Archive for December, 2006

Hold Fast.

Last night we had an impromptu, unscheduled caregroup meeting at Darrell’s cosy little home off Toh Tuck Road. The intention was to have blessed fellowship as well as to reflect on the year past and to herald the coming of 2007.

I must say that it has been such a privilege to witness the growth and change within the caregroup. Most of the people who were around when I joined have moved on, whether to different caregroups or beyond the ministry itself, and if you look back to the beginning of 2006 most of the people in the caregroup now hadn’t joined yet. If you consider this in the ways of the world it would be easy to feel disconnected from the new members, seeing the sorts of personalities and little quirks each of us possess as well as the short length of time we have known each other. Yet in Abba’s eyes we are all equally beautiful, precious and loved to Him, and called as we are to His purpose, this love is shared abroad all of us. It is this love of God that binds us together and builds the kingdom friendships that shall last in the years to come.

Indeed it is such a privilege and an honour to be a part of this.

I arrived at Darrell’s a little late because of work, but I immediately brightened when I found out there was pizza to be had! It was a craving I’ve been harbouring for the past two weeks and when I heard the news I absently thought, “Lord, you are faithful! For you have granted my heart’s desire”, but Abba corrected me: “No, it’s just your stomach’s desire.” Heh! Still, when more pizza that can be eaten is to be had, all is good with the world. 😀

Seriously though, at the end of the sharing Ireen asked us to write down on a piece of paper the things and expectations we had for 2007 and to seal it in an envelope. At the end of 2007 we would then open up the envelope and see the faithfulness of Abba in fulfilling all of them. I really enjoy doing this because this one-year time capsule would be a form of great encouragement and testimony when we realise, in a year’s time, how good and faithful Abba is to His favoured ones. As Borat would say, I am ‘very excite’ about opening up the letter come the end of 2007!

Initially I wasn’t sure what to write for my expectations; there seemed to be no end of material things that I actually needed or wished I had. I pondered about it for a while, asked Abba to direct my steps, and began writing. Truth to be told, I didn’t write stuff like “complete collection of Spider-Man comics” or “2007 Mazda RX-7”. I wrote a list of things, seven in total, instead. What they are, I shall leave to the end of 2007 to share. However my point is this: it’s not about “being holy” as Diana remarked to Mabel and me on the cab back home, or being “unmaterialistic” by not listing material things in the letter. Abba knows how much I’d love to have more money than I can spend or not having to worry about it at all, or a new car, or being able to go anywhere in the world for a holiday!

The beauty of this small act of writing a list of expectations to Abba is that it is in fact an act of faith, even if our faith is a humble mustard seed. You are in truth availing yourself to Abba by placing these expectations in His able and mighty hands. I say by the grace of God that He will assuredly and abundantly exceed ALL of them because you have confessed these expectations and sealed them with prayer. You have sought Him and the Word says that He hears and answers them;for the righteous shall lack no good thing in the Lord!

I had a little crisis of faith when I handed up the letter to Ireen for safekeeping. I was thinking, “Omigod what if I end up with nothing? What if I find myself in the same situation as I am now? Omigodomigod!” (Well I did write ‘+PS3 +Wii +Xbox360’ on the envelope, but that was more in jest than an expectation; I wouldn’t have time to play them anyway)

The place where I am now in my spiritual journey with Abba is where I am asking Him to make me constantly seek Him in all things, as well as to have the knowledge of His heart for me imprinted and engraved on my heart. That I shall relentlessly pursue Him first, above all other possessions, for He has already promised and assured that He will add everything else that is needful for daily existence, the ‘proper and primary portion’ of it, to us. That promise is comfort for my soul.

Today I was still questioning the wisdom of not writing more tangible expectations in the letter, and yet again Abba revealed to me what a faithful God he is. I was at work and trying to stay awake, so I decided to just look up some verses online to keep my eyes from staying shut; even in such a state, with the purest unintention, Abba still provided the Word that was the perfect one that spoke to my situation:

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, LORD God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, riches or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king, therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, riches and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.”
2 Chronicles 1: 7-12

Immediately I felt the peace spring from within me that was confirmation by the Spirit. Again, I was left in awe, completely undone by my awesome Lord, the very real and living God. My Father in heaven. I began whispering praise to Him (surreptitiously of course; my cubicle is rather visible to the rest of the office :D), thanking Him for His goodness. All glory to You in the highest! So faithful and loving! Indeed there is none like You!

