Rethinking the Way We Do Church

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COVID-19 has turned the way the church functions upside-down. To reduce the virus spread, many church buildings are closed and have shifted to online services. Is this a good thing or not? Can we truly worship God when we can’t gather together in the usual manner? Are online services much worse than actual services? Should we just bide the time till we can gather together?

I believe this passage speaks to this very issue.

The Israelites returned from exile to their homeland which was destroyed by the Babylonians. The first thing they wanted to do was to rebuild the temple so they can resume their worship service to God. We read at the start:

In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose.

Ezra 3:1

They had a “unified purpose” which was to rebuild the temple. Even though they had fear of the inhabitants around them, they bravely carried on the rebuilding process. They teach us that we must bravely rebuild the church service even it is online or some other vehicle. Moaning and complaining about the current situation will not help. Taking action does.

When the temple foundation was laid, there was a great celebration! I want to focus on these few verses:

…Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.

But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.

Ezra 3:11b-13

This is a fascinating account. Some were celebrating while others were weeping! How could this be? We are told that some of the older priests who had seen the glory of the previous temple before it was destroyed wept at the sight of the new temple. They knew it could never compare to King Solomon’s temple. Of course it couldn’t! They held on to the past glory and it stopped them from truly worshiping at that moment.

However, the younger people were celebrating because they never experienced worship in a temple before since they were born during the exile. They embraced the new experience.

Even the prophet Zechariah was sent to remind the Israelites not to despise the new temple though it might have been less glorious. We read:

Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Zechariah 4:8-10

I love that phrase – Do not despise these small beginnings! Why? Because the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. This has serious implications for us today.

With the spread of Covid-19 in our world, many churches are closed and forced to conduct online services. It is a whole new digital landscape for church goers. Just like the Israelites, some mourn the loss of worshiping in a physical church building. Others celebrate the opportunity to worship in whatever manner it may be.

It will never compare to the previous way that church has be run. But the main thing is to focus on the fact that we’re still worshiping God! No one can take away our ability to worship Him. The vehicle of worship may be Zoom, YouTube or Church Online but it doesn’t matter – as long as we worship God in Spirit and in truth. Don’t despise these small beginnings!

You can either be a complainer or a worshiper. You can’t be both at the same time. Don’t let the past determine your present. Face reality head-on. The situation has evolved and we need to adapt. Keep on worshiping God no matter what the situation or method it may be. God rejoices when we worship Him.

Sermon: Gluttony

woman eating sandwich
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Can anyone name the 7 sins? Pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, greed, lust. 

These 7 deadly sins appeared in the 6th century by the Roman catholic church and have carried on in Christianity throughout the ages. Though it is not explicitly written in the Bible, it does serve as a way to categorize the many different sins that exist. Nearly every sin could be placed in one of those seven categories. If you notice, these 7 deadly sins are inner attitudes of the heart. These attitudes lead to outward sins. Anger leads to tearing someone down, or worse murder. Just because I’m not killing someone doesn’t mean I’m not angry. Stealing is motivated by greed. Pride leads to boastful words. You can’t see what’s happening inside someone else. That’s why it’s so important to change from the inside-out. Remember Jesus’ “sermon on the mount”? He addressed all the inner attitudes of the heart. God wants to do some major corrective heart surgery to change us from the inside-out. 

Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial observed by some Christian denominations. It’s a realignment, reorientation to God. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. During Lent, participants choose to forego something. It can be eating less or giving up a particular food or habit. Some people give up smoking, or cut off watching television or eating candy or talking less. It’s six weeks of self-discipline. The key is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. For me I gave up social media (Facebook, Instagram) in order to focus on God more.

To set the tone for the sermon series, let me begin with a definition. What is sin?

1. Talking about Sin

Sin is rebelling against God’s laws. It began when Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating the fruit that they were not supposed to eat. Because of their sin, all humans since then are born with a sin nature. The moment we’re born, we tend towards sin. We are born rebels. Sin is telling God, “God I know what you want, but I care more about what I want.” 

One of the main translations for the word sin is “missing the mark.” It is like an archer missing the bullseye target. Or it’s like a soldier shooting a rifle and missing the target. The target is God’s perfect laws. And no matter how hard we try, we can never hit the mark. God is holy and we are not. Sin can be something we should do but don’t do (loving people), or something we shouldn’t do but we do (hurting people).

But God in his grace, sent us his son Jesus Christ, the only one who had no sin, to die on the cross for us. There is no sin that Jesus cannot forgive. When we place our trust in Jesus, we have our sins wiped cleaned and we start a new life.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

That’s the only way we can change from the inside-out. It’s not about working harder to stop sinning. It’s about asking Jesus to live in us, to transform us, to die to ourselves daily and to follow God’s ways. Now that I’ve laid the foundation of what sin is, I’m going to zero in on one sin – gluttony.

2. Gluttony Defined

Gluttony was considered a sin during early church history but hardly seen as a sin today. We say that taking drugs or smoking is bad. But gluttony? What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with enjoying life?

Just look at all the church events! Got so much food for breakfast, Alpha, weddings etc. What’s wrong with that? Is it really a sin? So why did the church view gluttony as a sin? 

When you study the Bible, it doesn’t say a lot about gluttony. Most of it comes from the book of Proverbs. 

