Monday, April 23, 2018

THE JASMINE BUSH

My brother’s death hit me hard, perhaps because it was so unexpected. John died of a heart attack at only 51. Until then, he had seemed strong, healthy, and in the prime of life, so it was difficult for me to come to terms with this loss.
We had been very close as children, and both of us were keen on nature and the great outdoors. After college, however, we drifted apart. I moved to Southeast Asia, where I raised a family and taught school, while John worked as an engineer in rural Montana.
In recent years, though, we had gotten back in touch. I thought about visiting, but I was busy with work and family responsibilities and kept postponing. Now it was too late. John was gone—just like that! Regrets flooded my mind. If only I had visited!
One evening I prayed, “Dear God, please give me a sign that John’s okay.” I’m not sure what I expected, but nothing came. As I dropped off to sleep later, I asked for a comforting dream, but when I awoke the next morning, I couldn’t remember anything.
At the time, I was staying in a garden suite, which gave me the advantage of stepping into a lovely garden right outside my door. Right by the doorway was a jasmine bush I’d been watching for a week or more, eagerly waiting for it to blossom, and as I stepped outside that morning, something caught my eye.
There on the jasmine bush was a perfect, single white jasmine blossom! Jasmine flowers usually grow in little clumps and bloom all at once, and it’s very rare that only one flower blossoms.
Suddenly, I felt that this was the sign I’d asked God for. It was as clear and definite as if I’d heard John’s voice saying, “I’m all right!” God used my love of nature to give me a sign that was meaningful for me.
You may think it’s a small thing, but to me, it was a reminder of God’s love. His care is manifest in even the smallest details of His creation and our lives. “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.”
Now whenever I see a jasmine blossom and smell its fragrance, I remember that morning. I no longer wonder if John’s okay. I know he is and that I’ll see him again.
Mark 16:16-17 ESV / Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
Matthew 24:24 ESV / For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Revelation 16:14 ESV / For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Announcement

Young Adults Retreat 2018
Date: 15-17 June 2018 (Fri- Sun)
Venue: La Pari-Pari Langkawi
Cost: RM300 - 16 April
Closing Date: RM600 - 14 May
Details: Please contact Corps Office for more details.

Youth Camp 2018
Date: 20-23 June 2018 (Wed-Sat)
Venue: The Kabin, Jeram, Selangor
Cost: RM200 - Before 7 May,  RM400 - After 7 May
Details: Please contact Corps Office for more details.

Northern Region Cell Group
Date: 27 April (Fri)
Time: 8:00pm
Venue: Bro John Lee resident

Senior Citizen Fellowship
Date: 5 May 2018 (Sat)
Time: 8:30am
Venue: Dim Sum @ Abu Siti Lane


PRACTICING GRATITUDE

Each of us is a recipient of God’s love and care. Developing an attitude of gratefulness to God builds within us an attitude of gratefulness for life and for all that it brings our way. When we take a moment to stop and look around, when we see the birds, the sky, the view, the flowers, the greenery, when we reflect on the things we enjoy—the love that we have and that we share with others, our children, our experiences—we find plenty of reasons to be grateful. It’s not surprising that there is so much in the Bible about gratitude and thanksgiving.
Gratitude causes us to focus on all the wonderful things that we have instead of what we think we’re missing or haven’t yet received. Recognizing that we have so much, and focusing with gratitude on that abundance, opens the door for more of God’s blessings to come into our lives, as I experienced a while back when I started filming a series of videos about Jesus’ parables.
My first film session really didn’t go very well—actually, it went horribly! It took me hours longer than I expected to produce the final footage, and I came out of it quite disheartened about my lack of presentation abilities. Afterwards, when I was praying about the way things went, I realized that there were many things to be thankful for. I feel truly blessed to be able to study these passages and to share the life-changing words that Jesus told through His parables. I’m thankful for the good equipment I have access to and for the technology that allows the spread of content—specifically the Christian message—far and wide. I am thankful for how my faith is being renewed daily as I study and prepare this material, and that God can use me in spite of my many lacks.
What did practicing gratitude in this way do for me? Well, first, it buoyed my somewhat discouraged heart and spirit. It helped me to refocus on Jesus and on the purpose behind the project, the value of it, and why I was doing it in the first place. And that gave me renewed hope that even though the first filming round had been grueling, the next one would be better. It adjusted my perspective and gave me fresh courage.
When it came time to do the next video in the series, I prayed fervently that this session would go better—also thanking God for the blessing this project is and the gifts that He has given me—and I’m happy to say that the filming did go much more smoothly and took much less time.
Something that’s helping me cultivate more thankfulness in my life is keeping a gratitude journal. I love how it reminds me of what God has done for me—about the many joys I have in my life, the prayers answered, the victories won, the things He’s done in the lives of my loved ones. It reminds me that God is involved in my life, and causes me to love Him and thank Him all the more.
Now I try to encourage others to keep a gratitude journal as well. You’ll realize how very special every day is, and how little things are wonderful things. By stopping to write them down, you’ll notice more of them and appreciate them more. Being grateful for the good makes more good things happen.
The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more things you’ll have to express gratitude for.—Zig Ziglar (1926–2012)
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.—Melody Beattie (b. 1948)
Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise; thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving.—Priscilla Maurice (1811–1854)
Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual feast. There is, or ought to be, with us no such thing as small mercies; all are great, because the least are undeserved. Indeed a really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most even of scanty blessings.—John Ross Macduff (1818–1895)
We need deliberately to call to mind the joys of our journey. Perhaps we should try to write down the blessings of one day. We might begin; we could never end; there are not pens or paper enough in all the world.—George A. Buttrick (1892–1980)
James 1:17 ESV / Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Hebrews 12:28 ESV / Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
Colossians 3:15 ESV / And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