I later snatched some time in private at the staircase with a mug of coffee, all the way marvelling at how good our Abba is. I told Abba, “I feel like a little child, clinging at your leg. That is what I will do for the year ahead!”

I felt Abba smile and laugh, shaking his head fondly at me, and say, “That’s cute, but not entirely true. Jianzhong, see that I am already holding you in a fierce embrace. One that speaks of an equally fierce love for you, a hold that will never weaken or fade. Even if your arm loses its strength and lets go, I will NEVER let you go.”

Dumbstruck, I replied with all the eloquence of Neo: “Whoa.” I was led to picture myself in an encapsulating bear-hug, both fierce and gentle, within which I was safe, protected and loved.

“That’s right,” Abba continued. “You’re actually not clinging to my leg,” (Abba and I sometimes have humorous conversations) “Instead, for the year ahead, hold fast to me. Hold fast to me at all times, and I will carry you through.”

Hold fast, I whispered to myself as the Word sank into my heart.

Hold fast.

Jesus THE History-Maker (Pt III)

I’m loving this life as a child of God. I love the way Abba guides my feet to a deeper intimacy with him, illuminating His word that with my spiritual eyes I may perceive the heart He has for me. It seems that for the first time in years, the Bible has come alive – I read a few verses and in the Spirit I start rejoicing and realise what a great, loving Abba I have. Indeed as David declared: Abba’s love is better than life.

It may be that my journal entries appear a tad longer than usual and possibly quite boring as well, but Abba has placed so much in my heart that it feels full to bursting, so I just have to share it here!

“I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!”
Psalm 34:1-3

As I’ve mentioned earlier, HistoryMakers 6ix was the time when Abba opened the floodgates on what it means to praise and worship Him. Oftentimes in the past, in utter foolishness as I now see in hindsight, praise and worship to me was a chance for me to get ‘high’ on the Spirit or overwhelmed with emotion. I actually wonder how many times was I really praising and glorifying Him – I am sure there were moments when I truly was, but I was so easily distracted. My mind would wander to other things – of things of work, personal issues or idle thoughts.

When the band or worship leaders were playing poorly, or when I heard a song I didn’t like, it seemed as if the zip had gone out of the praise and worship. The problem wasn’t any of that, as I’ve come to realise. It was me. I started looking at these things to create the ‘atmosphere’ that I wrongly thought to be necessary for me to praise and worship Him ‘properly’. I felt the music direction was heading the wrong way – too rehearsed, too conscious of keeping up appearances, too constrained (though now it seems the campus band is taking many leaves out of Hillsongs United’s book).

Abba was still faithful with his misguided son. He just placed one thought in my heart when it came to praise and worship: “Just seek to give Me glory.” That threw open the gates for me. I was overwhelmed, not by the music or songs, but by the indeniable grace and beauty of my Lord. I stood like a man who is transfixed by the indescribable glory of a living, undeniably real God. Not only by His divinity and holiness, but rather by the heart He has for me; rendered speechless that I would be loved so much by such a mighty God.

Abba is so, so, so good. Even when we seek Him and give Him praise, He responds:

“I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
Psalm 34:4-7 (continued from above verse)

He delivers from ALL our fears; as we behold Him, we are filled with an overflowing joy because we know how much He favours us; even when we are at our weakest, He still hears our cry – delivering us from our circumstances.

Jesus surrounds us like a shield, a fortification against evil, and yes, DELIVERS us. This psalm is beautiful. It constantly assures us that Abba is our ever present help in time of need. What is even better is that we need not resort to our weak arm of flesh to attain this favour from Him, for all we need to do is to look to Him. To behold a God who is ever-willing, ever-loving, ever-lasting, ever-faithful. Our Abba.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
v.8-10

Jesus himself says, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” Praise and worship gives us that opportunity to seek Him. To attribute to Him the glory He so richly deserves. To praise Him for His goodness, his loving kindness and tender mercies.

