lord gains much more. Just a few chapters later in Luke 18, the Lord and Peter had this conversation.
28 Peter said, “Look, we have left everything, and followed you.”
29 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for God’s Kingdom’s sake, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the world to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18, NKJV)

The Lord has our well being in mind. He does not want the world to have us.But He wants us to have Him, because only Him is the sure foundation that cannot be shaken. 
Those who trust in the Lord
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.(Psalm 125:1)

Someone who does not have the Lord may seek comfort and security in his relationships, his wealth, his career, his fame. But those things can be shaken. Only Jesus is the sure foundation. Only in Christ can we be truly fruitful.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15, NKJV)
Apostle Paul, a very learned and successful man in the natural, says that he considers his achievements a loss and not a gain to him, if they do not help gain Christ. Paul is a man that really has the revelation in what the Lord said in Luke 14.
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3, NKJV)
Ok. So there you go. The mystery of Luke 14:27 unveiled. Something for you to think about. Be blessed and shalom :)

After thoughts:
This post was not meant to be doctrinal. It was an attempt to find meaning to the verse Luke 14:27. But it does lead to much thinking, doesn't it? :). It is like this: The Lord is asking us to lose in order to win. Say we are riding an old motorcycle. But the Lord has the best Harley Davidson in His storehouse. He wants us to get up from that old motorcycle and order to gain the new Harley Davidson. But He speaks to us, referring to letting go of the old motorcycle as a cost to us. However, it is really a gain for us! It is only a cost to someone with no revelation of the Lord. To a person with revelation of who Jesus is, he or she will know it is a gain, a great gain! In fact, the so-called "cost" are burdens to us in the pursuit of Christ, the "cost" are losses that we really need to lose in order to gain Christ. This is what the Apostle Paul spoke about in Philippians 3. Don't be afraid of the "costs". The Lord only has our well-being in mind.
24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (Luke 9, NKJV) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Losing a child

Some time last year around mid July, a group from our church went to a neighbouring country for a 2-day retreat. I helped to organise the retreat, assisted by the many dedicated and wonderful fellow leaders in the church.

Before I went on the retreat, my wife and I found out that she is pregnant with our second child. Our first child was 12 years old then. We had been praying for a second child for many years. And we were delighted that the Lord has given us the breakthrough. I could not wait to share the good news with my friends and families. We plan to share with our closest friends once we clear the 8-week mark.

We had a wonderful time at the retreat. And it went really well. I shared a room with a fellow brother.

Our second visit to the gynaecologist took place just 2-3 days after the retreat. To our great amazement and dismay, the doctor shared with us that the foetus has stopped growing. The doctor did a hormone test for my wife. A pregnant person has her hormone level doubled everyday. So if my wife's hormone level isn't increasing, it confirms that it is not going well. We went back on the first Thursday after the retreat. It was confirmed that my wife's hormone has dropped. We were offered a procedure to remove the foetus. We asked if the body could reject the foetus on its own. We were told that it is possible. But there is no telling when it would happen. And when it happens there could be a lot of pain and a great deal of blood loss, which may result in an emergency. And the rejection may not be clean. But we decided to still let the body does its thing, as we were trusting for God to revive the child.

When we left the doctor's office we were ok. Our mood was solemn but we have discussed that whatever the outcome, we were going to a nice place that we both like to have something to eat. I did not feel like meeting anyone. I just wanted to leave the hospital with my wife quietly. And lo and behold, I bumped into a church friend J. J and his wife have been believing for a baby for many years. And they found out that his wife is pregnant after the retreat for his group, which happened just before my retreat. It is indeed a wonderful blessing from the Lord! But at that moment there was a stark contrast between us. Like me, he also helped to organize the retreat for his group. But unlike me, he was radiant and happy. And I was caught in my worst. We exchanged some quick hellos and he was surprised to see me, as he did not know that my wife was pregnant. He asked why was I in the hospital and I told him it is a routine checkup. And I did a quick exit.

That night I went to conduct an after action review for the retreat that I helped to organise and my fellow leaders and I had a good time. They had no idea what happened to me earlier in the day. My wife, as always, is a strong support for my serving the Lord. She had not needed me by her side (and miss the after action review with the leaders ) as we had planned it that way.

