Tuesday, November 21, 2017

SET SAIL!

My old friend Jack lived in a large house in a pleasant, leafy suburb. It was a great place to raise his family of five, but his children have long since married and moved on. Around 15 years ago, Jack’s business failed, and although it would have made financial and practical sense for Jack and his wife to downsize, they loved their home and always put off the tough decision.
They ended up keeping the home by default, probably hoping things would improve. Instead, as the years passed, their debts mounted until the inevitable was reached, and they absolutely had to sell. Unfortunately, by this time, the housing market had collapsed, and the proceeds of the sale no longer even covered their debts.
Not making a decision is a decision. Like Jack, I have plenty of my own stories in this regard, finding it quite difficult to “sign on the dotted line.” I think there are a few reasons why we sometimes delay our decision-making as long as possible.
Perhaps we hesitate to face an unknown future. After all, as much as we try to anticipate the results of our choices, there are many factors beyond our insight and control. We cannot know for sure what will follow.
Future fears didn’t hold back Abraham. He said “yes” to God and left his home in Haran not knowing where he was going. Moses showed similar faith, leading the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and onwards to the Promised Land. Jesus’ disciples left their livelihoods to follow Him, which took another kind of faith.
Who knows whether Abraham foresaw the difficulties he would face—famine, family troubles, and battles, amongst others. Could Moses possibly have anticipated the troubled wilderness journey ahead? Jesus’ disciples didn’t always have an easy time of things either. Yet events showed that all these people made the right decisions, helping create the foundation for our faith.
Few of us face such dramatic circumstances as these Bible heroes, but we all face choices, big and small. May God help us to make well-considered decisions.
When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.—William James (1842–1910)
There is a time when we must firmly choose the course we will follow, or the relentless drift of events will make the decisions.—Herbert V. Prochnow (1897–1998)
Mark 1:16-20 (NIV) As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
Genesis 12:10 (NIV) Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.
Exodus 16:3 (NIV) The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

PRODIGAL DECISIONS

The prodigal son is probably one of the better known of Jesus’ parables. It tells of a young man who leaves home, goes astray, regrets his decisions, and eventually returns to the loving, warm welcome of his father. It’s a theme that’s been retold countless times in literature and life, portrayed in art, danced in ballet, and even played in contemporary music, such as the Rolling Stones’ cover on their album Beggar’s Banquet. It’s a story of humanity that transcends nationality, creed, place, or even era, a story that is as poignant and relatable today as it was two millennia ago.
In many respects, it’s a story about decisions. The young man’s fateful decision to leave home, wasting his life and inheritance, is part of the narrative; then there are the better decisions, when he comes to his senses and makes up his mind to return.
The father also has decisions to make. Should he accept his son with open arms or chide and punish him for his mistakes? And it’s this part of the story that contains a detail that is often overlooked.
Imagine the scene: the young man, thin, bedraggled, and rather the worse for wear from his terrible experiences of dire poverty. The father, crying tears of joy as he embraces his boy. Yet the moment when the father opens his heart to welcome his son is not as we often picture it, with the son kneeling, pleading for forgiveness, expressing his repentance for going astray. No, this crucial moment comes earlier:
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
His boy hadn’t yet spoken a word, but the father—who had no doubt gone through anguish and heartache for many months or even years—didn’t hesitate. In fact, he didn’t even wait until his son had arrived; he ran out to meet him.
This is a picture of God’s unconditional love. He doesn’t wait for us to say exactly the right words, He doesn’t look at our bedraggled state or how life has left us the worse for wear and stand back until we clean up our act. He doesn’t chide us for past mistakes and wrong decisions. From the moment we turn to Him, He receives us with open arms and forgives us.
Romans 8:37-39 ESV / No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
John 3:16 ESV / “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV / For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Announcement

Self Denial Appeal 2017
Total collection: TBA

Senior Soldier Recruitment Class 
Date: 24 Nov 2017 (Fri)
Time: 8pm
Venue: PCH
Facilitator: Bro Tan Seow Hwee

Penang State Christmas Open House 2017
Date: 3 Dec 2017 (Sun)
Time: 6pm - 10pm
Venue: Fort Cornwallis
Details: Admission is free & light refreshment will be served

Malaysia Children Camp 2017
Date: 5-8 December 2017 (Tue-Fri)
Venue: Sufes Campsite, Kg Baru 5, Jalan Pahang, 35000, Tapah, Perak

A BRIDGE TO CROSS

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
—Paul Boese (1923-1976)
Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.
—Roberto Assagioli (1888–1974)
He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.
—Author unknown
Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
—Cherie Carter-Scott (b. 1949)
Forgiveness is almost a selfish act because of its immense benefits to the one who forgives.
—Lawana Blackwell (b. 1952)
The one attitude which gives rise to hope amidst misunderstanding and ill will is a forgiving spirit. Where forgiveness becomes the atmosphere, there hope and healing are possible.
—C. Neil Strait (1934–2003)
Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.
—Author unknown
Love’s power does not make fussy historians. Love prefers to tuck the loose ends of past rights and wrongs in the bosom of forgiveness—and pushes us into a new start.
—Lewis B. Smedes (1921–2002)
Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.
—Lance Morrow (b. 1939)
Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
—Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
—Martin Luther King, Jr (1929–1968)
People have to forgive. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to be friends with them, we don’t have to send them hearts in text messages, but we have to forgive them, to overlook, to forget. Because if we don’t, we are tying rocks to our feet, too much for our wings to carry!
—C. Joybell C.
Luke 6:27 ESV / “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Colossians 3:13 ESV / Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Luke 6:37 ESV / “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Saturday, November 18, 2017