Abba’s heart is always turned towards us, smiling at us, ever ready to pour His favour down on us. Ready to rescue us when we call out for Him. Even in the most dire of circumstances, He is there in the midst of us.

“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.”
v.15-18

Amen and amen. Such are the promises of God toward the righteous. What blessed assurance! Have hope, that confident expectation of good, that Abba will swoop to rescue you from whatever circumstances you find yourself in. His eyes and ears are turned towards you, ready to act when you cry for Him. Imagine yourself as a child in a playground, and Abba the doting father watching you play. When you fall and bruise your knee and cry out in pain, how swift will Abba run to your side? Even when you are consumed by the hurt in your knee, Abba already knows what He will do. He will bring you to the doctor’s, care for you until you are well, and He knows before long you will be again running and laughing in the playground. Yet we sometimes are so consumed by the pain that we fail to see beyond it.

Take heart! For our Abba in heaven has promised us never to leave us in our time of need, for He will always be near; Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

need more internets.

.. Because the network is non-existent at work. I typed out another tl;dr post when I was there and my original intention was to post it once I came home.

However, seems like there was a problem flashing it to the thumbdrive so the new entry will have to wait until tomorrow (today?).

I was writing about Psalm 34 and how it spoke to me. Abba is simply amazing, and I can not say that enough. New year’s in two days, and a quarter-century of my life gone!

Jesus THE History-Maker (Pt II)

One thing I remember very clearly from what John shared that night was that even as we give our praise and shout glory to Abba during praise and worship, we also RECEIVE from Him, as the verse from Psalms in the previous entry shows.

There is this verse from Zephaniah that has been imprinting itself on my heart ever since Christmas. Even when I’m reading devotionals or articles on Boundless, watching videos on YouTube, or simply doing things that seemingly having nothing to do with worship, I keep seeing this verse being quoted or used. It is nothing short of amazing, and all glory goes to Abba. I am beginning to understand why it is called the Living Word; I keep seeing layers upon layers of Abba’s goodness as I begin to meditate on a single verse. I strip one away and think it done, but Abba then brings me to another to marvel at and ponder upon.

Charles Spurgeon said in one of his sermons (which touched on the Zephaniah verse!), “Holy scripture is wonderfully full and abiding in its inner sense. It is a springing well, whereat you may draw, and draw again; for as you draw, it springs up for ever new and fresh. It is a well of water springing up everlastingly.”

Amen, amen and amen!

Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O Daughter of Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.”
Zephaniah 3:14-15

The verse above tells us how we sing and rejoice because we are no longer held accountable for our sins, for one Man has paid the price for it all by hanging on the cross, the sacrificial Lamb of God.

We sing and shout aloud, be glad and rejoice simply because of Jesus Christ. The Saviour who took upon himself the sins of the world so that we may be called righteous by faith! A Jamieson, Fausset and Brown (JFB) commentary calls it “happiness follow[ing] in the wake of holiness”; it is the surpassing joy we have in our salvation!

There is a change within me that burns fiercer than a bonfire; it is a hunger, a spiritual craving for more of Abba’s living Word that is ‘full and abiding’, that still springs up new and fresh, sweeter than the best wine, even as I continue to draw from it.

Yes, surely we as children of God will praise and rejoice in His name when we realise the magnitude of His love and passion for us when Abba sent Jesus to die for our sins. Indeed we have been forgiven much and been given so much. Yet do you know that Abba doesn’t just stop there? He doesn’t just wipe our slate clean and then leave us to our own devices, to fend for ourselves in world that has no mercy for those who cannot “keep up”, so to speak.

No, what Abba promises is that He will never leave or forsake us, and even as we praise Him for His goodness, He delights in us, and likewise rejoices with singing!

“The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

The original Hebrew of “he will quiet you with his love” is literally “he shall be silent (charash) in his love”. It means that Abba is so completely overwhelmed in His love for us, that there is no language in existence that can describe the vastness of this love that He bears towards us. This silence, as Spurgeon says, is infinitely expressive.

