Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sermon: REMEMBER! You were Hopeless!

As of 31 October 2016, according to our Deputy Prime Minister, there are 290,437 stateless children currently residing in Malaysia. They are born in Malaysia but failed to get their citizenships, mostly because they were abandoned by their parents or born to a family with messy marriage arrangements. What does it mean to be stateless for these children? They better win the fight for their citizenship before they turn 21, else they will be in a state of limbo, with nowhere to belong to. They cannot get married legally, have no access to public education, employment and protection of their rights. They cannot even be deported because there is nowhere for them to be deported to. As the Malay Mail writer Ida Lim described, they are forever an alien.

As I preach from Ephesians 2:11-22, I titled today’s message “You were hopeless” because I realised that we were no different from these children before we know Jesus. But at the same time, such hopelessness is not that one thing that I want us to dwell on today. Instead, I would like all of us to ponder upon our attitudes as Christians in the light of our former self. This message was not meant to discourage you or to lead you to hopelessness, but to push us into a hopeful fresh reset in our spiritual life. Let’s begin with a word of prayer.

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 
Ephesians 2:11-13
In one sentence, Paul gave 5 precise description of our former self: 1) separated from Christ. 2) alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. 3) strangers to the covenant of promise. 4) having no hope. 5) without God in the world. This was how dire our situations were.

Paul calls us to REMEMBER because it was those feelings of separation, alienation, ignorance, hopelessness and godlessness that eventually pointed us to our need for Christ. Much like the stateless children, we had no access to the Savior and all the privileges that are found in Him. we were cut off, abandoned and without hope for a future. Remember also, it was Christ that brought us near to Him and opened the door through which we may be accepted and gain access to God and His inheritance that was once only meant for the Jews. And He did so with a dear price: by His own blood.
The LORD constantly reminds us to remember. Throughout the history of Old Testament, God has repeatedly told the Israelites to remember. The Passover was celebrated with a series of symbolic food and ritual that tells the story of Exodus year after year, generations to generations. The Sabbath was kept also as a remembrance of the LORD as Israel’s redeemer. The 4th of the Ten Commandment reminds the Israelites to keep the Sabbath to remember the LORD that brought them out of slavery and gave them rest. 
“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15. 
Much the remembering involves remembering who the Israelites were before God rescued them: they were hopeless slaves, oppressed by their Egyptian rulers, persecuted with brutality and had no God of their own. And 400 years of darkness and hopelessness, God saw their suffering and remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He rescued them out of Egypt with wonders and miracles. And even so, they were rebellious and stubborn, quickly forgetting their Savior God and turned to idols. So each call to repent has also been a call to remember who they were and how the Lord has rescued them.

So brothers and sisters, do you remember who you were before Christ found you? I keep a habit of journaling down my journey of faith, since the beginning of my faith. Back then it was a cool thing to keep a blog, now I often see the value of writing these special moments where God speaks to me or lead me through a season. It’s getting harder to write especially after I started work, but I insist to have at least one post per month. I put them on a blog because I love to share my stories, but it doesn’t have to be a blog. I encourage you to find ways that can help you to remember your story and the story of God’s rescue in your life. Remembering those stories will help us to remember the Lord God that has brought us thus far and remember that He will continue to do so.

Building Bridges, Breaking Walls
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 
Ephesians 2:14-18
In v14, the dividing wall of hostility is not just a metaphor to the separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Wall of Hostility is an actual, physical wall. The Wall of Hostility is a gated fence or wall built around the Jewish Temple that prevents Gentiles and ceremonially unclean Jews from entering the inner court. Archeologists discovered an inscription that writes “Whoever is captured past this point will have himself to blame for his subsequent death.” Those are rather hostile words against the Gentiles. But it describes the kind of tension and differences that exists between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Wall of Hostility separates the Jews from the Gentiles, the clean from the unclean. Because of this division, the Gentiles has no access to God even if their hearts fear Him and desires Him. There’s no way that we can come to Him.
As I was preparing this message, I reflected upon my behavior and asked myself this: Have I been the dividing wall of hostility that prevented others from coming to Christ? Have I been hostile to others and have decided that a certain person or group of people cannot come to Christ? Unfortunately, the answer is a painful yes.

But it’s ironic isn’t it? At this moment, God calls me to remember who I was. I was a stranger and alien to salvation, separated from Christ and had no hope. How was I any different from the rest? So then if I know myself the pain of an alien separated from Christ, how can I then prevent others from coming to Him?

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has done away with all the things that prevented ANYONE to come to God. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, a man or a woman, Malay, Chinese, Indian or our brethren of tribes, there is nothing left to stop from coming to Him. He has made all of us equal and one. All the rituals and requirements that prevented us from entering into God’s presence have been fulfilled eternally by Christ our Savior. He is making a new, unified body out of all of us where hostility is no more. He has brought peace among the chaos and we now all have equal access to the One Spirit to the Father.

Doors that are opened by Christ, who are we to close them? Therefore brothers and sisters, let us reflect upon ourselves and our behavior. Have we in any occasions have prevented others from coming to Christ? Have we made it hard for our brothers and sisters with our unforgiveness? Have we decided that a certain ethnic or race among our friends can have no access to the Gospel?