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.

Proverbs 23:1-2

Pretty gruesome right? The expression “put a knife to your throat” is an idiom that means “curb your appetite” or “control yourself”. He’s just stating that gluttony shows that you have no self-control and discipline. Let’s look at another verse in the same chapter.

Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

Proverbs 23:20-21

This phrase “gluttonous” literally means to “make light of eating large quantities”, “to be lavish with; to squander,” especially with regard to food. So it describes “gluttons” primarily, but there is also room for the person who wastes a lot of food as well. Gluttony will cause you to become poor as you’re spending a lot of money or lazing about. Isn’t that true? I’ve spent a lot more money than I really should have. Another verse.

The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.

Proverbs 28:7

So gluttony is viewed negatively in the Bible and has disastrous effects on our health, wallet, reputation and family.

The Anglican book of Homilies also states: 

“Let us therefore, good people… love sobriety and moderate diet, often give ourselves to abstinency and fasting, whereby the mind of man is more lift up to GOD, more ready to all godly exercises, as prayer, hearing and reading of God’s word, to his spiritual comfort.”

(Anglican Homily on Gluttony and Drunkenness, 1632)

But you may be thinking “I don’t overeat!” Before you think that you’re not a glutton, think again. 

Gluttony is not just about food. It applies to any situation where you’re consuming more than you need. It can be binge watching a whole season of a drama on Netflix at one sitting. It can be buying more clothes online than you need. It can be gaming nonstop for hours. Even studies can be excessive (I mean if you enjoy it)! If you look at all these stuff, none of it is bad in of itself. Taken in the right amount, it’s good. But when we consume it excessively, it becomes bad and our enjoyment of it lessens.

There are several aspects of gluttony that we need to explore to get a better grasp. I learnt this from a video by Ascension Presents and found it really useful. I’ll talk about 2 aspects.

Two aspects of gluttony 

(A) Quantity – I want a lot!

This is the most obvious aspect of gluttony. Quantity. More and more of something. Though it may be good, it lessens our ability to enjoy it. I have been to buffets where I gorge myself on food, especially high value ones like seafood, meat just to make my money worth it. But what’s not worth are the bloated feelings, weight gain and sometimes even vomiting. Our satisfaction reaches a certain point where any further consumption doesn’t increase our enjoyment of it. In fact, it decreases. There are people who have died from playing computer games. Are you consuming more than you actually need? God created us to enjoy life in the right amounts.  

(B) Quality – I want this type!

Another aspect of gluttony is not so obvious. It’s Quality. Author CS Lewis calls this the “Gluttony of delicacy”. In his book “Screwtape letters”, it talks about a fictional conversation between an older demon (Screwtape) teaching a younger demon how to turn Christians away from the faith. One of which is the gluttony of delicacy. Screwtape tells how a lady has fallen into this trap. Let’s read and see if you can identify someone who has this: 

She is always turning from what has been offered her to say with a demure little sigh and a smile “Oh please, please… all I want is a cup of tea, weak but not too weak, and the teeniest weeniest bit of really crisp toast”. You see? Because what she wants is smaller and less costly than what has been set before her, she never recognises as gluttony her determination to get what she wants, however troublesome it may be to others. …The woman is in what may be called the “All-I-want” state of mind. All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted.

Isn’t that interesting? Sounds just like a picky person doesn’t it? I only want stuff in a certain way. My eggs have to be perfect half-boiled or I won’t eat it. I only buy shoes from Vans or Adidas. I only eat at the restaurant, not at the market. I don’t eat vegetables. I only want the latest iPhone, don’t talk to me about Oppo. I only want Hermes, Prada or BAPE. This desire for a certain quality is gluttony of delicacy. You only want a certain type that suits your liking even though it may trouble other people. I’m talking about preferences not health reasons. If you went on a mission trip overseas and you prefer not to eat something because it doesn’t suit your taste buds, causing the locals to scramble to get food for you – that’s the gluttony of delicacy. 

That’s the two aspects of gluttony – quantity and quality.

But you may be asking me, “Seth, why should I bother at all?”

Why gluttony is a sin

I have a friend in Bible School who was severely overweight. Huge guy. Has difficulty walking, breathing but still keeps on eating and snacking at night. Weight is a sensitive topic so we just leave him be. He’s very unhealthy but people think he’s quite cute and cuddly like a teddy bear. Just last month, I heard he had a heart attack and had died. And this was even before he graduated from Bible school. Before he had even started serving God. Is gluttony a sin? Even if it’s not, it isn’t a wise thing. Especially when it affects your life and service to God. 

There’s a book I read recently called “Every Body Matters”. I wrote a review it HERE. Author Gary Thomas quotes these verses:

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

He believes that being physically fit equips us to be used better by God to fulfill His mission on earth. 

The bible says:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

That’s why we need to take care of our bodies because (1) God lives within us, (2) we are bought with a price – Jesus’ death. Therefore, honour God with our bodies. Your body is the temple of God. God comes to live in you when you trust in him! Like my friend who died, I know of pastors who were severely unhealthy and it reduced their service to the Lord. They found it hard to move around and became tired easily, thus making them lazy. We must be good stewards of the body that God has given us for his glory. A missionary may need to be physically fit to survive rough living conditions. I wonder how many Christians God could not call because they were just not physically fit enough to do it.

