Stroke Stokes Prayers

One very early morning, I received the terrible news that my church member Jenny had suffered a stroke.

Jenny was on a mission trip to Kapit, a small town in Sarawak in East Malaysia. It was towards the end of their trip when team members found her unconscious. The ambulance came. They suspected stroke. The small town hospital does not have the needed facility for this. She was quickly ferried on a two and a half hour ride down River Rajang to the nearest hospital in Sibu. They confirmed bleeding on the left side of her brain. Her siblings came and decided to airlift her to Singapore for the surgical operation. The aneurysm clipping was successful. But she remained in an unconscious state for nearly three weeks.

Stroke Stokes PrayersAll this time, the entire church was activated to pray for Jenny. There was no let up in prayers by members in small groups, in chat group and collectively as a congregation on Sundays.

I led the Church during service to pray thus:

O God our Father, hear our prayers. Show forth Your great mercy to our beloved sister Jenny – for her life, her hope and her strength and ours are all in Your hands. 

Grant her a safe and smooth evacuation to the hospital in Singapore. Let Your holy angel accompany her and minister to her. Give to the doctors and medical team great skills and wisdom.

Reveal O Lord, the wonder of Your grace, love and power. Preserve not only her life but also the quality of her life.  

By the Hand of Your healing grace, stop the bleeding in her brain, ease the pressure in her head, reduce the clot, repair the damaged tissues and nerves and restore the function of her speech and use of her limbs. 

We believe You will show forth Your good in this bad situation; and let the revelation of Your glory be marveled by us, especially her siblings. 

This we pray in simple faith and agreement through Jesus Christ, our Lord, our Savior, our Good Shepherd and our Great Physician. Amen.

The leadership of the church then decided to take a collection to help Jenny defray part of her accumulated medical bill.

Again we prayed:

Dear God our Father, we persist to pray for our beloved sister Jenny. We will keep praying until her health and strength returns. No matter what the medical prognosis may be, we want to believe with You nothing is impossible and all healing grace comes from you. 

Today as we take this collection for Jenny, let our giving comes from the bottom of our hearts that correspond to Your Word telling us, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Bless our giving. Let it demonstrate to the pre-believing siblings of Jenny, the love, care and support by the family of Christ in MCI. Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord says, “By this all will know we are your disciples if we love one another.”  

So be it – let this gift and all our prayers leave an indelible impression in the hearts of pre-believers whom Jenny had always sought to win. This we pray in faith in the name of Jesus Christ and for His glory. Amen.

The stroke Jenny suffered had stoked prayers in the entire Church.

And God heard the cries of His people. For since the beginning of this week, Jenny opened her eyes, gave us her brightest smile and raised her hands to praise the Lord.

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Bow Down or Chow Down

Recently at an Alpha meeting I was asked about the origin of saying grace before meals.

The short answer is this practice of saying grace or thanking God for the food before meal follows after the example of Jesus.

The Gospel of Matthew records for us two accounts of Jesus feeding the five thousand and the four thousand with only a small amount of food. In both accounts, Jesus gave thanks to God before the meal.

“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 14:19).

“Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people” (Matthew 15:36).

We read also in Luke 24:13-35 the two disciples on the road to Emmaus invited the resurrected Christ to stay and eat with them. And as before, the customary practice of Jesus was to give thanks before a meal.

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (Luke 24:30).

The apostle Paul too has this practice of giving thanks before a meal. In Acts 27 he was on board a ship with 276 people when they encountered a violent storm. After fourteen days of going without food, Paul encouraged the sailors and passengers to eat something. Even in the midst of that dangerous and terrifying situation, Paul maintained his customary practice of giving thanks to God before meal.

“After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat” (Acts 27:35).

Giving thanks to God before meals is a habit to remind us God is the source of every blessing.

For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Romans 11:36).  

“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).

Saying grace before meals acknowledges God is the Provider. He gives us our daily bread. The food we eat comes from Him, not the grocery store or our paycheck.

When we give thanks before a meal, we pause, look up with gratitude for the goodness of God who provided the meal, mindful of those who have not much to eat and those who could not enjoy eating because of their dental or health problems.

Saying grace cultivates in us a spirit of gratitude that thank God for His providential grace.