Remember that we used to be like them: strangers and without hope. So let us be the one that point them to the hope that we now have access to. And remember, they too are welcomed into God’s presence because of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Becoming God’s People
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 
Ephesians 2:19-22
V19 describes the reversal of v12. Through the blood of Christ, we have been transformed from being a foreigner and stranger into family members. God has opened his arm wide to welcome us into his household. He calls us fellow citizens of His kingdom, along with the children that He already have in the beginning. This is our new identity: His people.

And with that, God has undertaken a new construction project. One which the foundation is not laid down by human hands, but by the work and sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the prophets and the apostles. This is a project of tremendous scale and it’s international. He is building a new temple that does away the old one. This new temple transcends the boundary of race, nationality, gender and status, it is now global with no physical temple to limit us. 
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 
John 4:21-24
As Jesus himself prophesied in John 4:21-24, that we will no longer worship God on the mountain or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth. We will worship God wherever we are, in an international, global temple. More importantly, building this temple takes everyone of us to contribute into this universal family.
Experiencing the transformation of my former self as hopeless stranger into a blessed family member of God’s household is invigorating. I was without a purpose, but now I have a role in His kingdom. As small pieces of “living stone” in His temple, we are all given a role to play in this family. In Christ, the Holy Spirit builds us into the dwelling place of God. He does so by giving us powers and gifts of the Holy Spirit to serve one another. He also molds us and chisels us to fit perfectly well according to His will.

So brothers and sisters, what role do you have in this family of God? As the cell group completes the series on EQUIP, I hope you have discovered your role and place in this church. Remember that we all have access to that same Spirit, so therefore ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts to serve. If you would like to serve, hesitate no more. God will help you and enable you to serve. Let’s play our part to build this temple of God. Remember our former self, and today you have hope and a purpose in God’s kingdom. Let us rise up and help one another, serve one another and love one another. And together, let’s build our church!

As I said in the beginning of this message, it is never my intention to preach hopelessness. I simply cannot, because the story of God is never a story of hopelessness. It’s a story of rescue, of peacemaking and of a new beginning. Instead, I pray that this message helps us to remember that we who were once hopeless is now living in eternal hope. I pray that this hope that was given to us freely by Christ will empower us to living a victorious life dedicated to build His kingdom.

So remember, my brothers and sisters, that we are not without hope, we are not without God. We have a purpose in all that we do. So as we depart from here, as we go back to our workplace, let us point our colleagues and friends to that open door where the dividing wall of hostility is no longer there to stop them from coming to God. As we go back to our family, let us focus on building a godly family that will be a strong building block of the holy temple of God. As we serve in our church, let us be ever forgiving and loving, that we may be constantly united in Christ Jesus, our Cornerstone.

Let’s pray.
Love • Christ • Unity

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Invisible Hands of God

That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. 
Esther 6:1-2
This is where the climax begins. One fateful night of a powerful Gentile king who was left sleepless and restless. Something did not sit right with him, and his heart was stirring. In the most ungodly hour, he decided to reflect upon his own reign. On a book (perhaps books) recording all the great things he had done, all the happenings of his kingdom, chapter after chapter, something out of the ordinary caught his eyes. One overlooked man who kept him alive and sleepless was left unrewarded for his act of loyalty.

Mordecai vs Haman
As a concerned father, Mordecai paced back and forward daily in front of the king's gate to check on his lovely adopted daughter Esther, who was summoned into the king's court as queen. His regular presence fatefully led him to uncover a plot against the king. The crisis was averted before any harm was caused. But Mordecai was not a man of compromise. He refused pay his respect and tribute to Haman and this has angered Haman. Haman's bloated self-esteem and pride has taken another step further than reprimanding Mordecai: he wanted the destruction of Mordecai's people. At this, Mordecai was gravely grieved.
Putting Haman in focus, he was drunk in his indulgence of his vanity and pride. He boasted the favor of the king upon himself, and he bragged about the honor to be invited by the Queen Esther. He had riches, treasures and honor. But one thing remain imperfect: Modercai still refused to bow. He had everything but one, and he was still dissatisfied. He desires to see Modercai and his family suffer, he would go on and set up high poles to see them impaled upon the poles. Haman continued to feast and indulge.

A Mysterious Restlessness
As Haman plotted evil against Mordecai, the all-powerful King Xerxes couldn't fall asleep. He was powerful, yet he did not seem to have control over his restlessness. This mysterious restlessness rendered King Xerxes powerless and he had no rest until Mordecai was noticed. This very same night, as Haman entered the king's court to propose Mordecai's tragic demise, Mordecai became a man honored by the king.

O how ironic! Haman came to humiliate Mordecai, was instead humiliated by the command of the king to be the very person to robe his enemy. No man shall stand against God's people. As they plot to bring shame upon God's people, the Lord shall put them to shame! Even his wife and friends remarked "Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin! (Esther 6:13)"

Surely those who plot to bring harm upon His people, shall be brought to the very harm upon themselves. Indeed, Haman soon met his end upon the very pole he had intended for Mordecai.
The Invisible Hands of God
In the story of the Book of Esther, God was never mentioned by name. I went through all 10 chapters to search for words like "the LORD" and "God" but with no avail. But nevertheless, God was the focus of the entire story. He was there from the beginning to the end of it. From the crowning of King Xerxes in history, to the abolition of Vashti as Queen, to the installation of Esther as Queen, to the uncovering of the plot against the king by Mordecai, to the plot of Haman against the Jews, to the calling of Queen Esther to protect the Jews, to the honor of Mordecai, to the demise of Haman, to the demise of the enemy of the Jews and to the installation of Purim as celebration. From the beginning until the end, the invisible hands of God was seen. He was the focus of the entire story.

