Hebrews 12:6

I love stories and analogies… We just ended Season 1 of the Parable series in Heart of God Church by Pastor How! Haha I found detailed (really detailed) sermon notes of the series on Zhen Wei’s blog. Anyway, we were also sharing about discipleship in CG, and I heard this verse from Hebrews 12:6! It reads:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

Many people don’t like to be told they’re wrong because it’s painful.

Well, imagine I’m a five year old on the MRT… I’m running around in circles playing catching with my siblings before a voice stops me, clear as day, a finger extended straight to my face.

“杨明荣, 给我坐下来,立刻,现在!”

It’s my mum, and she tells me if I run on the MRT I’ll fall flat on my face and lose my two front teeth. Boo, and that’s the end of the fun.

Contrast this to yourself today, when you’re on the MRT. I said on, not sitting, because sitting is controversial nowadays (har har). You notice some children laughing away, playing police and thief. How many of you would actually grab hold of one of them and say, “boy, don’t run, dangerous…”? Probably not, because:

1) The boy would give you a who-are-you-why-are-you-talking-to-me look.

2) You’d probably be wondering instead, why isn’t this boy’s parents stopping him? It’s dangerous! Some of us might even snigger if the boy fell down (if he had been particular disruptive of peace in the train, or just plainly annoying).

You see, discipleship, or chastening as the bible calls it, is reserved for children. That’s why the verse tells us not to be discouraged when we are rebuked. It’s part and parcel of being someone’s child. Rejoice, knowing that you are a child of God, and you’re not spending December singing all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!

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The PSLE Question

It’s the first of October, Children’s Da— the start of the PSLE examinations! In a few hours, my students will be on their way to the examination halls – taking the first major examination of their lives.

Please revise your work and feel free to ask me any questions, okay?

“Cher, who do you think will get the higher score… Is it him or me?”

Sigh. I meant ask me questions about English…

For the first time I understood the heart of the father, and meant it when I said:

“Both of you are my students, don’t have to compare and compete. I’ll be proud to see both of you do well.”

I’m thankful for Heart of God Church and Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan… Where I learnt that we all have a gifting we can serve God with. Even among hundreds and thousands of people, each individual is special and has their own gifting; we don’t need to compete with each other. It’s easy to be insecure and forget that God has made each of us special – fearfully and wonderfully! And in this test of life, you just need to do your best instead of looking left and right.

Maybe He is also telling us: “You are my children, don’t compare, don’t compete. I’ll be proud to see both of you do well.”

All the best for your examinations later, kiddos~

Decision-Making

I once bought a book on Decision Making. After going through the first chapter. I stopped reading it when I realised past the first chapter was some new-age-nirvana-thinking-psychology kind of book. Why was I even attracted to such a book in the first place? Because decisions matter! If you’re like me, growing past your twenties and starting out in life… You start to realise that every decision you make has an effect on your life, or, your decisions affect those around you. Every decision may cost you time, money, or even a piece of yourself…

Hence, I was so excited last weekend in HOGC when Pastor Tan Seow How taught on Faith-based Decision Making.

This part of the sermon got to me:
– It is important that we make decisions out of Faith and not Fear
– There are also people who don’t dare to make decisions
– They avoid and abstain from them
– Not making a decision is already making a decision
– Instead of living by design, they live by default or drifting

I feel sometimes I’m the one who tries to hide away from decision making. We’re not afraid to give our input. But when it comes to taking the plunge, who dares to do it? It’s great that all the youth hear this sermon too – I’m sure I have many friends who would agree they would have made some better decisions in their lives (maybe not taking History, Economics, and Literature together during JC?). Hahahahah. Heart of God Church is really the best place for youth to grow up in.

I was so moved at the end of the service… To trust God more, and to learn to make decisions out of faith!

Listening Comprehension

Listening seems simple enough. We listen everyday, don’t we?

But… How many of us listen closely enough? It’s when you listen closely that you hear the little things. These things that matter and could change your life.

We often hear of people complaining about others and how “this person has an anger issue”, or how “this person is so selfish”. Well, if you listen close enough, maybe you’ll understand why that person in question person is the way he or she is… You’ll have a glimpse into the person’s life, and that’ll change your perspective.

When Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan shared with us about the fig tree, there were so many wonderful principles to learn and catch! However, I also thoroughly enjoyed hearing out for the little things.

I remember clearly that Pastor Cecilia Chan shared how she would be found kneeling by her bedside praying very often. That’s what I wanted to do too! I started in the mornings before heading out for work… and in those moments are when I learnt to pray to God about the day ahead, about problems that are bugging me, about having faith to overcome them. It worked because the bed is where I start and end my day; going by the corner to get under the fig tree is really pretty easy and fast. You know how it is… The moment the rush of the day sets in there’s no time for anything else… if you put it off for later, it’ll never happen.

Many people complain about how they don’t hear from God anymore, or how churches are getting too busy. I sincerely beg to differ. In Heart of God Church, I hear so much… All I need to do is to listen carefully.