That weekend, I decided to bring my wife and my daughter to the neighbouring country for our own retreat. Amazingly, the hotel gave us the exact same room as the one I stayed in one week before during the retreat. As the hotel has many rooms, it cannot be a coincidence. It is as if the Lord wanted us to know that He is in control. We had a good time. On Sunday, early in the morning, my wife called out to me. We had lost our child. I helped her and she was ok. There was no pain. We both went back to sleep. And we spent the rest of Sunday shopping, eating well and we went back home.

I shared our loss with many close church friends. I understand Job's story very well. And I know tragic incidents that happen in our lives work to persuade us that God is not good to us. They wear us down. Bend our will. Cause us to give up and finally say with our mouth that God is not a good God. I know too well not to allow that to happen. Frankly, there were many moments that my mind could have wandered into darker places. Like when the doctor told us we lost the child, and when I bumped into a fellow friend J who was in stark contrast to me. Some people may question why would it happen after a faithful serving at the retreat. I know well enough not to ask those questions, which are irrelevant to the goodness of God. I did not let my mind wander into the darker places. When I cannot see clearly, I take out my bottomline belief - which is that that God is a good God. That statement stands alone on its own. No matter what our circumstances are. It will not fail us. To me it is like this - if the Lord died for me when I was a sinner on the way to hell, why would I think that a pile of rubbish that appears at my front door is His doing just because He went away for a while? Because Jesus has given me His life to save me, it is too late to tell me He will pile troubles at my door. He is not like that.

We continue to serve the Lord. And we thank Him that the process of the body rejecting the foetus works very well for us. It was very good timing. There was no pain. It did not cause us any inconvenience. And when our doctor checked my wife again, it was clean and the doctor did not need to do any follow up procedure on my wife. And this is what we hoped for. And at about the time we lost our child that Sunday morning, a sister in the church received the word from the Lord that says "He is with me". The sister later shared with us the word, not knowing what had happened to us. And thus we know that it is a boy. We had always thought that it is a boy. We thank the Lord that my child is with Him. And that He has blessed us with a boy. We will see our child one day. I like a song sang by Watermark called "Glory Baby". The lyrics talks about losing a child and saying that heaven is all that the child will ever know, and that Jesus will hold the child before the parents do. I take great comfort in knowing that. And I am thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the child and looking after our child, who is also His child.

After the incident, I gave up trying to have a second child. And amazingly, my wife conceived shortly after in September, less than two months after our child went to be with the Lord. Our son will be born June 2015. Praise God! It is quite a miracle for a couple who isn't trying, and has not been able to conceive for so many years. I know the Lord has restored us. He is a God that gives us beauty instead of ashes, and oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3). He is our shield and our exceeding great reward (Genesis 15:1). He is our shield, our glory and the lifter of our heads. And those who trust in the Lord shall not be put to shame (Romans 10:11, Isaiah 28:16).

I think a reader would be able to draw many object lessons from our testimony. Remember. In our lives when everything does not seem to work, you only need to grab hold of Jesus. Never let Him go. He is and will always be our only Hope.

Every challenge in life is an opportunity to trust God and walk with Him. It is beautiful to see Him lift us out of our troubles. Walking well with the Lord takes practice. Every challenge (we did not invite them) is a lemon. But they still work in our favor when we hold on to Him. They just caused us to walk more skillfully with the Lord and enjoy more of His blessings in restoration. In heaven, we will have so many wonderful conversations with the Lord on even "lemons" :). I could picture and imagine those warm conversations I would have with my Lord, my Friend and Savior. 

Blessed is the man who makes Yahweh his trust, And doesn't respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. 
Many, Yahweh, my God, are the wonderful works which you have done, And your thoughts which are toward us. They can't be set in order to you; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. -Psalms 40:5 (WEB)

Afterthought 2:
One should not make his blog post too complicated. Thus, I am only adding this additional part of the story here. Actually, there was further challenge on the current pregnancy when it just passed the first trimester. It happened one day after church. We were still in the church vicinity. My wife went to the restroom and found that there is a large discharge of blood. She called my mobile for me to meet her immediately. It instantly reminded us of the pregnancy just prior to this that also had such symptoms. This one is even more severe. 