That only time in history when the Lord had ever turned His back against His faithful servant and had forsaken him, was when Jesus cried out "eli eli lema sabachthani" (Matthew 27:46). God had forsaken His own Son, so that you and I may never be forsaken.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, even when this journey of life seem so dark you cannot move on; even though God seems to be so far away in your distress; even when it seems like God is nowhere to be found, it is this exact moment that you can be sure that God's invisible hands are carrying you through the path that He has called you to endure. 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:38-39
 Love • Christ • Unity

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sermon: Fathers

Happy Fathers’ Day. Allow me to start by sharing a bit about my father. This is my father about 30 years ago, and this is me about 7 years ago. Not only that I took after his look, I took after his personality as well. 3 months back when Pastor Matthew visited my dad in the hospital, he remarked “Now I know where you learn all your nonsense.”
My father 30 years ago
Myself 7 years ago
My father is a man of virtues: funny, talented, outgoing, gentle, humble and loving. He’s also stern, honorable, respectable and dependable. At the same time, he is also stubborn, careless and a little foolish at times.

Personally to me, my father is my role model. I look up to him as the man I want to be. I remember how my dad used to discipline my sister and I. I was always given a harsher scolding and a thicker stick. As the eldest son in the family, my dad wants me to be the protector of the family in his absence and to be the brother to my sister. Well, I got the beatings because I did exactly the opposite. Conversations with my dad are few. Our phone calls last averagely 15 seconds. But he nevertheless played an important role in my upbringing.

The role of fathers are over overlooked in the Chinese culture. We sing songs about mothers, but few are the songs about Fathers. Their contributions to families often go unnoticed and unappreciated. However, the Bible seems to give more attention to the role of fathers.

Today, I’ve taken a small portion of Paul’s instructions for the Christian households in Ephesus and put that focus on the role of children to their parents as well as the role of fathers to their children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. 
Ephesians 6:1-4
1. Children, be obedient
Back in June 2008, about two months into my journey as a new believer, I had another episode of argument with my dad who was recovering from his surgery. My dad was greatly disappointed in my decision to convert. Perhaps he felt most agonized by the fact that his son chose to rebel at the time when he was most vulnerable. I was on the other agonised by the insults hurled at me about this God whom I had recently chose to follow.
At the time, my relationship with my earthly father was in great tension. As a new believer I didn’t know how to deal with it. But my Heavenly Father was watching the entire episode and sent guardian angels. One of them was my Mandarin teacher at school. With a tender and loving gesture, she sat me down in the school canteen and listened attentively to my story. She went on to share her testimony as a new-born Christian in a non-believing family. She remarked that most non-believing fathers tend to think that they lose a child when the child converts. But she encouraged me to keep holding on, to obey my parents, and let God transform me from the inside out because Christianity doesn’t take my father’s son away from him, but instead, make him a better son.

Paul’s instruction for children was simple: obey your parents. To obey our parents is a universally recognised by any law or culture as righteousness. Paul said that it is the right thing to do. Even the Ten Commandments specifically spelt out that we should honor our parents, and greatly emphasized on its importance by giving it a blessing that follows. I remembered how these Words of God was a great encouragement and comfort for me at the time.

My father could not be swayed by words. Despite all that logical conversations with him, there seems to be no way to break his stubborn heart with words. So my teacher encouraged me to persuade him with my actions instead. Christianity makes us better children, and our transformation in Christ speaks volume for us. Over the years, Christ has made amazing transformations in my family. I wouldn’t say that I am very good as a son, but at least my father was convinced that I remain the son he’s proud of, even though he doesn’t verbalise it. I started to see a transformation in my father as well. He was becoming a father that I’ve always wanted for me: to verbalise his love for me and to reaffirm me as a man. When I was about to begin the 2nd Semester of my university, my parents sent me all the way from KL to Penang. As I waved them goodbye, I heard something that I thought I will never heard from my father: I love you. At that moment I was stunned. It took me by surprise and for a moment, I lost words. “I love you, too!” was what I wanted to reply but did not. But those words were the words I thank God for until today. Besides my relationship with my father got better, God also reconciled my relationship with my sister, but that’s a story for another day.

The point is, Christ makes us better children. How many of us here have parents or siblings or loved one who have yet to believe? I would like to encourage you to continue to hold on to God’s Word and let Him transform you. Obey your parents, do what is right, honor them and thank God for them. Don’t forget to persistently pray for them and show them the tender love that our Heavenly Father has shown us. Our transformations into better sons and daughters will be a great testimony for our Heavenly Father.

2. Fathers, be reasonable.
As for fathers and future fathers, or in a broader context, parents, the Bible tells us to be reasonable parents. When Paul instructed us not to “provoke your children to anger” or “exasperate your children” in some translations, he was saying it in relation to his previous instruction for children. Even as he instructs the children to obey their parents, he commands fathers to reciprocate that obedience by being reasonable to their children. In Matthew Henry says in his commentary: “The duty of parents. Be not impatient; use no unreasonable severities. Deal prudently and wisely with children; convince their judgements and work upon their reason.” 

