Lifesavers in Sudden Storm

There was one day when Jesus and His disciples set sail across the Sea of Galilee.

Lifesavers in Sudden StormAs they were making their way, a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” (Mark 4:37).

That sudden storm must have been quite unforgettable for it was recorded in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25).

Sudden storms are a part of our lives. All of us will at one time or another encounter sudden storms. The sea of our lives can be calm one minute and violent the next. One minute you can be enjoying fair weather and the next you are tossed about left and right. One phone call, one doctor visit, one error judgment of a driver and you find yourself in the sudden storm of your life.

In the story of this unforgettable storm, I found 3 Lifesavers. 

Lifesaver #1: Promise

Before embarking on the journey Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side”(Mark 4:35).

That is the promise of Jesus, which came to pass. “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes” (Mark 5:1).

Jesus kept His promise. He will not back away from any promises He has made.

He has promised,And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

He has promised, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

When you find yourself in a sudden storm, you want to know and hold on to His promises.

Lifesaver #2: Presence

When Jesus is present in your boat, you have an advantage.

Mark 4:36 says,And other little boats were also with Him.” There were many boats out on that stormy sea that night, but only one has the Presence of Jesus.

As you sail on the sea of life, you want to be sure and remember that Jesus is in the boat with you.

Having Jesus in your boat makes all the difference.

When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can call on Him in time of need. When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can see Him move in power. When you have the Presence of Jesus, you can experience His peace.

An old Christian song says, “With Christ in the vessel you can smile at the storm.”

When you have the Presence of Jesus, no storm can overcome you.

Lifesaver #3: Power

Jesus has the power to calm the storm.

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)

The wind ceased, the waves subsided and the sea became calm.  The disciples were stunned. “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41).

They saw the Power of Jesus.

In fact, right after they reached the other side of the lake in Gadarenes, Jesus casted out a legend of demons from a demon-possessed man.

Jesus has the power to calm the storm, not only in the sea but also in the body and mind of a tormented man.

With Jesus, you have His Promise, His Presence and His Power.

These are Lifesavers in Sudden Storm.

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PorNOgraphy

The pervasive impact of Internet pornography is undeniable.

In a recent survey conducted by Focus on the Family Singapore, 24% of teenagers in churches said they were exposed to pornography, some even before the age of 12.

Thus said Chuck Swindoll: “Pornography is the greatest cancer in the church today.”

In this battle with pornography, many are fighting a losing battle with their raging hormones and awakened libido. They feel powerless. They experience bouts after bouts of shame and guilt.

PorNOgraphyCan we say “No” to pornography?

Let me borrow 3 pictures from John Piper.

Picture #1 Imagine one day you were under the sway of blazing sexual desire. You think you could never resist the temptation to click on some porn websites. Without warning a black-hooded terrorist drags your beloved wife into the room with a knife at her throat. He said to you, “If you look at that website, I will slit her throat.”

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the consequences are too great to bear.

The TIME Magazine in its April 11, 2016 issue has a cover story that highlights the serious consequences of pornography. It kills virility and intimacy.

Researchers found growing number of men that are seemingly healthy could not get sexually aroused with actual women due to porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Their “sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn.”

In the face of great and dire consequences, Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29).

Picture #2 Imagine if one night you have a intense urge to view some porn sites and a man walks into your room and says, “If you don’t look at that nudity, I will give you one million dollars cash, tax-free, tonight.”

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the reward is too great to want to miss.

Jesus says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Surely that must worth more than a million.

Picture #3 Imagine if one day you have a burning desire to view some porn and Jesus was standing before you in your room, dripping with blood from pierced wounds, hands trembling with pain, breathing heavily like a dying man and His eyes brimming with love are looking at you.

What would be your likely response?

You won’t click. Because the stakes are too high. You just can’t hurt the One who loves you so much when His eyes are on you.

“For the love of Christ compels us” (II Corinthians 5:14a).

Three pictures. One thought. You are not entirely helpless in this pervasive impact of Internet pornography. You can have the self-control you think you didn’t have.

You can say NO to porNOgraphy.

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Pay for Praise

Would you pay to receive compliments from total strangers?