When you start to listen, listen carefully, and closely – you’ll realise there’s so much more to be heard. God whispers in a still small voice, it’s time to start hearing out for the little things! Try it – this weekend in church, when you’re talking to your friends, even when you’re sitting on the train home… Aiyoh, how can you eavesdrop? Seriously, they talk so loud what!!! Hahaha..

TGIF everyone!

Christians are judgmental… Why?

It’s like how if someone gets a divorce, and instead of being concerned and caring, we talk about the children being affected by it, or we discuss how it is not biblical! But you see, the Bible is not a litmus test for good or bad morals – the truth is that we all should know that we are sinners.

So why are we so judgmental? Check this out by Pastor Tan Seow How.

This is just a preview, you can watch the entire OOPS Series here: http://www.pastorhow.com/oops-series

Friends and Foes

Friends.

I may not have had many of them, or many true ones when I was in school. For me, it was easier to turn on Steam or Battle.net and face off with “friends” on TF2 and WC3. It didn’t help that my surname was Yong, and based on the alphabet my register number, my seat was always the farthest away from everyone.

Sometimes, I wondered if I could just fit in (the real world) – have that clique that I could always go to in the canteen. To never have to worry that I would have to walk around school alone. At first, I found that camaraderie in Scouting. Man… The things we did, and the time we spent together.

It felt as if I didn’t choose them, but they chose me. While that’s pretty true, and I thank God for them, we started to drift away as we grew older. Scouting is now but a faint, nostalgic memory. As I’ve started working… I’ve had my share of working with people all around… And I understand what Pastor How meant when he taught us when we were younger: some people are friendly, but they are not friends. You know, like an air stewardess? They smile at you and serve you your lunch, but they’re not going to recognise you on the streets and give you a friendly high-five.

Too many a time I’ve stuck around with the wrong group that drifted me further away from God and what I really want to do. It’s hard to describe how hard it is to want to be part of something fun and exciting. So why the need to decide to have the right friends? Why do we choose to live a good life, rather than have all the fun in the world? Why is it while I was having all the fun in the world, I felt I was walking away from God? Couldn’t I keep my values while having fun? Well…

1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

What, evil company? My friends are not evil…

Here’s the same verse in another version (NLT), that might be easier for us to swallow.

33 Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.”

Say what? Well the previous verse before 33 said this… “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” 

Isn’t that what most of us wish? To be happy and enjoy our lives before we die?

Not always…and it’s never easy trying to stay away from old friends that you’ve shared many memories with… But a choice has to be made between having good character and sticking around bad company. Do not be fooled, it doesn’t say good character saves the bad company. It says bad company corrupts good character. Seen my share of friends who stuck to the wrong people too. Tough choice huh…

Pastor Tan Seow How shared in a Checklist for a Great Life when dealing with complicated relationships:

Don’t cut what you can untie
– Complicated relationships are like a knot
– When you cut it you can never put it back together
– Don’t untie what you should cut
– If God says cut don’t be sentimental
– Think of  Lot’s brother and Potiphar’s wife
– A lot of times we are too sentimental and too nostalgic
– To live well you need to live wisely
– Wisdom is hearing from God and knowing which are the ones to cut
– And which are the ones to untie

After many years, I’ve learnt that what I need more than fun. What I’ve really been searching for, are not just friends, but family.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.

Friends are very different from family. There’s little obligation to stick it out with you when things go south. But when it comes to family, they’re with you through thick and thin. In Heart of God Church… I’ve found more than friends. I’ve found family.

Mr Iscariot?

As a young Christian, one of the things I was very intrigued by when reading the gospels was about Judas and the betrayal. I wondered… What went through his mind? Why did he choose to do it? Questions like these often make me feel a deep sonder.

I had the chance to ask this question to Pastor Tan Seow How once. I asked, why did Judas betray Jesus for 30 silver coins? Was it a significant amount of money? If he had been Jesus’ treasurer, didn’t he have access to much more money? (Something along those lines). 

The answer that came back to me was simple enough. It blew my mind, but also got me thinking about the circumstances I’m in at times.

Sometimes when we are given a responsibility, it is not because we are good at it, but because we are bad at it…God is giving us a chance to change.

When we’re stuck in a rut, or facing the same test and challenge again and again, it could mean we aren’t doing it the way we’re supposed it. You could be stuck doing something that isn’t exactly your favourite thing. But… Each opportunity is a chance to change and do better, and also to seek repentance.

How is it that repentance is a big part of the lives of our heroes of Faith – to turn away from what is wrong, and seek to do what is right – while we are more accustomed to raise our fists to vindicate ourselves? It’s time for a change in perspectives.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Keep on keeping on.

Rules, but not Conditions.

Reflecting on today, I remembered what Pastor Tan Seow How shared in Heart of God Church a few weeks back during the OOPS Series. It was about the difference between having rules and conditions. Here are some parts from my notes.

First up, Rules. We need them! Children cannot be disobedient and dishonouring of parents. You can’t have your brother running around with a knife at home, right?