Parents must give space for children to exercise their obedience. Barnes’s Notes on the Bible says that “If children are required to "obey," it is but reasonable that the commands of the parent should be such that they can be obeyed, or such that the child shall not be discouraged in his attempt to obey.” And parents ought to encourage them in their attempt to obey. 
I think many of us can understand how discouraging it can be when our intentions and efforts to do our best are met with harsh criticisms instead of encouragements. While constructively pointing out faults can be helpful in helping the young ones to grow, but very often, particularly among the older people in our culture mistakenly thinks that young people cannot be given praises lest pride leads to their downfall. I personally think that we may have taken that too far. When parents constantly pick on their children mistakes, irritating and discouraging them, children may lose their motivations to do their best. “Why do I try so hard, when all I make are mistakes?” So parents, be reasonable: Compliment them where their credits are due, gently offer constructive comments where it can be improved. Children grow best in encouragement, not criticism.

3. Fathers, be parents.
Personally, my parents worked together to educate both my sister and I. My mother was in charge of all our educations. She taught us how to read, write, speak and calculate. My father on the other hand was in charge of imparting values to us. He taught us honesty, honor, responsibility, filial piety, humility and etc. While they sent us to schools and tuitions, they would never give up their responsibilities as parents to discipline us. My mother knows all my teachers at school and was always willing to work with teachers. If we get punished at school for being naughty, we would get an extra round of lectures and caning.

Paul reminded the fathers to do their part as parents. As parents, we are given the role to educate our children, to bring them up in the discipline and instructions of the Lord. As Christian fathers, we are responsible for teaching our children in the Christian values and behavior. Paul did not delegate this role to the teachers in our schools, nor did he instruct the Youth Pastor to discipline them, nor the Sunday School teachers. We are responsible to see that our children come to know the Lord and taught in His Words.
Today’s children lacks fundamental elements that makes up a healthy childhood. They are often deprived of emotionally available parents, clearly set limits and boundaries, entrusted responsibilities and etc. Today we are often preoccupied by electronic devices and social media, and we often relinquish our responsibilities to discipline children in the name of “giving children freedom to rule the world”. This can create serious problems in a child’s development in character, and personality. 

As we become parents in the future, let us not neglect our part as parents. Let us spend more time and more attention to the upbringing of our children. Let us equip ourselves in the knowledge of God’s Word that we may teach His Words to our children. Let us prepare ourselves in characters and manners worthy of the Lord so that we may have a moral authority to discipline our children in the future. Let us practise the godly Christian values in our family and among our friends that we may raise our children to be sons and daughters after God’s heart.

This Father’s Day, we want to celebrate fathers. At the same time we want to celebrate godly parents as well. We thank God for them and we appreciate their sacrifices for their children. As potential fathers and mothers, the Lord calls us to play our respective roles well in the future. As children, we ought to obey our parents and honor them. There is wisdom in their old age. As future fathers, we are reminded not to abuse our role, not to provoke or irritate them to anger, but to be reasonable and encouraging. We are also called to take up our responsibilities to nurture and discipline our children in the Christian values for it is our duty no one else can do better for our children.

Love • Christ • Unity

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Day I Took My First Emergency Leave

I was nudged awake by my ringtone that went "ONE PUUUUUUNNNNNCCCCCCHHHHHH!" Who in the world?! I took a look at the time, it was 3:34a.m. The caller ID ended with "AirBnB GUEST". Oh no! I thought you are the nice guest I've been waiting for?

"Hello, sorry ah. No electricity oh." said the other side of the phone. Paraphrasing my mind, "Well, that is painfully inconvenient." I have to paraphrase this because it only had two words and one of them starts with the letter "F".

I was kept awake by the matter for the rest of the night. TNB wasn't helping and there was no one to turn to. I had to do some PR routine and the guests were willing to go through the night without electricity. Of course, a discount must be in place. "God, please take care of my guests and help me to rest." I prayed. O me of little faith, I didn't.

Sunday morning, 9am. Something didn't feel right. I had a feeling that my car was going to give me a kick to the nuts, just in case this day didn't start bad enough. I wish I could have the same feeling on hitting a jackpot: My car wouldn't start. It just kept giving me that "LET'S.....*COUGH*.... *cough*....zzzz"

Sigh, and I still have that electricity problem to solve.

On translation duty for Sunday Service again. What do you mean again? It's not like there is a rotation anyway. Translation was a mess: kept turning Pastor Matthew to Gospel of Matthew; mind went periodically blank; an impactful message turn into a slap by a dry sponge.

So tired. Oh God, please help. My tear won't stop flowing as I sing praises to Him.

Monday 7:43pm, my fan stopped working. Grr, when I said: "Can this day get any worse?", I didn't mean it to be a challenge!

Before I went off work yesterday, I made up my mind to take an emergency leave today. This had to be solved by today otherwise I can't find peace. I really don't want to turn my guests away for this weekend. Made several calls to the management yesterday and made appointments with electricians. Colleague offered some of their wisdom as well. But I can't sit this one out like I used to anymore. This is not something I can solve by making a few calls.

My housemate was shocked to find that my car did not leave earlier than his. Came up to my room to wake me up just in case I overslept (or died). I was wide-awake. Told him I took a day off with a smile. Left home at 9am and stopped by McDonald's for breakfast and coffee. I must start today well.

Greeted by the enthusiastic building supervisor, Andy as I arrived. The electrician was having his smoke while waiting for me. I was shocked by what I saw. The electrician went on to give me a crash course on wiring and electricity. I knew a thing or two.