God isn’t distant or removed from us, not as a Supreme Being staring down from the clouds at his minions, all the while perched on his Throne. That is not the heart God has towards us; He is with us, on the greatest level of intimacy, completely overjoyed at us when we dance and jump and shout and weep as we praise and worship Him. Why do you think we call him Abba, Daddy or Father?

Is it not amazing? That Abba, who was silent in His love for us, would then break out in a song of joy for His beloved? He did not sing when he created the heavens and the earth, but instead burst out rejoicing with a song when He looked upon us. We, who are as nothing compared to God, but were blood-bought by Jesus himself, that we may call ourselves the sons of God. We, the redeemed of Calvary, that would move Abba to sing a hymn of joy!

It is such a privilege, such a precious gift, this Salvation of mine, that it drives me to my knees. Such as Isaiah was when he cried “Woe is me! I am undone!” when He laid eyes on Abba. My Abba, my beautiful saviour. Who am I that you would deign to send Jesus to die for? Such grace and mercy! Such loving kindness! What love can compare to Yours?

Abba, may all that issues from my lips be words that shall glorify Your name. May all who see me instead see You in the highest, for only You deserve all glory!

Jesus THE History-Maker (Pt I)

There are many ways in which I hope that HistoryMakers 6ix will not be the last one that I shall attend; there is no denying that traipsing off to a location away from Singapore for a fews day to get away from the daily grind is reason enough to go, moreso when you can wake up to a day of buffet meals, to familiar faces, friends and fellowship, and to top all of that — back-to-back services, unrestrained praise and worship, ministering and fellowship after. Certainly all these are persuasive enough for me to want it never to end!

I used to feel like I was coming down from a ‘high’ after heading home from a church camp – I dreaded coming back to a dull house to dive right back again into the monotony of routine existence, which was what everything else felt like after a hypercharged experience at church camp.

This time it was different. That sinking feeling was no longer there, as it’d been for previous camps; what stood in its stead was a unwavering confidence, borne from the hope instilled by Abba in my heart that the path before me led only to an increased abundance of blessings, of personal growth, of the fulfilment of His promises. The camp was only a catalyst for the shifting of my perspectives, but the source is God alone, and confirmed by the Spirit as revelation.

I am humbled and awed by the magnitude of His faithfulness and goodness towards me. Engraved on my heart is the need for me to always turn my eyes to Him. Abba, cause my flesh to dim as Jesus is magnified. Amen!

“His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalms 1:1-3

One of the expectations I brought to the camp was confirmation from Abba regarding praise and worship. It was an area in my spiritual walk that used to confound me. The praise and worship session was something that I felt was too inconsistent – sometimes it would be good and I would be ministered; sometimes it felt like I could not “get into the mood”. I blamed the band or worship leaders for not being “in the flow”, or not doing it “with the right spirit”. Yet, praise Abba for his patience and loving kindness for his errant son! He moved me to repentance; he opened the eyes of my heart to behold His glory and the goodness he has sown in my life. I was completely and utterly humbled. From that moment it was as if I had been given new sight; this verse describes perfectly this revelation from Him:

“O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”
Psalms 63:1-5

There were many confirmations about this, one of which some of you heard when John shared about it in our breakout sessions during HM. ‘Praise and worship’ is not one-directional. It’s an intensely personal, intimate communion between you and Abba, and not something you have to pull out of a parched soul to give and give unto Him. David went to Abba when he was dry and thirsty, and as he beheld Him, Abba reached out to him and ministered to him with love, a love that was and is “better than life”. The end result was a man whose soul was satisfied by his Lord. A man who was a king among men, and yet came to the Lord as the young shepherd boy.

It’s easy to get carried away by the music, the performances or your favourite songs. But remember one thing: that Abba is the very reason why we sing and lift our hands. He is the water of life that will quench and satisfy our dry, parched and weary souls. How good is our God! Our Abba that requires no further praise or glory, yet in the act which we are called to honour Him, He still gives unto us so freely the sustenance that our soul and spirit craves so intently!

Indeed, how great is our God!