PICNIC LUNCH

On one of those glorious spring days that make your heart sing, our family went on a day’s outing to Bodnant, a famous botanical garden in North Wales. We spent hours exploring 80 acres of lawns and terraces; bathing in a cascade of color and fragrance as we walked amongst the rhododendrons, tulips, and lilies; admiring the specimen trees lurching up to touch the blue sky, framed in the distance by the mountains of Snowdonia.
By then, we were ready for lunch and sat down to enjoy our picnic of cheese, ham, and tomato sandwiches.
For this we might have said a word of appreciation to John Montagu. He was an eighteenth-century British Lord of the Admiralty. The story goes that sometimes he was too busy to take a meal, so he would ask his servants to bring him meat inside two slices of bread, so that he could eat at his desk. His formal title was the Earl of Sandwich, and that is how the “sandwich” came about.
Bread is the food most frequently mentioned in the Bible. Lehem, the Hebrew word for “bread” in the Old Testament, is used 295 times. In the New Testament, the Greek word is artos, and it is used 98 times. The Bible lists breads made of wheat, barley, rye, beans, lentils, millet, and even manna. They would have been cooked on flat stones or iron griddles, perhaps in an oven; they would have been flat and hard, or leavened cakes.
“Give us this day our daily bread,” Jesus taught us to pray. Of course, we mean a lot more than bread itself—the “sustenance of life” might be more precise, and it is both literal and figurative. We are not to “live by bread alone,” but “by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”
God nourishes our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. His provision of our needs—both literal and spiritual—is another of those things to make your heart sing.
Psalm 104:14–15 NIV
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
Philippians 4:19 ESV / And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV / But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Romans 8:1 ESV / There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Friday, April 20, 2018

ONE OF THE LISTENING CROWD

Again [Jesus] began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables.––Mark 4:1–2
Imagine for a moment that you are one of that multitude, and fill in the details.
Did you plan to be there, or did you stumble upon this outdoor event? Are you with your friends or family, or are you alone?
Is it summer or winter? Are you feeling a bit chilly standing so close to the seafront, or are you looking for some shade from the burning sun? Are you taking a deep breath of the bracing sea air, or is a gentle sea breeze bringing relief in the heat of the day?
Can you see clearly what’s happening? How close are you to the water’s edge? Have you found yourself a vantage point, or is your view obscured by the crowd? What kind of boat is He sitting in? Is the sea calm, clear as glass, or does it look a bit choppy?
Do you have any troublesome thoughts that maybe you should be somewhere else? Are you wondering whether you can spare the time to stand around? Are you thinking perhaps you should be taking care of some crops, managing your animals, getting provisions from the market, visiting a sick relative?
You’ve probably heard all kinds of things about this Teacher. Have you heard Him speak before? Do you wonder how much is true? Do you question whether He really has the power to heal people by His voice and the touch of His hand? Could He heal you?
“Listen,” He begins. Can you hear what He’s saying? Do you understand what He’s talking about?
His talk is over now. The crowd is dispersing, and you’re on your way. Perhaps you don’t really feel like chatting; you want to be quiet and alone with your thoughts, to try to absorb what He said. What does it have to do with you? Has it changed your outlook?
That day, Jesus finished His talk by declaring, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Those who got the most from what Jesus said that day were the ones who listened.
Listening is not merely opening a Bible, skimming over paragraphs and speeding through lines. It’s meditating on what we read, applying it, even reliving it in our imagination. And when we do, we might just discover something new and wonderful.
Proverbs 1:33 ESV / But whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
Revelation 2:7 ESV / He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
John 8:47 ESV / Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A WORLD OF SILENCE