Would we also lose this pregnancy? Now that I have shared my glorious testimony of the Lord's restoration with my church friends, how do I prepare them to receive such news of a second failure? What would happen to their faith? And for me, it is a second hit in a short time. Would I still now believe that God is good? Or would this incident cause me to change my mind about God? 

Those thoughts came to me. Frankly, on a logical basis I know that such blood discharges could mean that the pregnancy is not going well. My wife, as always, is as cool as a cucumber. She told me to bring her home to wash up and then go to the hospital emergency. She is a remarkable woman. We did all we needed to do with much calm. And then we were at the hospital emergency room. 

The doctor scanned my wife. And told us the pregnancy is alright. We could not believe our ears. Praise God! The following week, we went back to our regular doctor. It is confirmed that not only is the pregnancy good, my child is growing above average! Praise God! The doctor could not quite explain why is there a sudden discharge. And we choose to ignore it. Over the span of 1 month, it slowly ebbed and then went away. 

If I have something to say it is this. Walking with the Lord, we are called to walk courageously. Because our God is strong and He will resolve every matter. Jesus kept saying "Don't be afraid" to the people around Him and to His disciples. And today the Lord would be saying the same to us. Don't be afraid. Because our God is mighty. Come what may, our God will settle it with His own Right hand. Be prepared. Have that resolve within us. Know this: that though circumstances may take us by surprise, they never take our God by surprise. Our God is our ready help. All the time. 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalms 46:1 (WEB)

Haven't I commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; don't be afraid, neither be dismayed: for Yahweh your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 (WEB)

If you falter in the time of trouble, Your strength is small. -Proverbs 24:10 (WEB)


Thursday, June 5, 2014

What the Lord wants for me with regards to peace

In my heart, I had wished to have an improvement in a certain area of my life. It is a material thing. I felt that if I have it, I will be more rested. And I will feel more peaceful. So I was wishing for it.

I believe this is common and it happens to many of us. Some may feel if you have a better car, you will have a quieter journey, a smoother ride and feel more comfortable. You will then feel more rested and more peaceful when you travel. Some may wish for a better house in a better environment so that you can rest better and be more peaceful. Some may want to have a better education. With a better education, you would be able to find a better job and that will make you feel more rested about our future. Thus brings us more peace. Some wish for millions of dollars. They think that with so much money, their future would be secured and they can rest and be peaceful with themselves. Some may feel you need to get married, then you will have peace. Some may feel you need to have a child, then you will have peace. Some may feel if you solve that marriage or family issue, then you will have peace.

Do you have such a wish in your life right now? Think. If you do then this post would be more meaningful for you. For me, I have been hoping to have "that thing" as I believe I will be more peaceful if I have it. After a long time the Lord answered. And what He said is what my Pastor has been preaching so frequently. How could I have missed it! The truth is right in front of me.

The Lord wants me to find peace in Jesus. The Lord is the primary source of our peace. He is known as the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Though things we see around us in the world can provide a certain amount of peace, the principal source of peace is in the Lord. I then understand that if I can find peace in the Lord, I can have peace anytime, under any circumstances, right now. And the good news is that I do can find peace in the Lord! We all can. Jesus died at the cross to give us His peace.
27Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, give I to you. Don't let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful. (John 14, WEB)
Once I remember the Lord again, and realised that He is my peace, I felt so happy and so relieved. I never need to rely on getting anything as a pre-condition for peace ever again.  I can be at rest right where I am.

You don't need that quarrel to mend before you can have peace. You don't need to see healing to your physical challenge before you can have peace. You don't need your child to turn around before you can have peace. You don't need to have that financial challenge resolved before you have peace.

I believe that all of us need to meditate on what this peace means to us. What it can do for us. The greek word for peace, "eirene", also means wholeness, referring to all essential parts joining together (HELPS word-studies). As we spend time to take hold of Jesus as our peace, our outward circumstances will also improve and things in our lives will begin to come together. Isn't it better to have peace first and then see circumstances improve? Instead of having to wait for circumstances to improve before we can have that peace - we would have suffered so much. God is wise indeed to have designed it this way.

Find peace in the Lord. Jesus is your peace.

Hope this blesses you.

Shalom. Isaac.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Christian in Adversity

Recently a friend was quite unhappy. He has been thanking God everyday that his car would not break down. But well, it did. He cannot figure out why. His feeling may be that he already did all the right things. But why did the protection not work? 