Another insight from the book is that physical fitness can affect spiritual fitness. Often those who are undisciplined in their lives and give in to gluttony are also undisciplined in their spiritual lives. Hard work in keeping ourselves fit gives us added energy to do the important spiritual disciplines. That’s why fasting is both a physical and spiritual act.

Fasting combats gluttony. Fasting requires self-control. Fasting trains our ability to say NO. This season of Lent, try fasting from one thing in your life. It can be fasting from Netflix, chocolates, social media, a meal. It should be something that gives you a tinge of pain when you fast from it. Fasting from homework doesn’t count! I fasted from social media one of the years and it changed my perspective. I began to see how my habits were taking so much of my time and making me feel worse about myself. And when you fast, you must replace the time with drawing closer to God. If I just skip my lunch, that’s not fasting. If I just stop checking social media, that’s not fasting. We need to give up some activity and replace it with God. For example, if I fast from checking Facebook, I have to replace the time with Bible reading and prayer. If I fast from lunch, I should be spending my lunch time praying or studying the Bible. Fasting should cause us to draw closer to God.

Your body matters to God. Your body belongs to God.

Ultimately, gluttony is seeking happiness in something other than God. You think that dish, that shirt, that game, that gadget will make you happy. But it won’t. True happiness is only found in God. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

What’s the condition of your heart today? Are you satisfied in God? Or are you finding satisfaction in other things? When we are satisfied with God, then can we begin to be set free from this sin of gluttony. Your desires need to be changed from the inside out. Will you let God deal with your heart? 

True happiness is found in God and by putting our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s not found in the clothes we wear, in the delicacies we eat or the holidays we go to. It’s found in God. If you’d like to receive Jesus as your Savior and experience this true happiness, pray this prayer after me: 

“Dear God, I’m sorry for my sins. (if gluttony is a sin tell God) Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins and rising from the dead. Please come into my life and forgive my sins. I make you my lord and Saviour. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me pray for all of you. 

“Dear God, thank you for teaching us about the sin of gluttony. It’s a sin that’s not spoken about much but one that is so important today. Lord, help me to be changed from the inside-out, to be satisfied with you, the source of all enjoyment and happiness. Break us from any bad habits we may have to help us take care of our bodies and health better. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”

 

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you think gluttony is a sin? Why or why not?
  2. Is there ONE change you could do to steward your body and health better?
  3. Are there any changes you would like to make this Season of Lent? Decide on ONE thing you would like to give up in order to focus on God more.

Sermon: Better Together

Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

1 Cor 12:12-21

28 Jan 1986 was the 10th launch of the space shuttle Challenger. And 73 secs into the launch it went horribly wrong, exploding and killing all 7 people on board. Why did it fail? It was due to just ONE small part in the rocket booster – an O-ring. They hadn’t tested it properly at the right temperature (it was very cold the night before) and it disintegrated upon launching, causing the exhaust to leak out and rupture the fuel tank, causing a huge explosion. Just one O-ring malfunctioning can destroy the whole space shuttle. Today I’m speaking about serving together, working together for God. Just like the Challenger disaster, each one of us plays an important role. And when we fail to do our part, just like an O-ring, no matter how insignificant you think it is, it affects the whole body of Christ. 

I would like to pull out some reflections from the passage today in this sermon titled “Better Together”. 

1. Christ is the Head

Firstly, Christ is the Head (v12)

Just like a normal human body, the head contains the brain which is the command center that controls the rest of the body. The rest of the body takes instructions from the head. So what does it mean that Jesus is the head? It means that we only can properly relate to one another when we are properly related to Christ. Conflict in the youth group or church between one another is often a symptom of not having a right relationship with Jesus. The root, the basis of serving must be because we belong to Jesus first. How’s your relationship with Jesus today? Or to take a step back, are you related to Christ the head? Are you part of the body of Christ? Or do you need to receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? 

Now, Paul argues against two wrong viewpoints that the Corinthian Christians were preventing them from being “Better Together” in the church. These two views are still prevalent today. Maybe you feel that way too. And if you don’t deal with these faulty attitudes, it will affect the body of Christ.  

2a. Wrong Viewpoint #1: “I don’t belong here.”

The first wrong viewpoint is “I don’t belong here.” (v15-18)

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Some people didn’t want to serve because they felt so useless. Like they have nothing to offer. It’s an “I can’t do anything” mentality that causes them to just come for church service and then leave. They don’t serve because they don’t feel that they’re good enough. There’s good news! Paul says God has a role for you! He created you in a certain way with certain giftings for a certain purpose. Everyone has a gift to offer. In church, everyone has a role to play. We need you. You do belong here. Because when you find out your gifts and offer it in service, we will be Better Together. If you need to find out your spiritual gifts, there’s questionnaires that I will send to the Cell leaders to work it through with you. I promise you, God has given you a gift that he’s just waiting for you to exercise in faith. And when gifts are exercised, they grow just like working out your muscles at a gym. 

If the first viewpoint concerns having an overly low self esteem, the second viewpoint concerns having an overly high self esteem. It’s an “I don’t need you” attitude.