Relieved when our inspection on the in-house fuse box found nothing wrong. Thank God it didn't start a fire. Andy remarked that I could be in worse situation. Apparently there's a unit below mine had their wire burned that very same night. It was so severe, they had to re-wire everything and costed them nearly RM1000. The electrician suggest that I change my 10mm diameter wire to 16mm diameter wire to take more load. 10mm is just too small for a unit with 4 1.5 horse-power air-conditioners. We broke the deal at RM200.

By 11:30am, I took a breath of relief. Electricity is back.

Well, here I was. Problem solved and I had half a day of light to go. I might as well give this place a thorough cleaning that had been a little long overdue as well as some upgrades it deserves.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I asked myself: How can I, as a Christian, carry myself differently in business? "Generosity" was my answer. I recalled how I was not being generous to my guests. Even when the Lord had blessed me well, I did not turn to bless others. For the past 5 months of business, by God's grace, I had no major loss but 3 wonderful months of abundance and surplus. But instead of blessing my guests by offering delights, I remained careful with my spending and ungenerous. And surely enough, my miserliness and sloth had brought me more trouble than bliss: complaints of unsatisfactory cleanliness, moldy fridge and etc. This has to change.

During the 3 hours of cleaning, I jotted down a list of things that could make my place more welcoming. If I want to honor God with my business, I must reflect His generosity and grace. He has given me grace, I must ride on that, so that anyone who comes in may be blessed and to find that my God is a God who is generous and does not withhold anything good from those who trust in Him.
I want to place bottles of water in the fridge, so my guests could grab one and stay hydrated when the travel in Penang under the hot sun. I want to prepare teabags and tea sets for my guests too, so they can wake up to a wonderful morning with a warm cup of tea. I want to make electric plug points more accessible so that my guests can have their devices charged and stay connected. I want to provide towels for my guests so that they can have a good time swimming or taking a refreshing shower at my place. I want to place some books and Bibles for my guests so that they can read by the balcony with the refreshing hill breeze on their faces. I want to bless my guests more than I want to make money from them. I'll let God take care of the business part.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. 
Proverbs 11:25
In hindsight I think all the bad things that happened were a series of wake-up-call for me, much like the call I get half-past-three in the morning. It reminded me to rely on God's resources even in my secular work. It reminded me to rely on God to provide sufficient grace at all time. It reminded me to rely on God to give me the right lesson to learn at the right time. It reminded me to rely on God to connect me to the right person for the right job.
Met up with Li Xin English Cell Group after a day of work. Blessings!
There were many blessings to count: Thank God for nice guests that were willing to put up with the inconvenience and understood my difficulty. So much so, they even offered some ideas and solutions. Thank God for sparing my guests from potentially dreadful fire hazard. Thank God that the damage was small and my landlord was willing to cover the cost. Thank God for sparing me from worse. Thank God for helpful Andy and electrician.
Thank God for wonderful friends that became my listening ears and helping hands. Thank God for the church brother who came to pick me up and brought me for awesome roasted pork to cheer me up. Thank God for gracious congregation that forgave my translation mistakes. Thank God for my best brother who gave me a ride home, a jump-start for my car and a comforting Sundae. Thank God for Gabriel who sheltered me and woke up 3:30am wondering if something bad happened to someone dear to me. Thank God for stretching my car battery lifespan far longer than it's supposed to. Thank God that it did not break down somewhere that I cannot get aid. Thank God for that friend who texted and asked if I was okay.

Thank God that I have a spare fan.

The day I took my first emergency leave, is the day I have learned so much more about my gracious God and what it means to rejoice in Him.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
2 Corinthians 12:9a
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 
Philippians 4:4
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:28
Love • Christ • Unity

Monday, May 1, 2017

Sermon: Made in Christ

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 
Ephesians 2:8-10
In the month of April, 1985, the Malaysian Government launched the first “Made in Malaysia” campaign. For everything that has the label “Made in Malaysia”, it has a purpose: to serve as a pride and identity for Malaysia that we are a country that is productive, creative and innovative. They were to send a message to all consumers and other nations about who we are as a nation. For everything that is made under the sun serves a purpose and it is for that purpose that they are made. A bread is made with the purpose to fill a hungry stomach and to provide energy for survival; a watch is made to tell time; a computer to compute; and even this box called “Useless Box” serves to entertain a bored mind and beyond that, to educate students about programming.
I titled today’s sermon “Made in Christ”. As we read Ephesians 2:8-10, we learn that we are called, saved and made in Christ for a purpose: a purpose prepared by God. To live out this purpose is to live out our identity as Christ’s handiworks, just like products that are given the brand “Made in Malaysia”.

1. Genuine salvation is new creation with a renewed purpose for good work.
Ephesians 2 begins with emphasizing the fallen state of man before salvation. V1-3 described us as dead in transgressions, disobedient and lustful. V4-7 added a twist to that story when God gets involved and extended His grace and mercy towards us by making us alive with Christ, raised us up and seated us with Christ. Once again, Paul emphasized on our “deadness”. Consequently, in V11-22, God’s saving grace transformed our former “deadness” into life, having the citizenship of God’s Kingdom, no longer a stranger or foreigner and sharing in the reward as God’s people.

