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From The Heart

Why don’t You end all the pain?

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How often have you felt this way? How many times have you asked the Lord to take away some illness, confusion, suffering, loneliness, frustration,  shortcoming, whether it’s your own, or someone else’s? My guess is, most of us ask this fairly frequently.

Suffering is universal. In the book of Job, which is about extreme suffering, we find these words: “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). As the ancients sat around the campfire and saw that the sparks from the fire always went up with the heat of the fire, so their observation of life taught them that anyone born will inevitably experience the heat of human suffering sooner or later.

It raises a question: where did we get this idea that suffering is not good? Where does the longing to be free from it come from? Is it just that our nerve endings tell us it’s painful (as they certainly do), or our brain circuits overload? The bible’s answer is that we were made in the image of God, with a longing for perfection and rightness. We were designed to live in perfect relationship with God and each other. Because we chose to go it alone, and live with ourselves as our own final reference point, the whole created order was disrupted. But that’s not the end of the story. God is inevitably moving everything towards the day when evil, suffering, and the creation’s disjointedness will finally be dealt with, and the new heaven and the new earth will be forever established.

The answer to the question “how long?’ is that we’re not told. But the fact that the person asking this question (David, in Psalm 13) addresses it to God tells us who does know, and who we can trust in the meantime to keep us and prepare us for the new heaven and the new earth. David ends up saying: But I have trusted in your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 13:5)

Do You really hate gays?

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Rosaria Champaigne Butterfield was an English professor in Syracuse University, and a lesbian. As a proud and intellectual feminist, she taught women studies and spoke out against conservative and traditional sexuality and marriage. She was invited by various gay groups for speaking engagements and even gave a speech at gay pride marches. She advised the LGBT student group, wrote Syracuse University’s policy for same-sex couples, and actively lobbied for LGBT aims alongside her lesbian partner. She could never imagined herself to be a Christian…not even close. She proudly said that Christianity is not attractive whatsoever.

However, in 1997, God began to work in her life. Well, I think God had begun His work even before the foundation of the world. However, for her, God’s work started to manifest in her life then when a local pastor and his wife extended their hospitality to her and became friends with her. Two plus years later, she gave her life to Christ, left her old life, and began a total transformation of her life. Now, she is a wife, mother, and a wonderful Christian. We can say that perhaps it was because of the kindness of the pastor. Perhaps it was because of many coincidences in her life that guided her in her journey. But one thing is sure—God did not hate her, then and now.

The issue of homosexuality is not something Christians can ignore. It is before us, confronting us. We can choose to ignore. We can choose to condemn. OR, we can choose to engage, speak the truth in love, and extend our hospitality to them. Homo or hetero, God loves us all sinners.

What’s The Big Deal About Marriage?

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God designed marriage in order to meet our need for companionship and to provide an illustration of the relationship between God and His church.  But for this kind of companionship to happen, it means marriage needs to be a primary relationship for us. God didn’t create parents for Adam, nor children, but He
did create Eve for him as his wife. This means that the a marriage relationship is the most
important relationship, not the parent-child relationship. A man (and woman) must leave their father and mother and hold fast (cleave) to their marriage partner (Genesis 2:24).

To have true companionship in marriage it must be a permanent relationship. If you have
children, they’ll be with you in your home for just a few short years. But your partner will be with you for life. To “hold fast” or cleave, means to stick with, hang onto, hold onto like flesh hangs onto bone. It means being glued together. You get married and you stick together. After quoting Genesis 2:24, Jesus adds to it – “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:5-6.

The foundation for a marriage is a commitment of the will. The marriage relationship is
primarily built on this kind of commitment rather than just feelings of romantic love. It is
commitment that holds two people together as they go through various difficulties in life. You should never use the threat of divorce when going through difficult times or conflict together.

For great companionship a marriage needs to be exclusive. Monogamy is how God designed
marriage. One man, with one woman, for life. God’s intention from the beginning was for Adam to have one wife. He didn’t make many wives for Adam!