That should not be done in dry legalistic fashion. And certainly not as a sign of piety before people who may be watching us.

Whether you thank God quietly or aloud let it be a true expression of your thanks to God.

Let’s not be like an ungrateful child who takes the Father’s gifts for granted.

Make gratitude a regular part of your life.

Bow down or Chow downYou do that when you bow down before you chow down.

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Finally

FinallyLast night I gave a funeral homily for a dear friend who had battled with cancer.

There are three “finally” based on Scriptures we can look forward to.

  1. Finally Home with the Lord

Our beloved is finally home with the Lord.

“Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord “ (II Corinthians 5:8 NLT).

This world is not our home. Our home is not our HDB flat. Our home is not the freehold landed property. Our home is not our earthly address. Singapore is not our home. Heaven is. And I am not being unpatriotic. I am being realistic. I am simply repeating what our Lord Jesus tells us.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3 NKJV)

Our beloved brother is at last home, in that place our Lord has prepared for him. He is absent in body but he is finally home with the Lord.

  1. Finally no more sin, sickness, sorrow and suffering

Our beloved is finally in that wonderful place where there is no more sin, sickness, sorrow and suffering.

Revelation 21:4 tells us:

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Finally the sickness, sorrow and suffering we endure in this life are no more.

Finally the trembling of hands and the shuffling gait of our walk caused by Parkinson are no more.

Finally the lost of memory by the terrible onslaught of dementia are no more.

Finally all the questions we have of life – the “whys,” the “how come” and the great mystery of suffering and evil are all answered. Doubts cleared. Confusion vanished. And all our puzzling and troubling thoughts are no more.

What we see dimly we see clearly. What we know only in part, we now know in full.

“Now that which we see is as if we were looking in a broken mirror. But then we will see everything. Now I know only a part. But then I will know everything in a perfect way. That is how God knows me right now” (I Corinthians 13:12 NLV)

At last God will be seen in all His glory. No more the invisible God who prompts us ever so often by His Spirit.

Jesus is finally seen face to face. You don’t have to second-guess what He looks like. His face may even look entirely different form the paintings of some famous artists.

  1. Finally a Perfect Body fit for Heaven

I Corinthians 15:51-53 tells us:

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

We can look forward to that day when we finally will have a new imperishable, incorruptible and immortal body that is no longer subject to diseases, decay and deterioration.

As you stand and view the body of our departed, don’t look down with pity at the pathetic state of his emaciated body. Rather look up with the eyes of faith and see our beloved finally clothed in a new body fit for heaven.

That happens the moment we breathe our last.We will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.

We will see as our departed beloved is now seeing and rejoicing:

Finally … home with the Lord!

Finally … no more sin, sorrow, sickness and suffering!

Finally … a new perfect body fit for heaven!

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The Tie No Longer Binds

I counselled a couple whose marriage has broken down irretrievably. I felt really sad for them and their young children.

I have always believed, preached and upheld marriage as a lifelong commitment.

So did Lysa Terkeurst, President of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

She taught, encouraged and empowered women to fight for their marriages and do everything they can to save their marriages.

But recently she revealed she is divorcing her husband of 25 years.

With pain and sadness she shared: “… for the past couple of years I have been in the hardest battle of my life trying to save my marriage … “My husband, life partner and father of my children has been repeatedly unfaithful to me with a woman he met online … his life has sadly been defined by his affection for this other woman and substance abuse … I have decided to separate from him … I have done all I can do and I must release him to the Savoir.”

Divorce conceptI could imagine how tough and heartbroken it was for her to end the marriage she strongly believes is a sacred tie.

It begs a sobering question, “At what point the tie no longer binds?”

I believe there are three ”A” indicative of a marriage that has died.

1.Abandonment

The Bible is clear about abandonment or desertion in marriage.

“If the one who is not a Christian wants to leave, let that one go. The Christian husband or wife should not try to make the other one stay. God wants you to live in peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15 NCV).

To be clear, this does not mean storming out of the house for a while. Though it is not good nor healthy yet it does not constitute abandonment. Abandonment is leaving for a long period of time.