Genuine salvation is a new creation with a renewed purpose for good work. A true Christian’s life should reflect a change in our lifestyle. Our former sinful life is no longer be our identity. We do not live our former life, where our purpose was to live in transgressions, disobedience and lust. We are a new creation, we are God’s handiwork, created and made in Christ, with a new purpose: to do good works. To be made in Christ has a purpose. Just like “Made in Malaysia” brand, it serves as our identity that we are no longer the same. 
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 
2 Cor 5:17.
Teddy Hung of Hong Kong could never imagine the life he is having now. As head of world’s second largest triad, Mr. Teddy Hung was at the peak of his career. He made a great fortune from running gambling rooms, bars, casinos and many other vices. When a group of pastors and theologians came to his bar and interviewed him, he remarked “Don’t convert me! You don’t know how much income I’m earning. The god I am worshiping is better than Jesus.” As a leader with charisma, he would even beat up anyone who dare to mention the name of Jesus. He would say to anyone of his followers: “You are in the triad. Who are you to qualify into Heaven? Are you out of your mind?” Salvation just seem impossible to him. Today, Pr. Teddy Hung is pastoring Victory Church in Hong Kong, focusing his ministry on bringing triad members to faith. His life was completely transformed by God’s saving grace. From his former life, which he described that he destroyed people and shattered families, to a life that now build the kingdom of God and helping lost people back to God.

Pr. Teddy Hung is not an isolated case. As God’s handiwork, a Christian is a new creation with a new life and a new purpose and good work is evident in the life of a Christian who is genuinely saved. As James 2:14, a genuine saving faith manifests itself in good works and a transformed Christian life is accompanied by good works. James was not saying that work is a requirement for salvation, because that goes against everything that Paul was trying to teach us, but he was saying that if a person claims to have faith that does not result in good works, it is fair to suspect whether this person genuinely believes in Jesus.

Therefore, let us reflect our lives as Christians. Does our lives reflect a life of a true convert, the life of a new creation, made in Christ? Are we kind? Are we loving? Or our profession of our faith in Christ means nothing?

2. Our salvation is completely a result God’s work and a gift of grace.
Our new life in Christ results in good works, but never the other way round. V8-9 tells us that we have been saved by grace, through faith, not by work. Grace, is the reason why God saves. His love for us saves us. The initiative of salvation comes from Him and this act of grace begins with Him. Faith is the instrument in which we may receive them. Even such faith does not come from us. V9 reminded us that both salvation and faith comes not from us. God Himself completed the act of salvation, by sending Jesus, who is God Himself, allowed Himself to be crucified, and resurrected on the third day. All by the sovereign plans of God and He saw to it that it was done. The reason of salvation is never ourselves. Our work does not save us. In fact, in Isaiah 64:6, our righteous acts are regarded as filthy rag: worthless and dirty. 
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 
Isaiah 64:6
This is the error of the Pharisees and the pagans, to think that there is anything we can do to appeal to God and save ourselves. Eph 2:1 & 4 repeatedly told us that we are DEAD in our sins. What can a DEAD man do to save himself? No, only a living God can.

I remember when I was in Standard 6, preparing for my UPSR, my mother brought me to the Guan Di Temple at Jalan Tun H.S.Lee in KL. In order to appeal to the God of Public Exam, my mother made me kneel down before Wen Chang and prayed, who is the Southern China equivalent of Confucius. After that, she offered a sum of donation to have the temple management to keep a prayer oil lamp lit on my behalf for a year. A few weeks ago, while I was preparing this sermon, I called my mom to confirm some of the details of that memory. She remarked: “That God of Public Exam also didn’t protect you. Prayed to him and offered donation and still you didn’t get a Straight A for UPSR.” I laughed so hard and agreed with her. Well, I guess I didn’t get straight A because my mom didn’t do enough to please the God of Public Exam. Not my fault!

The point is, we have a tendency to find faith in the things we do. I’m pretty sure if I have gotten straight A that year is because I worked really hard to get such good result, or that my mom did really well to please the God of Public Exam. It is never a gift. But with God our Lord, everything we do is futile. No matter how hard we try, we can never measure up to His saving grace. With God, our salvation is a gift. It is a gift that we do not deserve, regardless of what we do. That is why we are saved by grace, because grace is about men getting what they do not deserve.

Therefore, in the story of our salvation, we take no credit. V9 says that there is no room for boasting for anyone. Imagine that shame when a certain lady get a huge sum of money she didn’t work for, buy a RM73m diamond ring, then claims that she afforded it by saving them up since she was young. If I get something I didn’t work for, my response would be gratitude, not boasting.

3. Pursue the will of God, not good works.
Keeping in mind, that we are saved, not by works, but for good works, we must remember that our purpose as Christians is not to do just ANY good works. V10 tells us that God has prepared the good works beforehand for us to do. God has saved us to do the good works that He wants us to do.

Therefore, as new creations in Christ, we must listen attentively to God, that we may hear His command loud and clear and do the works that He wants us to. Pursue the will of God, do not pursue to do good works. When we pursue the will of God, listening attentively to Him and obey Him, God is taking control of our lives and is in charge of us. If we pursue to do good works, we are taking the control of our lives and defeats the purpose of being saved by God’s grace.
We call God our Lord because we are servants and He has control over our lives. As servants, we don’t just do anything, we do what our Master wants us to do. When our Master tells us to sweep the floor, we sweep the floor at once; when our Master tells us to deliver a letter, we ride the fastest horse in the stable; when our Master does not tell us to do anything, we better stand close to Him, so that we may be ready when He calls us to service. We do not busy ourselves by mindlessly working on decorating the dessert for dinner when all our Master wanted from us was to prepare lunch for Him. If we do what our Master does not want us to do, we do them in vain.