Without rules, family become dysfunctional, and society would descend into anarchy.
There are rules, but they are not Conditions. You may break the rules and face the consequences, but your value doesn’t change.
There are Rules in this house of God, but no Conditions.
Whether you keep the rules or break the rules… Rules do not mean God’s love is conditional. God loves us no matter what.
My thoughts
#1: I am loved
So, on some days I make really big blunders. I mess up. When I mess up, there are two ways to go – fight or flight.
Either I take myself on, to search deeper inside of me and find out what’s wrong with my character… Or I would run away, pushing the blame on someone else instead. I hope it’s obvious which is the easy way out, and which is the correct way to go.
However, no matter how big the mistake I’ve made. I’m always given a chance to change it. If I break out of my own fears and insecurities, I realised that the love for me is unconditional. No one’s giving me the weird eye, or looking down on me. I’m still loved and valued the same, mistakes made or not.
God’s love is unconditional.
#2: I must fight the right battle
Ask yourself some questions… Do you think others look down on you? Do you feel that you are judged? If you do, whose voice are you listening to? Is it the voice of truth? Or the voice of your own fears?
When I break a rule, I want to make sure I learn and grow from it. I remember that correction is not rejection. It’s never a personal attack.
You see the enemy is never another person… The enemy is not your family. The enemy is not your friend. The enemy is not your boss. And the enemy is not your leader either.
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
You see, if you are always going against people or a person in your life, you may just be fighting the wrong battle. 
 
God, I pray I grow in my character always… To be more and more like You. 

Easter: He was dead, but now He is risen!

The long Easter weekend just passed. For many, it’s a great time to escape overseas. My instagram was filled with selfies of airports, of friends making quick getaways. While Easter is just a holiday to many, it means much more to me. During Easter, we celebrate Jesus, who rose from the dead after He was crucified.

Okay, so some of you read online about how Good Friday isn’t the day when Jesus died… But, if I love someone, I would still celebrate him/her on whichever date. Wouldn’t you? Haha friends who missed an important date or anniversary, this one’s for you. It’s that simple to me, really!

Well, on one of the years back, I celebrated by getting water baptised on Easter! I first stepped into church when I was fourteen, and would I have loved to been water baptised then. However, I was worried my parents wouldn’t be too open to that idea. I was still young and they may have felt I was rushing into it. It’s the same feeling if I were to tell them about a similar lifelong decision or commitment… Like getting married, or a tattoo.

“Ma, I want to get married!”

“Don’t be stupid… You’re still young…”

And that’d be the end of it. Actually no, I might be nagged at for the next hour, or week. Haha. You know, bad decisions are like bad haircuts – you have to live with it, and it takes awhile to grow out of it. Please don’t quote me on this one. To ask my parents prematurely would have been equivalent to having a really really bad haircut.

I remember then, Charleston told me not to rush into it. He told me to wait it out,  to wait for the day I would be ready, and hopefully my family too. I’ve heard so many people complain about how they’re pressured into doing things. It’s really strange to me because I’ve always given a choice. We always have a choice. You can even choose otherwise (but that’s not license to complain about it all day). Often the right ones I’ve made are those choosing to honour God over my circumstances, despite what I feel. I always have a choice, but that doesn’t mean following God is the easiest one.

Just wait. Advice simple enough. I watched as hundreds of people get baptised every year. Every year the thought crossed my mind, when would it be my turn?

Some people quit too early… Before they discover what God has in store for them. Have you ever had that feeling where everything felt against you, and you just feel like running away? Or when everything you know is going against what you think and know? Instead of complaining about it… About how bad you’re treated or not understood… Or asking why did this person in church say this or that, do this or that? I may not have the answer to your questions — I take that back — maybe I do have the answer, but would you be ready for it? Accepting answers that don’t go with what we understand takes time and guts. That’s a story for another time (I promise I’ll write about it one day). My advise to you… I encourage you to hang on… you might just learn as I did, the difference between a decision you make for yourself, and one that God wants you to make. You just might discover where God is taking you in this journey of Life. 

Luke 22:42 “….let not my will, but Yours be done.”

Fourteen. Fiveteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one.

Seven years. Then, on that seventh year, I felt I was finally ready. And what a happy day it was to have my family celebrate with me, as I celebrated with Jesus. You may not know my family… But getting us all together in a church (with the exception of Da Jie‘s wedding) is quite a feat. SEVEN YEARS! And I know and I know, that it would have been different if it had been on another year, earlier or later. But on that year it was perfect.

   Haha no eyes

In the baptism pool with Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan.

 Oh happy day! Baptised by my pastors in Heart of God Church – Pastor Tan Seow How and Pastor Cecilia Chan.

What is that decision right now in your life that you need to make with God? Is it to stop complaining? To wait before getting together with that (candy)crush? To stop spending so much time on your computer games? To start loving people? To start serving? Or could it be to just hang on despite what you’re feeling? Hang on… Talk to your leader about it… Because it just might be the moment that changes your life. It would be different if it happens earlier or later. But in God’s time, it is perfect.

Jesus is the reason for this season. Happy Easter!