2b. Wrong viewpoint #2: “I Don’t Need You”

The second wrong viewpoint is “I don’t need you” (v21) 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”

This speaks of pride. It’s the “I can do everything” mentality. It’s the guy who gets the ball and never passes. Paul says that it’s ridiculous to compare different parts of the body when they have different functions. An eye is to see while a hand is write or grab or hold things. We all have different roles just as God has made you and me. We are all unique individuals whom God has specially designed. What would happen in church if we started comparing like this? What if worship says “I don’t need the Music and AV”. What if the ushers say “I don’t need the Admin.” It would be chaos! Church will not survive. We are Better Together.

I must admit that certain roles in church are less prominent (admin or logistics compared to worship) but prominence is not equal to importance. Learn to appreciate each other’s differences and to work together. We are Better Together.

Let’s pray. 

“Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for creating each one of us so special and so different. We thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve in the body of Christ. Help us to have the right attitudes as we serve you and one another. Help us to recognise the gifts you have given us and to exercise them faithfully. Help us not to be proud of ourselves but to embrace others in humility. In Jesus’ name AMEN.”

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Are you likely to feel “I don’t belong here” or “I don’t need you”? How can you change this attitude?

2. If you are not sure of your spiritual gifts, you can find out by doing these online tests. 

https://mintools.com/spiritual-gifts-test.htm (shorter)

https://www.freeshapetest.com/ (longer more complete)

Sermon: Lust

From Unsplash

Today I’m talking about one of the 7 Deadly Sins – Lust.

First let me define Lust. There’s a sense of the word meaning a strong desire for something or someone – lust for power, lust for bubbletea. But I’ll keep to the definition of lust as “strong sexual desire for someone”. Lust is different from Love – Lust is about pleasing yourself without considering the consequences, Love is about pleasing others.

We’ll be looking in the Bible at a character. Let me give you a clue – the strongest man but weak against women? Guess who? Samson.  

Let’s begin with a prayer: 

“Dear God, open our minds and heart to listen to what you are saying to each one of us. Convict us of things that we have not done right and help us live a life that honours you. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”

It was the time of the Judges. Israel didn’t have a king yet and they were ruled by mighty leaders such as Ehud, Gideon, Deborah. It was a cycle of sin, punishment and God’s rescue by sending a Judge to save them from oppression. It’s not so much a cycle but a downward spiral, Israel gets increasingly worse and so do its judges. We come to one of the worst Judges near the end of the book.

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

Judges 13:1

Israel had sinned again, turning to false Gods and God in order to bring them back to him, allowed the Philistines to oppress them for 40 years. But God in his mercy, sent a Judge to save them. 

So God sent an angel to give special news to a married couple that they would bear a son that would deliver them from oppression. We read: 

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 13:2-5

Samson was a special child. Especially since God had to send an angel to announce it. We see this special announcement in the case of Isaac, Samuel and also Jesus.

We read in verse 5 that Samson was a Nazarite from the womb. What’s a Nazarite? It was someone who wanted to dedicate a set amount of time to serve God for a season. And the conditions for this Nazarite vow was that the person had to keep long hair, no wine, no touching the dead. But Samson was to be set apart for his whole life! By the way, Jesus was not a Nazarite – he’s a Nazarene, living in the city of Nazareth. Don’t confuse this. 

So the angel told the couple to name their son Samson which means “sunny”. And verse 24 says that God blessed him.

Samson had a lot of good things going for him. He had a special birth and calling over his life. God gave him incredible strength to defeat the Philistines but he failed in many ways – the sin of lust. He was strong among men but weak among women. 

Fast forward many years later when we meet Samson again. What is the first thing that we find him doing? Let’s keep reading.  

Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” 4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

Judges 14:1-4

The first thing we read about Samson was him finding a wife for himself. And it stemmed from his lustfulness.

Firstly, lust feeds on our desires.

1. Lust feeds on our Sinful DESIRES

Samson “saw” a pretty lady and liked her. It doesn’t say like he knew her or anything. He just window shopping and decided to get it for himself. He just saw, liked her and he told his parents to get her as his wife. 

His parents of course were very concerned with his impulse decision. So they argued can’t you get a wife from our own race or hometown? It’s ok to marry but why go and choose someone from the enemy Philistines? People who worship a different god. 

Let me bring it to the modern context. I’m not saying that you cannot marry someone of a different race. I’m saying that marrying a Philistine is like marrying a non-Christian who doesn’t share the same religious views or faith as you do. It will never work. God will never bless a relationship where one party is an unbeliever. I’m saying this to protect you. But when emotions and desires get the better of you, turn back to the Word of God. God isn’t giving you senseless rules but these rules are to protect you and help you live the best life possible.

I’ve met friends who chose to date or marry a non-Christian and almost always, the Christian stops going to church or goes alone without the spouse. Why? Because you don’t share the same foundational values. It will not work. It’s easier to drag someone down than to pull someone up. Unbelievers will pull you down to their level. I want to save you that heartbreak. 

Secondly, lust feeds on our feelings

2. Lust feeds on our FEELINGS

Even after Samson’s parents warned him not to choose the Philistine girl as his wife, Samson refused to listen. He said in v3 “get her for me, she’s right in my eyes”. Samson was a person who was so filled with lust that he made decisions based on his feelings. He even justified that it’s ok. Haven’t we done that before? We justify our lustfulness as something that feels so right. If it feels right, then it must be right. Right? Wrong! Our feelings are not trustworthy. We need to refer to the Word of God as our standard of truth. 