Therefore, let us keep in mind that our purpose is to do good works, that are prepared beforehand by God. In other words, listen to God’s will, and because God is good, whatever He asks us to do, is good.

Conclusion: The Poem of God
The word “handiwork” is translated from the Greek Word ποίημα (poiéma), which is where the word “poem” came from. Like a beautiful poem, our life stories are wonderfully composed by God from beginning to the end. Even when we were dead and lifeless in our sins, God has made us a new creation in Christ. As new creations, our lives are transformed and our purpose renewed. This new life is a gift, not our own doings, but given to us by God’s grace and love for us. Eph 2:8-10 tells us that we are MADE IN CHRIST, so that we may do the good works that he prepared for us to do.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us reflect upon our salvation. Is my life transformed by God’s grace and salvation? Is good work evident in my life as proper reflection of this new and transformed life? If you are in doubt, this would be a great opportunity for you to pray to God and ask Him for a beginning. Let’s pray.
Love • Christ • Unity

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#NoDistractionChallenge! Week 4

Day 16
They say a good start is half the victory, so I made myself a semi-victor's breakfast, and also for lunch so I can have another half of the victory. Egg and sausage wrap.

While doing my morning inspections, an operator remarked that my hair, erm well, she placed her palm on her forehead and did a quick swipe upward. I think that meant that I looked handsome. Nope, I'm pretty sure that's what she meant, since no other explanation is possible.

Still thinking about my trip to Sabah. Pretty excited for it. Browsed the internet looking for a new or secondhand camera. Set my eyes on a few and within my budget.

My colleagues and I won a consolation prize in a Music Video Contest. Each of us got a WiFi Speaker!

I couldn't sleep at night because I was troubled by an unstoppable spin of my mind. My partner can no longer help me out as often because of his role expansion at work. I am happy to see my best friend doing well at his career, but I'll have to do more in his absence. I just taught my youth Matthew 6:25-34, do not worry, yet here I was struggling to fall asleep because I am worried. I went to God in prayer, repeatedly, and eventually......

Day 17
Woke up like I got punched up really badly and too late for breakfast. So I grabbed my container, scooped some of my much hated oatmeal and left for work. An energetic morning greeting from a cute operator gave me a good morning mood boost.

Hectic day today. I skipped the gym today because my car air-conditioner malfunctioned (also because I was looking for a reason to skip). The mechanic suspected a leak and wants to open it up to check. Have to return tomorrow for the checkup.

Day 18
The day hadn't been kind to me. Sent my car for the checkup and the mechanic says that my car required a cooling coil change because it punctured, causing coolant leak. There goes my camera budget to get this fixed.
Great. Now I don't have to crack my head to decide which camera to buy, because I won't have the money to buy anyway. Well, at least I don't have to sit in a baking oven or an extremely well-ventilated car. Batu Kawan is the worse place to drive with your windows open: dust, exhaust from gigantic lorries, water puddle mixed with dog's fun time and etc.
Finally opened up all my angpaos (Red Packets). I thought I would open them up to buy my camera but now it has a better purpose. You learn a lot about "never judge a book by its cover" when you open up angpaos: Outside design nice nice, inside can buy two bowls of rice. Haha! Well, there are exceptions la, like this angpao in the picture: Nice Design + Nice Words + Nice Amount of Money. Haha! These are packets worth keeping.
Day 19
Well, God always have a better plan than men do. I remember complaining to God that my budget to buy camera was in vain now that I had to fix the air-cond, this morning I found myself thanking God. It was raining cats and dogs early in the morning and if I had not fixed my air-cond, I wouldn't be able to go to work in a nice and dry car. God is greater, all the time!

Day 20
Went right to my homestay after work to pay the maintenance fee and tried to negotiate a few terms with the management, but to no avail. Fortunately, it was a great time to appeal to the clerk, who agreed to help me out and make things a little easier for me. I guess I owe her a big favor now. She's a pleasant lady, so I guess I don't mind bringing her something nice once in a while.

Met up with Chang En for lunch and received my order of Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Banana Moist Cake. Fresh out of the oven, the pleasant fragrance of Chocolate Banana just came overwhelming my sense of smell. I can't wait to try it out tonight! Lunch with Chang En was a great talk about food and work. I requested Chang En to help me in my homestay as caretaker in the coming month and offered to pay him, which he gladly accepted. Meanwhile, I hope his business plan of 5L2F would work out. Check out his Facebook page!

Sent my car for a service. Since my dad sold his business, I must now take care of the maintenance of my car by myself. I knew this day would come sooner or later, I just didn't think that it would come so soon. I particularly miss my dad at days like these. But well, at least now I grew a little older and a little more independent.
How I reported my service to my dad
Li Xin Baptist Church finally had her first Good Friday service today. Though it was small, it was very, very meaningful. It was held as CG activity for the English Congregation. Two week back, we asked Pastor Koe to recommend a church where we can attend Good Friday service. Instead of a recommendation, Pastor Koe offered to run a service for us. Everyone was excited and we all said yes unanimously. The process of getting it done was not without hurdles, but we all learned a little more about church leadership. And voila! Good Friday may be a solemn evening, to remember that Jesus was unjustly accused and tried, violently abused and physically tortured. The single darkest, most evil Friday in the history of man, God called it Good. And tonight, we celebrated with a heavy heart, because after Friday, there's always Sunday: there's hope in Christ.
Pastor Koe preaching his Good Friday message
Scripture Reading
Breaking fast together
If I have learned anything again, again and again in all my past and present fasting experiences, it is that temptation can be just about anything. Anything as small as a pleasant gift can have so much power to distract us from God. Surely all good things come from God, and God wants us to have them. Yet in our human fallen nature, we run after all these things and became obsessed with it, it became the center of our lives and we let God take the sideline. Good things became our gods and our lives driven by it.