I can think of two points, which are very interesting for us to look at. 

1) Thanking God everyday to some of us is like pushing a "protection" button daily. But if the protection is there, why push the button everyday? 

If I had known the protection is there I may not think about my car breaking down everyday, as I am not occupied by it. Thus, I may thank God here and there, but perhaps not everyday. And if my car breaks down I would still have no doubt my car is protected. And won't be easily thrown off. 

So the key is not what we do right to activate God's blessings. But in our own time we need to always to go back to the foundation of our belief, which is Jesus Christ dying for me at the cross. Once I am established in that, I would have no doubt I am protected. It is good for me to thank God. But I thank Him because I am grateful for what He has done, not to activate His blessings. I thank Him cos' I know His blessings are there for me. 

But no matter what, the believer is not out of God's blessings and protection. See point 2. 

2) The second point is immensely interesting. Many Christians are surprised and perplexed when they pray and see that not only did their prayer not come true, they are challenged in the exact area that they are praying for. 
Say I pray to get a promotion. But instead my boss starts to pick on me, and favors others over me. To most of is we would think that:
- our prayer did not come true. 
- God is displeased w us and is not w us. 
- we are not worthy or has done something wrong. 

It is none is the above. 

Now can you think of an incident in the bible (New Testament) where a bible character asked for something from God. But instead something very contrary happened. And the bible character stuck w God and prevailed? Try guessing for fun. And then scroll down to find out. 

Jesus told His disciples that they will get over to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35, Matt 8:23, Luke 8:22). But a storm arose. Waves were hitting their decks. It was so bad that the whole boat was filled w water and was sinking. They were fishermen in that lake. Professionals. But they were freaked out. It must be bad! They woke The Lord and asked Him if He cares that they are perishing. Cos' it looks like they are dying and The Lord is not going to do anything. Jesus woke up, rebuked the storm by saying the direct contrary to it (peace!) and asked them why are they afraid.  Why do they have no faith? 

What can we learn from this? Here we see that even when Jesus walked on earth, something contrary to what He has spoken ("get over to the other side") can happen. It is amazing isn't it? Mind blowing! But this serves as an object lesson for His disciples then, and now for us. Due to us being present in a fallen world, the enemy can come to challenge us. So we need not be surprised when it happens to us too. When I pray and should something contrary happens, I know:
- God does not want me to be afraid. He is not behind the adversities to teach me a lesson. In fact, He is my help!
- my prayers are still being answered. What happens is a disruption. A distraction. Not a gauge of my blessings in Christ. The enemy has no power to remove God's blessings in my life (Romans 8:38-39)
- there is nothing wrong w me. God likes me. God is still good to me. In fact, Jesus is still in my boat and has never left. And if God is for me, who should I fear (Psalms 118:6)? 
- God wants me to exercise faith in the situation. That could be the reason why Jesus is sleeping while all the storm is happening. Cos' the moment He is wakened He spoke against the storm and calmed it. Thank God He did not awaken and invite His disciples to brave the storm together w Him. This is what many Christians believe, that God wants believers to brave the storm. If this is so, the Lord would not have stilled the storm the moment He was awakened by the disciples. To The Lord, when there is sickness and He is there, the sickness turns into health. When there is lack and He is there, there will be more than enough. When there is sadness and death and He is there, there will be celebration and life. Cos' sickness, death, sadness, defeat all does not belong w Him. 

How do we exercise our faith - our belief in Jesus' finished work? The Lord demonstrated how faith works by speaking to the storm, speak directly in the face of our difficulties. God wants me to hold my ground and speak the direct opposite to the adversities I am faced with. Jesus spoke "peace!" to the storm. So in our example, even when I prayed and my boss does not like me, I will say "I have favor w my boss, he is a great blessing to me." And God shall foul the plan of the enemy and remove the work of the enemy to give me victory in the situation. 

1 John 5:4-5 because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. This is the conquering power that has conquered the world: our faith. Now who is the person who has conquered the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 

Beloved, be encouraged in The Lord. Because you believe in Jesus, you are an overcomer. A conquerer of the world around us! Hope this blesses you. 

Shalom. Isaac.