THE MAGIC OF FORGIVENESS

“I wish you had been born a boy!” I don’t know how many times I heard my mother say that as I was growing up. I understand better now, considering her own upbringing and the attitudes of Argentine society at the time, how disappointing it must have been for her to have had only one child, and for it to have been a girl. However, at the time it hurt me deeply. I was also often sick for months at a time during the cold, damp Buenos Aires winters, and being unable to go to school or play with friends during those times added to my loneliness and sense of isolation.
My father died when I was 15, and I held a part-time job to pay for my tuition at a private high school. I put a lot into my studies and training to become a secretary, but my efforts were rarely rewarded with the love and approval that I longed to receive from my mother. I became very rebellious, and she eventually kicked me out of the house to face the world alone.
I could no longer afford to study, but I rented a room and eventually found a better job. As time passed, I continued to feel unhappy and unfulfilled. Finally, in desperation, I asked God to do something with my life.
That same week, I met a Christian, and we got into a deep conversation. That led to many other meaningful conversations about God and spiritual truths, and I found the answers to my most troubling questions. I felt that God wanted me to share this joy and fulfillment with others, and I became a full-time Christian volunteer.
My new work took me to different parts of the country and abroad for months or years at a time. During this period, I kept in touch with my mother, but we never had any meaningful exchanges. When I started a family of my own, the children included my mother in their projects, like making Christmas cards for family and friends. I also sent her photos from time to time so she could see how her grandkids were growing, and I wrote her about the things they were learning. Still, nothing I did ever seemed to make her happy.
As time went by, I thought I’d forgiven my mother, but I realized it’s very simple to forgive someone if I don’t have to live around them or see them very often. It’s much harder to forgive someone I have to face regularly, who might continue to hurt me.
Sure enough, when I came back to Argentina and met my mother again after years of being abroad, her disapproval and lack of affection reopened emotional wounds that I thought had healed, and within only a few visits, we were already fighting again.
One day I was listening to a song called “La magia del perdón” (“The Magic of Forgiveness”), and it pricked my conscience. I listened to it over and over, until I knew that the only thing I could do was forgive. Then and there, I prayed for God to help me forgive each unkind word, fit of anger, and everything else that my mother had done that had caused me pain.
I thanked God for showing me that I needed to show mercy to my mother because I needed mercy myself. I too had failed and hurt others many times, but Jesus had never stopped loving me. I realized He had never stopped loving my mother either, and He wanted me to do the same. I started crying thinking about all the years of closeness that my mother and I had lost, and how much she must have suffered as a result.
Jesus told His followers, “Freely you have received, freely give.” “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
He also taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” I had received God’s forgiveness; now I needed to share that gift with my mother.
The next time I visited my mother, I was a changed person. That seemed to change her too. She prepared a delicious meal, shared her favorite recipes, and we recalled positive memories. Since then, seeing and talking with my mother is like catching up with a good friend I haven’t seen in a long time. The path of forgiveness seems difficult and bumpy at first, but the longer we travel it, the smoother it gets. Now I can tell others about the magic of forgiveness, because I have experienced it.
Matthew 10:8 (NIV) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Luke 6:36-38 (NIV) Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Matthew 6:12 (NIV) And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A CHALLENGING THOUGHT