#NoDistractionChallenge helped me to offer God a little more of myself, but I have nothing good to boast but instead so much of my own downfall. Instead of giving those extra time I found all to Him, I found myself distracted by other things as well.
But Good Friday brings a liberating truth: the end of man is the beginning of God. When death signifies the end for man, God turns it around and brings a new beginning. When my own strength failed even in this challenge, I know I live by a grace and love that covers a multitude of sins. So my salvation does not depend on my success in this challenge or in any attempt to grasp self-righteousness, but in the blood of Christ that washes all our sins. When man cannot save himself, God can.
Love • Christ • Unity
P.s. Happy Easter! Christ is risen!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

#NoDistractionChallenge! Week 3

Day 11 
Canggih Card
Woke up earlier today to make my breakfast. Simple tuna sandwich. I made an extra for my light lunch but my lunch plan didn't turn out well. My colleague suggested that we go out for McDonald's Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken) so we can record a video and win something. Even that didn't go well. The Ayam Goreng Box, which is requirement for the competition, sold out. Guess McDonald's has been really successful with their latest campaign. I shot a video anyway. It was difficult to watch. 

We took the longer way back to office because of a terrible jam and stopped by to take away Tau Huey (Tau Foo Fah in Cantonese, Sweet Bean Curd Pudding in the English that I made up) for tea. 

Came home with a love letter in my mail box. From one of the youth who has left for further education in KL. Well I must be honest, I feel proud to watch these youth grow in Christ. It is indeed uplifting to know that they look to me as a role model. (Although I'm not so much one myself). And wow, the card she made me is really CANGGIH (state of the art) one! 

Day 12 
Finally settled my project and found some downtime at work. Worked on the itinerary for my Sabah Trip with Gabriel. Spent hours getting the details, dropping pins on Google Maps to plan the routes, checking on AirBnB and booking websites for accommodations and etc. Let's hope I can get the bookings all fixed by tomorrow so I won't have to worry about it anymore. 

Arrived at the gym earlier today. Instead of running, I did some weight-lifting to train my chest area. Those moobs don't look good on me. Saw this beautiful scene from the gym.
Day 13 
My body wouldn't move. All the sore from last night's workout was too much. But I felt extraordinarily energized today. Despite all the issues that suddenly just decided to happen together, I had quite an enjoyable time with my colleagues. There were debates going on but they were light-hearted. I walked into the work station of one of my favourite operator and pulled a prank her. Then joked with operators and technicians from another line. And finally had a quick chat with an Indian lady that I didn't know about in the company. Must be so excited, here I am, writing this on my phone while sipping on hot Milo at a Malay coffee shop at 11:15pm, while waiting for my laundry. What a day!

Day 14
It's all set! See you in July, Sabah! I spent the entire day of attention into writing a Excel Macro that can do all my work by just a click of a button. Well, it proves harder to want to be lazy I guess.

Tried to sleep earlier tonight again, but it was too hot to sleep.

Day 15
Had to stay over time this Friday as it is my turn this week. A colleague was stressed out by work and refused to eat. So I bought orange juice for the both of us and shared a short chat at her cubicle. I'm glad the juice worked magic. 

Initially I thought we would go for lunch together to relief those stresses, well, because food is always a comfort for me, but guess it doesn't work the same for her. So I skipped lunch and had early tea. Another colleague joined me and we chat over meal. Although we are officially Flex, but the transition from Bose to Flex is still ongoing, and she is caught right in the middle of it. Venturing into new and challenging job scope, she finds herself caught in a blind rat-race. When she paused to take a breather, very often she does not understand what she had been doing. Food for thought.

I went straight to clean my homestay after work. My impatient nature is starting to make me feel like giving up on this business. The amount of cleaning and attention to details required is challenging me to a whole new level.

As usual I arrived for Cell Group earlier than required. A brother came about 15 minutes later. We had a short chat on his life and we started talking about AirBnB's latest Experience feature where we can offer a tour instead of a homestay. It is a good business idea and I encouraged him to try out. We shared some of our fears as young people venturing into business. His careful and far-sighted character has been his greatest friend and foe. We shared how business is taking risks and the fear of future often holds us back and freezes us.
My light dinner.
Trinity Methodist Church's Pastor joined us for tonight's CG and it was a fruitful and fun discussion. I took the opportunity to play the Devil's Advocate and threw in some naughty and tough questions for the discussion. God, forgive me for bad theology. Haha!

Breakfast that Katty made.
This week, my hosts are the Dani-Katty couple. This is my second visit to their home and their generosity took me by surprise. Their Guest Room was upgraded from single mattress to full queen bed. God, bless them for their kindness and generosity!

Katty laughed at the fact that I was waiting for the clock to strike twelve, so that I can check my Facebook. I spent the next 30min looking through and the thrill was over. Katty remarked that she found peace when I became inactive on Facebook because she does not have to scroll through long list of my updates. Haha!

Final 5 days next week! Then Easter is here.
Love • Christ • Unity

P.s. Happy 400th post!