For companionship in marriage we need an intimate relationship; and “they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This emphasises a sexual union (1 Cor. 6:16), but it is so much more than that. There is a physical, emotional and spiritual oneness together. One flesh emphasises the trust, openness, and deep sharing that this permanent and exclusive relationship will bring.  Without the lifelong commitment, the sexual relationship will never bring the satisfaction God designed it to give.

For those of you who are married, may God Himself be the one to help and enable you both to do this.

 

Is Christianity Tolerant?

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The prevalent view out there is that Christianity is intolerant. It stems from the exclusive claims that our God is the only one true God and that Jesus is the only way for salvation. Therefore, the supreme virtue these days is the virtue of tolerance where everyone must embrace each other and no one is allowed to judge others as wrong.

However, this raises a few questions. Is Christianity the only worldview that is exclusive? Does having an exclusive worldview necessarily mean that one is intolerant toward others? What is tolerance anyway?

If we investigate honestly, we will find that all worldviews are actually exclusive. They are exclusive in the sense that they would deem other worldviews that are opposing to their worldview as unacceptable. Even those who claim that all religions are the same are actually exclusive, because they will claim those who disagree with them as unacceptable. However, having an exclusive worldview and being intolerant toward others are not necessarily together. It really depends on what the worldview actually teaches and it also depends on the person having the worldview himself or herself.

Furthermore, the definition of tolerance has changed in the past few decades. So, it is worth looking again at what we mean by tolerance before we answer the question whether or not Christianity, or any other worldview for that matter, is tolerant.

Why Am I A Sexual Being?

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As Christians we believe that God created humans beings in His image, intentionally male and female, each bringing unique and complementary qualities to sexuality and relationship. Sexuality is a glorious gift from God to be offered back to Him either in marriage or in celibacy.  As we read in Genesis 1:27-28a, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.  And God said to them, be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.  

By creating mankind in His own image—as male and female—God created human sexuality. It is part of His design, and God said it was good. It was God’s idea, His gift to us. When you look at our sexuality, it means we are the same species, but of different gender.

The bible clearly teaches that the sexual bond is to be experienced in the confines of an exclusive, lifelong marriage commitment (Genesis 2:24). But the single celibate life is often only defined as the sexless life. Single people are still sexual beings. And to look at it from the perspective of what you can’t have rather than what you can, is to miss what Jesus and Paul say about the single life. The scripture does not say that the single life is preferred to the married life, as if it’s more spiritual, but nor does it say that it is less than the married life either. They are two different ways of life, both to be used to show our undivided devotion to Jesus.

What Jesus and Paul said about the single life being good, equal to and in some ways preferred to the married life was revolutionary in a culture where marriage and family was the only acceptable way for a man or woman to live. Our society is not so different today. Paul’s main encouragement is his conviction that our devotion to Christ be the most important thing, whether single or married. But the advantage of being single is that you have less to distract you from devotion to Jesus (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Women and men were made by God so that together, we may reflect the image of God. Let us do that together, whatever state we are in—single or married.

Winning the battle, but losing the war.

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People are always more important than arguments.

People are more important than looking clever on Facebook.

People have true, permanent value before God.

Jesus prayed for his enemies.

Jesus loved his enemies.

Jesus loved arrogant people who were not open to examining the evidence his life clearly demonstrated.

Love covers a multitude of sins and bad arguments.

We may find the perfect argument for why God exists, but people are complicated in their reasons for believing anything and intellectual arguments don’t always provide us the victory we hope for over the other person’s reasoning. Neither does a good argument give us the right to be rude. The war over a person’s soul is a spiritual one and is more important than the smaller battle a conversation may present. Let’s pray for truth to prevail and that as Christian people we will not be the most difficult barrier a person has to cross in order to believe in God.

Life With No Regrets

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May all of you have a wonderful 2017, filled with God’s joy and grace for you. May the Lord lead and guide you through 2017. May God bless you this year, but most importantly, as you may also go through difficult times, remember it is also God’s purpose for you. Be wise and use every circumstance for His glory.

What are you taking into 2017? What baggage are you carrying with you from the past?
A group of students from a university in New York decided to do an experiment. In the middle of New York City, they set up a chalk board and written at the top, they asked – “Write your biggest regret”. The board attracted many people walking by, and was soon filled, and refilled to overflowing. These were the most common regrets:

Burning bridges
Not speaking up
Not being a good husband
Not spending enough time with family
Staying in my comfort zone
Not saying “I love you” enough
Not making the most of every day
Not being a better friend

What do you notice about this list? Most answers involve the word “not”. They were about chances not taken, words not spoken, dreams never pursued.