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

And also we read…

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Maybe you are lusting after someone where it is a relationship you know is not God’s will for you. Or watching some pornography or reading some erotic fiction, don’t rationalise that it’s ok. “It’s just a short video. No one will know. I can convert that person to Christianity.” The only person you’re fooling is yourself. Don’t go by your feelings because our hearts are all wicked. We can always find an excuse to give in to our lusts. 

I want to say something about pornography. During this Covid-19 crisis, we’re all at home and we will use our mobile devices more. We become bored and seek entertainment and pleasure. Some of us will naturally turn to Pornography. In fact, in Italy, one major porn site is open for free so that people will stay home more. It’s a ridiculous solution. There are many dangers of watching porn. When we watch porn, scientists have shown that our brain wirings are being changed. We are adversely affected and cannot relate properly to the other gender. We begin to objectify them and treat them as someone to be used. That’s totally wrong and devalues God’s creations. Another thing – when you watch porn, you’re fuelling the economy of the sex industry and sex trafficking. Understand that when the more you watch, more will be provided. Law of demand and supply. That’s someone’s sister, daughter, mother or son who’s being forced to film such degrading videos for someone else’s pleasure. Think about that the next time you may be tempted to give in to your lusts.

Samson was a person who couldn’t control his lusts and gave in time and time again to women. Later on in the story, he fell in love with another Philistine woman named Delilah who became his downfall. She kept on nagging him day after day to find the secret of his strength. 

That’s why it’s so important to date and marry the right Christian person that God wants to give you. This person will be one who shares the same values and will support you rather than manipulate you and stab you in the back! Often, many people could not fulfill God’s plans for their lives because they gave in to their lusts. The devil is smart. If he can’t beat you, he’ll distract you and make you wallow in sin and guilt. I don’t want that to be the same for you! I want you to live a life of purity and to do what God has planned for your life.

We’ve looked at Samson’s life in brief and I’ll like to share 3 thoughts to combating this sin of lust. 

1. God will provide you a way out

There’s a powerful verse in the Bible that I want to refer you to.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Your temptation is nothing unique to you. The whole human race has faced that lustfulness. But thank God, He is faithful and will not give us a temptation beyond what you can bear. This means that you can beat any temptation that comes your way. You can’t say, “That was beyond me, I had no choice”. When the temptation comes, remember that God will never give you something you can’t defeat. Tell God to show you the way out of the temptation and he will do it. Commit this verse to memory.

2. Have Accountability Partners

As I said earlier, we have more time on our hands now and we need Christians brothers and sisters to stand alongside us. Samson was a loner and he could have done better with good friends. One of the greatest tools to combat darkness is to bring it to the light. We confess our struggles to a few trusted people and we journey together to beat it. Look for your Cell leader, Pastor, Christian friends or even your parents. When you’re tempted, call them for prayer. Give them permission to call you regularly to check in on your Internet usage, whether you’ve given in to your lusts. It may mean asking for forgiveness before God and to pray and to put plans in place to succeed the next time the temptation comes around. Install software to block bad websites on your phone or computer. Give your parents the right to set parental controls. Will you be serious about sin?

3. You Need Jesus’ Help

This won’t make sense at all if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus. We cannot win in our own strength. The power of sin is too strong. But Jesus came to this earth, lived a sinless life of purity, died on the cross for our sins. As believers in Jesus, he gives us the power to reject sin in our lives. He changes us from the inside out. He gives us new desires, a new heart to do what is right. If you’ve never accepted Jesus before, I’ll like to invite you to pray a simple prayer after me. 

“Dear Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. Sorry for the times when I’ve done wrong. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me and rising to life again. Thank you that you’ve broken the power of sin and death. Please come into my life as my saviour and Lord. In Jesus name I pray, AMEN.”

Let me pray for you.

“Dear God, thank you for reminding us from Samson’s life about the sin of lust. We admit that we’ve failed in this area many times. Lord help us to take actions to deal with this sin, whether it be finding accountability partners to walk with. Thank you that Jesus gives us the strength to beat the sin of lust and other temptations. In Jesus name, AMEN.”

Reflection questions:

1. How often do we see lust in the media today (movies, books, drama, advertisements, websites)? How has it influenced you?

2. What is ONE step you can take to address this issue of lust?

The Wisest Man who made the Worst Mistake

Though King Solomon was the wisest man on earth, he made worst mistake regarding his wives. He disobeyed God’s command not to intermarry with foreign women of other faiths. God warned that they would turn his heart away from the true God. We read the sad epilogue to Solomon’s life:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.

1 Kings 11:1-3

It is interesting to note that God put it very strongly that marrying those of another faith will cause you to turn away from God. God never asks a believer to marry an unbeliever to turn her to God. Then you may ask, “What about Rahab and Ruth, foreign women who married Israelites?” Good question. From the Bible account, we know that these two women though non-Israelites, believed in the God of Israel before their marriage. Rahab believed in Israel’s god and thus hid the two spies. Ruth believed in Naomi’s god and chose to live with her. And both were blessed to be ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, we know that God is not against marriage between people who believe in Yahweh.