When I open the front door, I am overwhelmed by the silence outside. How absolutely quiet the world has become! Usually there is at least some noise and movement at this hour. But not today. Today everything is still.
A few snowflakes fall out of a gray, overcast sky, adding to the sense of mystery. I zip up my coat and step into this gentle world of silence.
It’s the very first morning of the new year. Silent and wide and full of hope and expectation. The celebrations lasted till early morning, but now it seems as if I’m the only one awake.
The changeover was anything but peaceful. It was loud, even deafeningly so at times. But now, as the early morning light pierces through the darkness, everything is still.
I like to think it was silent as well when God was halfway through creating the world. Imagine how quiet it must have been right before He populated it with animals and birds and finally with the first humans. There might have only been the soft sound of a gentle breeze through the leaves and maybe the rippling of a brook.
I believe it is easier to connect with God in the silence. It’s almost as if you could touch Him. You can hear Him whisper words of love and wisdom: “Don’t you worry. I’ll take care of you too.”
How wonderful to walk with Him through these empty lanes!
Suddenly a man comes around a corner. Just like me, he is walking without a particular goal. He’s just enjoying the view, just listening to the same silence.
When he passes, we smile at each other. “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!” he says while his eyes light up.
I nod and smile back, then he’s gone and I’m again alone with my thoughts, but now my heart is rejoicing. How beautiful the world is when it’s filled with stillness and smiles, friendship, and gentleness! How beautiful when we can touch God in the stillness and His Spirit breaks through the hard shell of our self-centered hearts!
The world is waking up. A car drives by and a TV in one of the houses I pass is blaring something unintelligible. The stillness is broken, but my heart is still full of the stillness of God.
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.
Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV / Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
John 16:13 ESV / When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

DAY BY DAY

As I begin this New Year, I am reminded of that popular song of the 1970s: “Day by day, day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.”
To see You more clearly… The Bible tells us that God is a Spirit, invisible, and yet we can see Him—in Jesus, in the love shared amongst believers, in the beauties of His world.
Love You more dearly… “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.” I can show God my love by thanking Him for His blessings. Psalm 118:24 says: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” I will try to maintain an attitude of gratitude each day in this coming year.
Follow You more nearly… This can be the hardest part, but if I look to Him, and love Him, I will feel His caring presence gently guiding where He wants me to go. And I can sing with the old refrain: “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, all I’ve got to do is follow. Strength for the day is mine always, and all that I need for tomorrow. My Lord knows the way through the wilderness, all I have to do is follow!”
I will also ask for happiness, which comes as we live one day at a time. Those who always wait for grand occasions in their lives to make them happy seldom are. I think that happiness is better found by treasuring all the little happenings of life.
And last, but not least, I will ask for peace of mind. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” And Paul gives us the recipe in detail: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Job 31:4 (NIV) Does he not see my ways and count my every step?
Psalm 17:5 (NIV) My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.
Psalm 37:23 (NIV) The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ENJOYING THE JOURNEY

I’m learning how important it is to enjoy the journey and not just be enthused with the final destination. The destination does define the journey, and of course, is very important. But we often spend much more time traveling than we do enjoying the final goal, so it’s wise to learn to appreciate the day-by-day things more.
Being of an impatient nature, it’s been my habit to focus on the goal and not pay a lot of attention to the details during the days leading up to it. Many times when I’ve been frustrated over having to wait days, months, or in some cases even years to reach a certain goal, I wasted a lot of time clock-watching, anxiously looking forward to what was coming, instead of enjoying each minute and the little blessings our Creator so lovingly gives me as each day unfolds.
For example, last January we made plans to visit my family in Portugal in August—and so I began my countdown. From that moment on, the most important thing each day was to get to the end of it, as that meant August would get here more quickly. This attitude resulted in me being bored with my daily activities instead of being thankful for the gift each moment of life truly is.
During these past months, I have listened to various talks that have helped to illustrate this lesson, and I think it’s getting through. Yesterday afternoon, my husband, David, and I went for a walk in a nearby park. We took along a picnic supper and ate there after our walk. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and our conversation was sprinkled with thanksgiving and positive comments about the blessing of being able to eat dinner in such beautiful surroundings, the health we enjoy, the peace that floods our souls, and most of all for a life that’s worth living.
Hebrews 13:8 ESV / Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
1 Timothy 5:8 ESV / But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Matthew 5:38-39 ESV / “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.