Pay for PraiseApparently many would. This pay for praise phenomenon took the social media in China by storm. It is known as “kuakuaqun” or “praise groups.”

People would join a praise group on WeChat or QQ and pay 50 Yuan (S$10) for five minutes of compliments.

It all started as a reaction to an earlier fad of “curse groups” in universities. Students began to create these “praise groups” to cheer each other on.

Users of such pay for praise services felt it lifted their spirits. Praise groups have fulfilled a basic need for encouragement.

Imagined being showered with lavish praise for your looks by someone who said: “Your eyes are as resplendent as the stars and your jet-black hair is smooth as silk brocade.”

And for a price, someone might say to you, “We love, love, love you endless.”

Exchanges in these praise groups are creative, witty and even hilarious.

Like one user who asked for praise when he was struggling with computer science, was told: “Your heart is too pure to hold any complex algorithms.”

These and many more highly exaggerated, over the top compliments are termed as “caihongpi” (literal rainbow gas) or colourful praise. Somehow they meet the human need for affirmation, validation and self-confidence. The striving business of pay for praise says it all.

Would you pay for praise?

I know I won’t pay for praise. But I know it pays to praise.

Praise is effective in raising someone’s performance. Praise can dramatically change someone’s self-image. Praise can permanently alter the trajectory of someone’s life. Praise, at the very least, can make someone’s day better.

However I am convinced that praise should not be mere flattery. False compliments risk building a false self-image. And that can be devastating as it makes it harder to see one’s true self.

Praise should be genuine and sincere. You should never give praise that you don’t mean. People can almost always tell.

False or empty praise that comes easily from your lips can make someone feel worse than if you had said nothing. But true and sincere praise that comes honestly from your heart is powerful and always valued by the one receiving it.

Let’s give praise when praise is due.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure,whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.”

If I may add, “tell these things” to people who deserve them.

For in so doing people’s hearts will be lifted and the good works praised are likely to be repeated.

Furthermore when we commend people openly for their good works, we glorify God, our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Let us be fountains spouting praise and affirmation rather than complaints and criticisms.

After all what does the Bible tells us to do when we see a woman of noble character, talented, productive, strong and caring?

She “is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).

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Best Brother Ever

Theo van GoghTheo van Gogh was the younger brother of Vincent van Gogh, the famous post-impressionist painter who is possibly the father of modern art.

I am certain Vincent owed much to his brother Theo. He was the best brother anyone could ever have. If not for Theo van Gogh, no one today would remember Vincent van Gogh.

We must know in his early life, Vincent van Gogh was a lousy painter. He had no talent. He showed no promise. He failed in his attempt as art dealer. He failed even more miserably as a missionary in southern Belgium. And for the rest of his life he was in ill health and solitude, coping with severe mental, emotional, social and financial problems.

Many things were going against Vincent. But there is one thing going for him. He has the best brother ever. If not for Theo, his life would have been even harder and certainly much shorter.

Theo loved his brother and supported him financially. Every month he sent money that he himself could barely afford to Vincent who would otherwise starved to death.

He stubbornly held up Vincent emotionally by writing and keeping up a very long correspondence with him during those terrible years of his misery, depression and insanity.

Theo supported Vincent to do the only thing he was passionate about, which was to keep painting.

Theo literally invested his time, money, patience and loving support on his brother whom no one thought had any promise, potential or possibility of producing anything of significance. 

The world needs a Theo.

Whenever you feel like you have wasted your time, effort and counsel on someone who keeps failing over and over, think of Theo van Gogh.

Without Theo van Gogh, no one would know Vincent van Gogh. Vincent has the best brother ever.

Without Barnabas, no one would know Saul or Paul (Acts 9:26-27). Paul has the best brother ever.

Without Barnabas, we would not have the Gospel by Mark (Acts 15:36-41). John Mark has the best brother ever.

The church needs brothers like Theo and Barnabas.

Are you the best brother ever to someone?

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Toilet Truth

This is a true story in praise of our No. 1 Airport in the world.

Four ladies were at Changi Airport Terminal 4. They were planning to have a group vacation together in Hong Kong.

imagesWhile waiting to catch their flight, they used the airport toilet at different times.