This has strong implications for us today. As believers we are not to date or marry an unbeliever as they will turn our hearts away from God. Do not be unqually yoked! I know many Christians who backslided or left the faith due to their unbelieving partner. It’s easier to pull someone down than to pull them up. When you look at the pretty girl or hot guy, remember that they are still under Satan’s grasp. They must be saved from the clutches of the Devil before you can even consider marrying them. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Let us look at the effects it had on Solomon’s life after all these marriages.

God raised up enemies immediately as we read from verses 14 to 40. God raised up Hadad the Edomite and Rezon (external threats) and Jeroboam (internal threat). Thus, Solomon paid for his sin when he disobeyed the Lord’s command not to marry wives who worshipped other gods. He knew it was wrong but chose to continue. Despite all the enemies that were raised, Solomon refused to repent of his evil ways till the end of his life. It eventually led the nation to experience a gigantic rift into the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

We must take heed of Solomon’s mistake of marrying someone from another faith. If you happen to be converted to Christianity after you are already married, live a life of godliness so as to influence your spouse to believe in God. All is not lost! Peter wrote to wives about this amazing truth:

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

1 Peter 3:1-2

But if you are not yet married, don’t let Solomon’s mistake become yours. Choose to honour God in your relationships and He will honour you. If you are currently in a relationship with an unbeliever, tell your boyfriend or girlfriend about who God is and how important He is to you. Give them the option to truly believe in Jesus for salvation. If they choose not to believe in God, you must break up the relationship and not let it carry on towards marriage. This will prevent further pain and heartache.

Book Summary: 25 Ways To Win With People

25 Ways to Win with People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million ...25 Ways to Win With People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks

(John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott 2005)

1. Start with yourself

  • Recognise, accept and increase your value

2. Practise the 30-second rule

  • When you make contact with people, instead of focusing on yourself, search for ways to make them look good. (thank them for something they’ve done, praise a quality or appearance)
  • Give them attention, affirmation, appreciation in the first 30 seconds. This gives people energy and you become an energy carrier. It also instills motivation to do what should be done.
  • Those who adds to us, draw us to them. Those who subtract, cause us to withdraw.

3. Let people know you need them

  • Ask others for help! Let them know that you cannot win without them.
  • People need to be needed. People need to know they need people. People need to know they are needed. People need to know that they helped.

4. Create a memory and visit it often

  • Few things bond people together like a shared memory. Many can be proactively created.
  • Initiative – make something happen, be intentional
  • Time – set aside time to make something happen
  • Planning – plan for something to happen, lead your lives
  • Creativity – find a way to make something happen
  • Shared experiences – make something happen together
  • Mementos – show that something happened (photo, souvenir)
  • Relive the memory – talk about it

5. Compliment people in front of other people

  • Private compliment turned public instantly and dramatically increases in value
  • People want to feel worthwhile in life
  • Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from his neck “Make Me Feel Important!”
  • Compliments increase in value when we value the person who gives them
  • Compliments affirm people and make them strong
  • Compliments in front of others are the most effective ones you can give

6. Give others a reputation to uphold

  • Ask “What is special, unique and wonderful about this person?” Share it.
  • People will go further than they thought they could when someone they respect tells them they can.
  • Have a high opinion of people. They perform as you expect it.
  • Back up your high opinion of others with action.
  • Look past their pasts and give them reputations for their futures.
  • Give people a new name or nickname that speaks to their potential.

7. Say the right words at the right time

  • Sometimes the best thing we can do is to hold our tongue
  • Be sensitive to time and place – pay attention to context
  • Say it from the heart – “How” you say it not just “what” and “when”
  • Recognise the Power. It can last a lifetime

8. Encourage the dreams of others

  • It’s a great privilege when people share dreams with you. You have great power to crush it with a wrong word or inspire to pursue it
  • Understand that dreams are fragile
  • To lose a dream is a great loss
  • Encourage others in their pursuit of a dream is to give them a wonderful gift
  • 6 steps:
    • Ask them to share their dream with you
    • Affirm the person as well as the dream
    • Ask about the challenges they must overcome to reach their dreams
    • Offer your assistance
    • Revisit their dream with them on a consistent basis
    • Determine daily to be a dream booster, not a dream buster
  • People will live up to their dreams when they have a chance to fulfill them

9. Pass the credit on to others

  • Check your ego at the door
  • Don’t wait – pass the credit ASAP
  • Say it in front of others
  • Put it in print
  • Only say it if you mean it

10. Offer your very best

  • Anyone can be an important person to me
  • Anything we do can be made important
  • You can become important to anyone by treating them as important
  • Make the most of your gifts and opportunities

11. Share a secret with someone

  • Means giving valuable information
  • Makes people feel special
  • Includes others in your journey

12. Mine the goal of good intentions

  • Believe the best about people
  • See things from their perspective
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt
  • Remember their good days, not their bad ones

13. Keep your eyes off the mirror

  • Are you willing to focus on others?
  • Focusing on others give you a sense of purpose and energy, contentment

14. Do for others what they can’t do for themselves

  • Introduce others to people they can’t know on their own (heroes, business, friends)
  • Take others to places where they can’t go on their own (holiday etc)
  • Offer others opportunities they can’t reach on their own
  • Share ideas with others that they don’t possess on their own