Perpetually walking out of the house in heated arguments has a way of killing the marriage. It can reach a point when it might be hard to resuscitate the dead marriage.

  1. Adultery

The Bible is also clear about another ground for ending a marriage.

“The only reason for a man to divorce his wife is if she has sexual relations with another man” (Matthew 5:32 NCV).

Adultery has killed many marriages. Infidelity destroys the sacred covenant of marriage.

However let me also say there’s hope in some cases when a single act of adultery was followed by true remorse and genuine repentance. The scars may still remain yet forgiveness can heal and save the broken marriage.

But a habitual pattern of unfaithfulness can kill a marriage as in the case of Lysa Terkeurst.

  1. Abuse

 Spousal abuse and family violence have hurt and destroyed many marriages.

All brutal beating by an abusive spouse, be it physical, emotional or verbal is wrong in the sight of God.

No marriage can survive or should endure such abusive battering.

There can be no justification for abuse. Spousal abuse is wrong, sinful and evil. The scriptural teaching of submission is always to a loving spouse and not to an abusive one.

The safety and sanity of the abused victim have to be protected. In such circumstances, the only option may be to end the marriage.

My heart goes out to those who held on to hope and fought so hard to keep their marriage.

But there might come a time to let go and accept the tie no longer binds.

 

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Deliver Us from Devices

Smart phones and touch screen tablets are devices that have become a part of our lives today.

Deliver us from devicesTheir availability, affordability and portability have made them ubiquitous. We use them everyday. We carry them with us wherever we go. They have become our preferred mode of communication and transaction.

I have no doubt such devices are useful tools. They do make living today more convenient, productive and efficient.

However even though these devices are useful yet they can be harmful. An unbridled use of them can lead to devastating consequences.

Let me just name a few of these harmful and lasting effects.

Clinical research by Dr. Aric Sigman reveals children who are introduced at an early age to such devices suffer permanent damage to their still-developing brains.

Their abilities to focus, concentrate, sense other people’s attitudes, communicate and develop vocabulary are stunned when they spend too much time hooked on to the screen of the tablet or smart phone.

A story read by a mother to her child is vastly different from a story told to her on a tablet or smart phone.

When devices do all the thinking for the young child by spoon feeding images, pictures and words, the young reader does not need to take the effort to process a mother’s voice into words, visualize images, focus and concentrate on following the story. The unintended result is that the young child becomes lazy and her learning ability is impeded.

Come to think of it, smart phone does not produce smart kids.

Another researcher, Yalda Uhls commented that young adults who immersed extensively on to their digital devices are losing their ability to understand the emotions of other people.

You can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues such as facial expression or tone of voice from the screen of these devices.

With less and less face-to-face interaction, these young adults may not develop that important social skill needed in the real world relationship.

Even more insidious is many young and even older adults got so used to the pleasurable stimuli of their device where every swipe or touch of their finger brings quick response and immediate effect. Such feeling of immediate gratification and pleasure is not unlike drugs or alcohol. It triggers a feeling of pleasure in the neurotransmitter of the brain. Such stimuli are highly addictive, which explains why so many find it hard to tear away from their devices.

Now I am not demonizing such devices. Neither am I suggesting the abolition of usage of such devices.

Rather I am drawing attention to the potential danger and harm that these devices can bring into our lives.

These devices are like fire, which has its good and usefulness yet when they are not managed well or used carefully can have harmful and destructive results.

Remember the words of Jesus: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Translated. Modern devices are meant to serve us. We must not become their slaves.

“I am allowed to do all things, but not everything is good for me to do! Even if I am free to do all things, I will not do them if I think it would be hard for me to stop when I know I should” (I Corinthians 6:12).

 Deliver us from the “dangers” of devices!

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Don’t Miss It!

A fishing buddy invited me to go fish in the river at Desaru.

Usually we fish out in the open sea. But river fishing is something I always wanted to do for the longest time.

The day started out with moderate rain. The river was bit swollen with floating debris of fallen leaves and branches on the even flowing brownish water.

There was no need for sun tan lotion as the sky was cloudy and overcast even at noon. We were fishing in a fully air condition environment. The wind brought by our moving boat gave me a chill. I have never experienced such cool weather in all my fishing trips. Usually it was hot and sweaty.