Recently I came across a familiar Bible verse, which I’ve read, heard, and even quoted hundreds of times, but when meditating on it, thinking of its practical application and the enormity of the consequences of ignoring it, I more fully realized its importance.
Matthew 6:14–15 says, “If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
There’s no wiggle room within these verses. Whether we do or don’t forgive others has a direct effect on our own relationship with God.
A bit later, the apostle Peter asked the obvious question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who wrongs me? Up to seven times?”
“Not just seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”
That’s 490 times. Jesus used a pretty big number to emphasize that there isn’t any point where we can feel justified to stop forgiving someone.
To further drive this home, He used some other very large numbers in the story of a king who wanted to settle his accounts with his servants or subjects:
One man owed the king ten thousand talents. A talent is 2,000 ounces (125 pounds, 57 kg), so this man owed the king 20 million ounces of what was probably either gold or silver. If it was silver, that would be equivalent to about US$ 400 million today; if it was gold, then it would be worth about US$ 25 billion. Either way, that was an enormous debt. Because the man couldn’t pay, the king ordered that he and his wife and children and all that he had be sold. The man implores the king to have patience, and out of pity, the king not only grants him a delay but pardons his debt altogether.
Sadly, the forgiven servant later finds one of his fellow servants who owes him a hundred denarii—one denarius is estimated to be worth about US$ 20 today, which means the fellow servant’s debt would be about US$ 2,000—in any case, a much smaller sum than his own debt, which he had been released from. Nonetheless, the forgiven servant has his colleague imprisoned for being behind in his repayments.
When the king hears of it, he summons the forgiven servant and says:
“You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” In anger, the master has him thrown into jail as well.
Jesus ends this story with an alarming statement: “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you as well, if you do not forgive your brethren.”
There are times when other people sin against us or hurt us—whether intentionally or unintentionally—just as there are times when we hurt others or sin against them. People may treat us unfairly on occasion, deceive us, steal from us, or slander us behind our back. They may cheat us or break their word. Whatever the case may be, whatever the offense, whatever the hurt, we are commanded to forgive.
Forgiving doesn’t mean the other person was in the right, nor does it mean that the loss or harm caused by their actions is undone. It simply means that rather than focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong, you leave that in God’s hands, along with the repercussion of the person’s actions. You take the high road and forgive.
All of us sin, and each of us falls short of the glory of God. Like the unforgiving servant, we each owe a huge debt to God—a debt so large that none of us can ever repay it. Through Jesus, God forgives that debt; but He also calls us to forgive others in like manner.
Looking at it from the point of view that if we don’t forgive others when they sin against us, God won’t forgive us when we sin against Him can be disconcerting. The good part is, we can also see it as a promise: if we forgive others, God will forgive us. If we show mercy, then mercy will be shown to us. If we forgive, we will be forgiven.
“God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love is more important than anything else. It is what ties everything completely together.”
Romans 3:23 (NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Mark 11:25 (NIV) And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

STOLEN SILVER

Victor Hugo’s literary classic Les Misérables tells the story of Jean Valjean, whose already difficult life is brought down by one lone decision when he steals a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. As a consequence, he spends the next 19 years in the notorious Bagne of Toulon prison. Unable to find work after his release because he is an ex-convict, Valjean begs at the home of the bishop of Digne, who feeds him and gives him a bed for the night. But Valjean, overcome by despair at what seems an impossibly bleak future, yields to temptation, steals some of the bishop’s silver, and slips away in the night.
He doesn’t get far, however, before he is arrested with the silver and hauled back to face the bishop. Knowing what will happen to Valjean if he is convicted a second time, the kind bishop takes a chance on Valjean and tells the police, “I gave him the silver.”
Valjean is free from the legal consequences of his action, but not yet from his bad habits. After he steals yet again, he is driven to another point of decision, and this time he repents, and from that moment on he is a changed man. He goes through more upheavals and faces more tough decisions in the years that follow, but he remains true to the new course God has helped him chart.
Les Misérables is a moving portrayal of the redeeming power of God’s love, but it also illustrates how our lives are shaped by our decisions. Even seemingly small decisions can be far reaching. How can we ensure that we make right decisions? The only way is to involve God in the decision-making process, because He alone knows what’s best. He wants to see us make good choices and is always there to back us up when we do. The smartest decision we can make is to ask for His help.
 —
Mark 11:25 ESV / And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:15 ESV / But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Ephesians 4:32 ESV / Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AN OCTOPUS ON ROLLER SKATES

What do a record-breaking tightrope-walker, a martial arts expert, and a successful businessman have in common?
They have learned self-discipline. In each of their professions, discipline is the key—discipline that’s manifested in allocating time to practice, honing their skills, and in some cases, giving up things in their diet or personal life to achieve their goals.
Self-discipline is more than holding back from some things, more than buckling down to do what is necessary out of duty. It is a means to an end. Reaching their goals means so much to them that the effort and sacrifice of leading a disciplined life is almost a non-issue. They are willing to push themselves to the limits of endurance to achieve success. And their discipline clearly shows in their achievements.
Most of us can probably improve our level of self-discipline. Even if you don’t aspire to cross a chasm on a rope, how about getting through that pile of work on your desk, meeting your fitness goals, or improving your time management? Self-discipline is not really about denying oneself; it is, in fact, liberating oneself. A friend once said to me, “Only when you’re truly disciplined can you be truly free.” A simple sentence of wholesome wisdom that changed my viewpoint completely.
On another occasion, the manager of an international chain store told me, “Success is not only about what you want to do. It’s about what you must do to achieve.” When you’re self-disciplined, you’re able to go beyond things that might have limited you or held you back before.
New York Times bestselling author Jackson Brown Jr. put it this way: “Talent, without discipline, is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backward, or sideways.” On the other hand, if we channel our energies in the right direction, toward the things that are important to us, we are positioned to achieve powerful forward movement.
Jesus was the ultimate example of discipline. He did what had to be done, even when it was not just hard but resulted in His death. The discipline and commitment He manifested for His cause had world-changing results.
If we’re willing to discipline ourselves, we too can change our lives and our part of the world.
2 Peter 1:5-6 ESV / For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
1 Peter 4:7 ESV / The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
Romans 12:19 ESV / Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”