But Jesus has given us a clean slate from our past. All our sins have been forgiven. Not just the sins of the past, but any sins you are yet to commit—they are all made clean, with the precious blood of Jesus.

 

Glory to the Newborn King

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What is Christmas to you? To many people, Christmas is a holiday season. It is a time to spend and catch up with family. To others, it marks another shopping season. To some of you who are of Christian persuasion,
Christmas is about the birth of baby Jesus – cute, cuddly, baby Jesus, held by Mary, watched by Joseph, and with the shepherds and/or the wise men around.Unfortunately, to many people, Jesus is no more than a cute little baby that was born to bring a level of warmth and kindness into this world. Like a picture of a kitten that pops up in our screen in the middle of our busy day at work. Nice, refreshing, but that’s it, you go on with your work again.

To some Christians, Christmas is about the coming of a saviour. This is much closer to reality because that’s who Jesus is. Even his name means ‘God saves.’ However, I want to invite you to see Jesus as more than just a Saviour. He actually came as a king…the King of kings. The word ‘Christ’ is a royal term. Jesus is the Messiah King whose arrival was prophesied many years earlier. He came not just to save us. He came to establish God’s Kingdom on earth. He saves us so that we can enter His Kingdom. We must never understand Christmas as less than this.

In 1739, Charles Wesley wrote the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and the lyrics aptly describe what Christmas is about.

Hark the herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim: “Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing: “Glory to the newborn King!”

Merry Christmas and may everyone bow down to this King of kings!

CHRISTmas is Coming!

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Only 2 weeks til Christmas! Does that strike terror into your heart (as you think of the impossible list of things that need to be done), or fill you with joyful anticipation? Maybe it’s a bit of both.

One of the things that James is absolutely certain about, as he concludes his letter to troubled Christians, is that Jesus is coming back. Just as surely as He came the first time, He’s returning for his people. He’s near, standing at the door even, and He will put everything right. Those who persecute and oppress his people will be called to account and punished. He won’t just put others right, but us too! So James encourages us to keep short accounts with God and with each other. Confess our sins. It’s one of the things on the path to receiving God’s healing and salvation.

I once heard of a new Christian who said “I want to live as if Jesus died yesterday, rose from the dead this morning and is coming back tomorrow”. That’s what James calls us to – whether we’re in trouble, happy, sick or struggling spiritually – to live with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ, our hope and strength. In whatever state we find ourselves, let’s live in the sure knowledge that our Rescuer and Lord is on the way. The whole creation is moving inevitably to the time when all things will be united under Jesus, every knee will bow, every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Since this is where everything is heading, let’s work with God towards that end. Maybe, in the light of that, some of the things on our Christmas to-do list aren’t so vital after all.

Come Lord Jesus!

Giving Way

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Competing self-interest is the cause for many fights and disagreements among people. When someone gets in the way of what we want to have or achieve then we get frustrated with them. Traffic is a great example.  Whenever we experience ‘traffic’ we’re always contributing to the very problem that’s upsetting us. “How come so many other people are trying to get home at the same time as me?” I know it’s surprising, but our goals and routines are more similar to the people around us than we realise. Use a little empathic thinking, and you’ll see that your car is one of the cars blocking someone else’s journey.

Hence, conflict arises from trying to achieve the same thing (getting home), but just getting in the way of each other while doing it (everyone’s home happens to be in a different place unfortunately).

Submission to God means submitting our priorities to him. That means that treating people with kindness and respect even when they treat me badly (by cutting into my lane) is more important than how long it takes me to get home. That doesn’t mean I don’t go home at all—it means the way I conduct myself while heading home is of grave importance, because God has asked me to conduct myself a certain way. Submitting our plans and goals to God means sometimes it is better for us to give way to someone else even if we feel strongly that we have the right to be there. Couldn’t some wars have been avoided if that attitude was adopted by more people? It starts with us.