Strangely there was hardly any bite on our lines. But surprisingly the surroundingDon't Miss It scenery was quite a sight.

Large shrubs, thick vegetation and mangrove trees lined both sides of the river. Buttress roots stick out of the water like straws. I was told that at night those bushes on the river edge lit up like Christmas trees because the entire stretch of river is swarmed with fireflies.

I seldom had been to such a natural environment unspoiled by urban development. I told my friend that I felt like I was in one of Robson Green Extreme Fishing episodes along the Amazon River.

We caught no fish. We didn’t mind at all. The place and the sight of the surrounding made up for it. We were happy and so was the boatman who was trying so hard to find us fish.

It turned out to be my most relaxing fishing trip.

As I reflected I realized that quite often we focus so intently on achieving our goal at hand that we miss the good of the surrounding we are in.

We miss the flowers blooming for us on the sidewalk. We miss the chirping sounds of birds and cricket doing a concert for us. We miss the fleeting grandeur of the rainbow, the beauty of a glorious sunset and the breathtaking constellation of a clear night sky.

David the shepherd boy did not simply focused on his task of looking after sheep that he was oblivious to his surrounding. In fact he was so awed by the beauty of God’s creation that he wrote several Psalms about it.

Psalm 8:3-4When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that You are mindful of them, human beings that You care for them?”

Psalm 19:1The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky proclaim the work of His hands.”

Psalm 95:4-5In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.”

Psalm 147:8He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.” 

Next time you go fish, don’t keep looking down at what you can catch. Look around you. Drink in the beauty of God’s creation. Don’t miss it!

Be enthralled. Be stunned. And proclaim:

“How many are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number – living things both large and small” (Psalm 104:24-25).

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Deepening Disappointment

No one is ever spared from disappointments.

Ever caught yourself saying:

  • I had hopes I would stay on my job …
  • I had hopes so-and-so would have won  …
  • I had hopes my loved one would get better …
  • I had hopes our marriage would work …
  • I had hopes …

Such is the pain of disappointment.Deepening disappointment

Disappointment is a composition of “dis’ and “appointment.” Often when we are “dis,” separated or torn apart from an expected “appointment” or outcome, we feel the pain and anguish of disappointment.

I read somewhere that disappointment is like a wedge resting on our spirits.

The tip of the wedge may seem so harmless. Yet if this wedge of disappointment remains unchecked it can penetrate deeper into our spirits until we are utterly defeated.

If we allow our disappointment to rankle, the wedge is driven in a little farther and we experience discouragement. We feel resigned. “What’s the point of trying so hard? I feel like giving up.”

If left unchecked, the wedge goes deeper and discouragement becomes disillusionment. We feel cynical. “I can never trust people nor God anymore.”

If the wedge sinks farther, the disillusionment proceeds to despair. We feel hopeless. “I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

As that wedge invades deeper still, despair turns to depression. We feel depressed. “I don’t wish to talk nor see anyone. Just leave me alone.”

Finally, we end in defeat. We feel defeated. “God, why don’t you just take my life?”

And that was exactly how the prophet Elijah felt. He had hopes to see a mighty revival after the display of God’s power at Mount Carmel. Instead the outcome was a price on his head. Elijah was so disappointed that he asked God to take his life.

The Bible is full of disappointed people. People like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth. They had hopes that God will give them a child. They waited for a very long time. How disappointed they must be to see the unchanged reality of their barren wombs.

Job had hopes that his friends would afford him some comfort and support during his horrific suffering. But he was so disappointed with his friends by the counsel they gave him.

Joseph expects to marry a faithful virgin wife. Imagine the disappointment in Joseph’s heart when he found Mary pregnant.

None of us can avoid disappointments in life. But none of us have to let disappointments drag us down to defeat.

In my recent bout of disappointment, I found myself affirming over and over, “God is sovereign. All things work for good.”

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Interestingly, all the disappointed people in the Bible whom I have mentioned earlier saw the “good.” Only the disappointed understand in greater depth the truth of Romans 8:28.

God does not shield His people from disappointments. Perhaps He wants us to trust in His goodness. But for sure He wants to mould our character.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT).

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