Each came out and shared about their washroom experience.

One of them was so fascinated by the smiley face on the flush button in the toilet. “What a joyful way to finish your job!” she said.

Another was blown away by the Peranakan ceramic tiles on the wall.

Still another was captivated by the eye-popping design on the floor.

The fourth  was mesmerised by the toilet roll. She was so enthralled by the texture quality of it that she even took some away with her.

Four ladies. Same toilet. Each awestruck in a different way. That’s the toilet truth.

But it was the sum of shared experience that makes it so amazing. It is hearing others share about their own discovery that makes it so much more exciting and enriching.

Perhaps it is for that reason we have embarked on a Community Bible Experience.

On the first night 155 came. They read the scriptural passage on their own. They individually dig deeper into the structure, point, tone and purpose of the text. And they teased out the application for their own lives.

The result was a Bible Experience unlike any other. They experienced the Bible like a diamond with many facets that emit light from different angles.

As individuals bring out their little mosaic of discovery and laid it out, a pathway is formed where a fuller revelation of God’s truth is clearly seen.

“What then shall we say, brothers and sisters?When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up” (I Corinthian 14:26). 

That must be our experience. That’s our edification. That’s our enrichment.

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Shaver & Saver

A church member told me a touching story about his six-year-old daughter, Emma.

Emma watched her father shave every morning. She was curious about the device that removes prickly hair from the chin and neck like a lawn mover.

One day when the father was not around, she held the electric shaver and turned it on. The sudden vibration made her lose her grip and the shaver fell into the toilet bowl full of pee. Oopsie! Someone forgot to flush. Needless to say the shaver can never be used again.

Emma realized what she did was wrong. She sensed her father would be upset. She knew she had to own up. She decided to pen a note to her father. And to make amends for her mistake, she would pay her dad with all the money she had saved from her hard earned deeds. She counted the coins and they totaled to exactly $10. That may not seem much to anyone but it’s huge amount for a six year old.

Here’s what she wrote:

Emma 6Dear Papa, I’m sorry for Droping you’re Shaver into the toilet Bowl with Pee in it. (:( Here is $10 for droping it!

Love, Emma

No father can remain unmoved from seeing such a handwritten note from his own child. He could easily afford a new shaver. But he was deeply affected by such a response.

So was Jesus.

The despised tax collector Zacchaeus realized his past mistakes and decided to make amends. He said:

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 9:8). 

Jesus was deeply moved. He said:

“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). 

That is the nature of our God.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;a broken and contrite heartyou, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

Zacchaeus knew that. David knew that. Emma knew that.

Do you?

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A Mother’s Day Greeting

The apostle Paul gave a mother’s day greeting of sorts at the close of his letter to the Romans.

“Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well” (Romans 16:13).

Of all the personal greetings to many people who have been instrumental in his life, Paul made special mention of Rufus’ mother who was like a surrogate mother to him.

He paid special tribute of honour to her. She had been a big-hearted mother who extended her motherly love and care beyond her own son, Rufus to include Paul.

Even though her name is unknown yet her motherly love is unforgettable.

Her care, support and sacrifice must have made such an impact on Paul. And Paul acknowledged her for being a mother to him.

This is significant because much of what a mother does is behind the scene and often unrecognized by others.

Paul in his greeting to her is expressing his heartfelt thanks for her motherly love and care like cooking his favourite meal as any mother would for her son, cleaning the room, doing the laundry and perhaps even tenderly applying ointment to his bodily wounds sustained during his ministry from angry mobs.

Mother’s Day should remind us of such loving care and support of every mother vis-à-vis the countless prayers she said for us, the comfort and security she provided, the skills and manners she taught us, the faith and values she has imparted to us. We can never fully condense the contribution of every mother.

Mother's DayTo all mothers who showed love and care to their own families and especially those have been like a mother to a neighbour child, to the friend of your children, to a troubled kid on the block, to a special need niece or nephew, I wish you a Happy Mothers’ Day!

May your happiness come from knowing your contributions are never forgotten, just as the Spirit of God preserved this noteworthy greeting of the apostle Paul to the mother of Rufus.

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