15. Listen with your heart

  • Focus on the person
  • Unclog your ears – remove barriers of distraction, defensiveness, close-mindedness, projection, assumptions, pride
  • Listen aggressively
  • Listen to understand

16. Find the keys to their hearts

  • Accept the fact that people are different
  • Find the keys to their hearts by asking questions:
    • What do you dream about? Look at their heart
    • What do you cry about? Understand their heart
    • What do you sing about? Their source of strength
    • What are your values? Sacred heart chambers
    • What are your strengths? What makes them proud
    • What is your temperament? Discover the way to their hearts
  • Establish common ground
  • Realise that with time, people change. Stay in continual conversation. Look for “change indicators” – when they hurt enough, learn enough, receive enough.

17. Be the first to help

  • When you are quick to help others, it makes a statement people never forget
  • Make helping others a priority
  • Make yourself aware of people’s needs (care, listen, pay attention)
  • Be willing to take a risk
  • Follow through once you begin to help

18. Add value to people

  • Value people “You can’t make the other fellow feel important if you secretly feel that he is a nobody.”
  • Manipulate (our own advantage) vs Motivate (mutual advantage)
  • Make yourself more valuable (get knowledge, skill, experience)
  • Know what people value

19. Remember a person’s story

  • Ask, listen, remember

20. Tell a good story

  • Good stories – enthusiasm, animation, audience participation, spontaneity, memorisation, humour, creativity, personal, heartwarming
  • Share something you’ve experienced
  • Tell it with the goal of connecting
  • Put your heart into it
  • Assume that others want to hear it

21. Give with no strings attached

  • Have an abundance mentality (there’s plenty to go around)
  • See the big picture (they give because of what they have got)

22. Learn your mailman’s name

  • Recognise the value of a name
  • Use the SAVE method:
    • Say the name 3 times in conversation
    • Ask a question about the name or person
    • Visualise the person’s prominent physical or personality feature
    • End the conversation with the name
  • Go easy on yourself if you forget

23. Point out people’s strength

  • Pointing out strengths underlines people’s uniqueness. Every person can do at least one thing better than 10,000 other people
  • People are motivated in their areas of strength
  • People add the most value in their strength zone. Look for the best in others. Speak up, tell them to plant success seeds

24. Write notes of encouragement

  • Encouraging written notes have a personal touch
  • Notes represent an investment by the writer
  • Notes are remembered long after the writer has forgotten them

25. Help people win

  • Believe in people “unbelievable expectations lead to unbelievable results”
  • Give people hope
  • Focus on the process, not just the win. Don’t just give him, help him win.
  • Understand that when you help others win, you also win

Practice: 12 week program, select 2 practices and do it everyday for a week. 

How To Survive Lock-In With Your Family

As more than half the world is under some form of lock-in or lock-down due to the Covid-19 virus, families are being forced together for even longer periods of time. Ugly stuff will come out. Things will change for better or for worse. As Christians, how can we not just survive in this lock-in but to thrive and come out better after this crisis? God is turning the families together through this crisis and I offer some reflections on how we can bond together as a family.

Ever heard of the hedgehog dilemma? It’s about a group of hedgehogs trying to survive a cold winter. If they huddle together, they can get enough warmth to beat the cold but the problem is that that sharp spikes will poke one another. But they choose to avoid the pain by staying apart, each one would freeze to death. That’s the dilemma.

And it’s not too different from us today. Families are forced to stay together at home longer than before. We have school from home, work from home and dine at home. Before you know it, friction will increase significantly. Even if you’re one fortunate to have a good family. In China, after their lockdown, cases of divorces and abuse increased. No wonder, especially being stuck together in a confined living space for long periods of time.

How can we not just survive but thrive? Paul offers a solution in 1 Corinthians 13:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Cor 13:4-7

The answer is love. We need to love one another. Just ask yourself in these verses – Am I loving? Am I irritable? Do I demand my way? Do I rejoice at injustices? This will sober us up quickly and lead us to repent.

Before you point the other persons in your home as the cause of all problems, look at yourself first. You often can’t change the people around you, but you can change yourself. Ask God to fill your heart with His abounding love for others.

In a few days is Good Friday where God demonstrated His immense love for us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross. He rose to life on Easter and those who put their faith in him will have eternal life. Jesus offers us real hope during these hopeless times of Covid-19.

You can watch my video here:

Instant Family: Reflections on Adoption

Instant Family (2018) — The Movie Database (TMDb)In the movie Instant Family (2018), a couple decides to adopt 3 foster kids and it describes their tumultuous journey of adoption. One of the hardest task is to convince the foster kids, who often move around different homes, that they’re really loved. In one of the key scenes, the couple are deliberating whether to give up their foster kids. The man’s mother walks in and offers life wisdom that leads them to change their minds on adoption:

“She doesn’t hate you, she just thinks you don’t love her. You get reminded what a sack of sh-t you are five times a day, after a while, you can’t believe anyone could ever love you.”

-Sandy Wagner (Instant Family)

Children need a proper loving stable home with one male father and one female mother. If you’re interested in adoption or foster care you can check out their website. If you’re in Singapore, check out Home For Good SG.

Adoption is a wonderful theme in the Bible. We learn to address God as our Father (abba is an Aramaic term that is can translated by papa or daddy). We learn to see fellow believers as brothers and sisters in Christ. We join a new family of God. Just check out these few verses:

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

Romans 8:15

…and…

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1:12

These are only a small sampling of the grace that God has given us by adopting us as his children, as his family. A close friend of mine who recently adopted a baby boy said to me, “One of the greatest revelations I had was that Jesus himself was adopted.” He’s absolutely right. Jesus’ father Joseph had no part to play in the virgin birth and was like an adopted father to Jesus.

Are you are part of God’s family yet? Are you adopted as his child? Do you realise the blessing of being God’s son or daughter? You can return to him if you’ve strayed away because he’s waiting for you. He loves you like his flesh and blood. God the Father sent Jesus to die for you so that you can become his family.

Why? Because you’re worth it.

1917: Reflections on Evangelism

In the epic World War I movie “1917” (2019), two soldiers are tasked with sending a message to another battalion to stop them from attacking the Germans. Why? Based on army intelligence, it was a trap and the British soldiers would be massacred. There lies the tension – Would the two young soldiers survive the dangerous journey across the war field? And even if they did survive, would they reach in time to inform their comrades? It’s a nail-biting movie and I won’t give any spoilers!

But it hit me that the theme of “1917” relates directly to evangelism. Evangelism is telling others about Jesus and turning them away from death and destruction. See the connection with the movie? All of us as Christians are given the mandate in the Great Commission (Matt 28) to tell others about Jesus and to turn them from their sins before it’s too late.

The first element is danger. Just like the two soldiers who braved perils along the way, we too must brave dangers. Some may be in the form of ridicule, rejection and for missionaries, even death. Are we willing to bring this message of hope to dying people? God gives Ezekiel a responsibility to be a watchman to warn people to turn from their sins:

Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me. If I announce that some wicked people are sure to die and you fail to tell them to change their ways, then they will die in their sins, and I will hold you responsible for their deaths. But if you warn them to repent and they don’t repent, they will die in their sins, but you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 (NLT)

The second element is time. In “1917” the message had to be delivered by dawn the next day. There wasn’t time for chit-chat or giving up. Time was of the essence. If they were too slow, people would die. Similarly, people need to hear about Jesus before they end this life. Now ever more so in this Covid-19 situation where life is so unpredictable. But nothing can stop us from telling others about Jesus whether in person or through technology (Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, blogs). The time is now. As Paul says:

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NLT)

Will you brave the dangers to tell others about Jesus?

Will you sense the urgency and grab every chance to tell others about Jesus?

If two soldiers would risk their lives to save people from physical death, would we risk all to save people from eternal death?

Friendship: On Being a P.A.L.

Image result for friendshipIt’s tough to make new friends. When you go to a new school, a new workplace, a new neighbourhood. But if we want to bring God’s love to people, we need to make friends. We need friends. I was just walking home recently and God planted the idea of how to be a pal to someone. My mind started whirring with what being a pal means. What does being a friend really mean?

I want to share with you three simple steps to be a P.A.L. to someone today.

1. The Gift of Presence

First, give people the gift of your presence. Someone once said that, “Showing up is half the battle.” We don’t realise that just being there, our very presence speaks volumes. It says to the other person – “I value you” or “I appreciate your company.” There’s a proverb in the Bible that says:

Never abandon a friend— either yours or your father’s. When disaster strikes, you won’t have to ask your brother for assistance. It’s better to go to a neighbor than to a brother who lives far away.
Prov 27:10 (NLT)

I believe that showing up is so important in life. It’s the most basic gift we can give someone. To be there for them.

But don’t stop there.

2. The Gift of Attention

Secondly, give people the gift of your attention. This is one level higher than giving your presence. You can show up or be there physically but not there mentally, spiritually, emotionally. You’ve checked out mentally already. That’s not much use. When you are there, pay attention to them. Don’t be distracted by your phone, the television or the cute girl at the next table (I’m referring to myself).

Paying attention requires us to pay something. It costs us time, energy and effort to really give total attention to someone. Next time, put away your distractions, tune in to the other person fully and look into their eyes. I love this verse though it’s about shepherding but applies here too:

Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds…

Prov 27:23

If you don’t pay attention, you won’t know the state of the person right in front of you. You’ll miss the non-verbal signs and the inner desires. Pay attention.

3. The Gift of Listening

Thirdly, you can give people the gift of listening. You can be there, you can give your complete attention but have zero impact on your friendship if you don’t listen. Listening is top-level stuff.

Listening means to actively listen for the person’s thoughts and feelings. It means rephrasing their thoughts back to them. It means giving verbal affirmations that you’re listening (and not sleeping with your eyes open). It means clarifying if you don’t understand something (I’ve been guilty of saying – “Wow that’s nice” to the wrong situation). Good listening is in major short supply today.

Why?

Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Few like to listen. So if you can listen well, you will stand out above the rest. How can you do that? Take your eyes off yourself and fix it on others. The apostle Paul wrote:

Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Phil 2:4 (NLT)

I am certain that if you give these gifts of presence, attention and listening, you’ll be a pal to others. You’ll build friendships much faster than you expect. Try it today.

Be a P.A.L.