Pain

Pain. It is something that can come in many forms. It could come in the form of a sickness or a discomfort; you know the kind of feeling that you get when you have a fever or the sore that you have after exercising for the first time in a long while? Or how about that sensation that you feel at your fingertips after playing the guitar for an hour? Accidentally stubbing your toe against something? That’s pain.

Yet beyond all that, we know that pain can also come in less physical forms of disappointments, discouragements and rejections. I’m sure that you and I have had a fair share of all that. But I guess only those who has been in pain will understand it. And only those who understand pain can relate to those who are hurting.

So in a sense, could God use our current pain for a future purpose? Because it is true that we connect to others not by our strengths, but through our weaknesses; that we relate to others not by our personal gains in life but by our personal pains in life. So maybe God can use our pain for a greater purpose – if we have the right perspective and allow Him to do so.

Besides, if there is one Person that we should use as the ultimate example of pain with a purpose, it is Jesus Christ! He was nailed to the cross for the remission of our sins. He was betrayed, He was tortured, He was humiliated, He was abandoned. He went through the most physical, emotional and spiritual pains and suffered more than any of us just so we can be set free. Yet after all these things, He is perfect, He is alive and He is all powerful.

Maybe right now as you’re reading this, you’re in the midst of a painful season in your life. Never think that no one understands your pain. Because even if the people around you don’t, Christ does.

Before I conclude this last post for the week, let me just say one final thing. Pain never lasts. Sometimes it feels like forever, sometimes it might even really take forever to subside. But trust in God and one day sooner or later, He will bring you through it. Jesus came to loose the chains of eternal pain in our lives, and essentially also – eternal death. Of course, I pray that as much as possible, you do not experience pain in your life. But if it does happen, have faith.

And also, remember that there is always the possibility that your pain could have a purpose. At times, your pain can even make you stronger. Out of painful experiences, victors can be made. Go ask any Olympics champion if winning was ever easy. I think we all know the answer. Pain can either drain you, or train you. Choose what it does.

Father’s Day

Hi readers! According to WordPress and my “deliberate” calculations, this is my 50th post on Fool’s Bench since its start almost nine months ago! So today as I write this milestone post, I realized two things. One, it’s Father’s Day. Two, I have probably been talking too much to all of you guys and should let someone else do the talking. 😄

And that is exactly what I’m going to do today. Because Pastor How has also just released a short article through his website! There is no better or more appropriate time than now to share his words with all of you.

More than just being a pastor of my church, Pastor How is a spiritual father to me. Growing up all these years without a father figure in my life, I’ve always felt empty on this day. But all of that changed after I came to Heart of God Church, where I met the best spiritual parents and my heavenly Father – Jesus Christ.

Now, I no longer feel any lack or insecurity on this day. I am eternally grateful to my God and my pastors who are always there for me. In fact, every year, Pastor How will encourage and affirm every person in Heart of God Church who does not have a father or a father figure in their lives! I am one of them; and today, I want to dedicate this post to Pastor How and share with all of you the letter that he wrote to us one year ago.

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Happy Father’s Day. :)

Alive

Hi everyone. Today, I have officially existed for two decades! 😄 Haha, I know that’s an unconventional way to put it. But more than just growing another year older, I also realized this year that I have been a Christian for a quarter of my life! 5 years ago, I stepped into Heart of God Church as a 15 year-old boy and my life truly began.

It’s funny because you can be breathing physically and yet not really be alive. As I looked back on the past 5 years, there’s just so much to be thankful for – my church, my friends, my family, those are just some people I never want to take for granted.

But if there is just one person that I need to mention and thank on this day, it would have to be Jesus. Over the past 1800+ days, God has changed my life so much and given me a purpose and a destiny greater than myself.

The reason why I could elevate my mindset, grow in my character and change as a person from the inside out is because of Jesus. Without His grace, I would never have become who I am today. I mean 5 years ago, I would have never thought I will be writing like I am now!

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

So today, I just want to thank Jesus. I am a sinner and I never deserved the life that I am living now – the life that He has given me. But that is what grace is all about, isn’t it? We were all doomed for death because of our sins. We had no choice; we had to go down the pit; we didn’t deserve life. But He still came for us, showed His love for us on the cross and pulled us out of the darkness.

I never once regretted having known and accepted this amazing grace & love that our God has for us. Because now, I am no longer in captivity. I am no longer a prisoner held in chains. I can now have the ability to let Christ cleanse me from all unrighteousness and come into an intimate relationship with Him.

Grace does not say “I am allowed to sin”; grace says “I am free to change.” His overwhelming love for us does not remove our necessity to lead a holy life – it gives us the freedom to do so!

Grace does not give us the license to sin; grace gives us the power to change. That is why I want to change and grow in my character – because with God, I can. And think about it, anything that is alive and healthy grows. 

Today if you have never known the love of Jesus, the empowerment of His grace and the joy in being in a relationship with Him, know that you can have all of it. Don’t just breathe. Live. Eternal life is about this relationship of knowing Jesus. And today, it is a free gift that He is extending to you. But like I said, gifts have to be accepted. So the question is, will you take it? :)

The Test Continues

After 2 weeks of making an impact in Europe, my pastor is finally back home with us! And in case you do not yet know, Pastor How is currently on a new series – The Character Test, which will continue with a second part this weekend. Here are some clips from Part 1 if you missed it:

Enjoyed what you just watched? Well, those were only snippets of the message that we heard 3 weeks ago! And the good news is you can hear the next part for yourself in person. Visit Heart of God Church this weekend and experience it for yourself! 😉

The Character Test: Part 1

“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared; but only men of character are trusted.” – Alfred Adler

That was the quote Pastor How used to begin his sermon last weekend. He was starting a new series on character because it is one of our most important assets as human beings. And just as Billy Graham once said:

“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” – Billy Graham

But how do we know if we truly have character? How do we know if it is lacking in some areas and we have to make a change for the better? Well, we just have to put it to the test and we will know. That is why this series is called The Character Test. There are a set of tests that we can put ourselves through, and by how we respond to these tests, we will have a clearer picture of our character. Our responses reveal the real us!

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And it is so important for us to know our own character and the character of the people around us because all relationships are based on trust – every relationship. So if you have even a tinge of doubt about a person’s character, your relationship with him/her will be affected! This applies to God too! If we don’t know His character enough because we don’t read His Word enough or we don’t spend time with Him enough, then we will doubt even our perfect Heavenly Father!

And just like every relationship we have in life, our relationship with God is also based on trust; and trust is based on truth. If a person is always full of lies and deception, you will never trust him, would you? But because there is truth in our God, we can trust in Him and have a relationship with Him.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6

Now I must say at this point that this message isn’t for us to judge others and criticize their character; this is for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and become people of character. Because the depth of a relationship depends on the depth of trust present in that relationship! As much as we would like to have great friends, teammates, colleagues, bosses or even one day marry a person of character, we must first become a workmate, an employee, a leader, a friend and a person of character.

So how do we know if we are people of character and truth? We got to put ourselves through the following tests; because character is revealed by…

1. How we respond to failure

We are all humans, we are imperfect. And sometimes we make mistakes and fail terribly. But what do we do from there? That defines our character. Because we can either make progress and learn from our failures or make excuses and push the blame. It’s one or the other, we can’t do both!

So don’t push the blame to others, because we empower whoever we blame. If we blame someone else for our failures, we give them control over our lives & our destiny! If we blame the devil, we give him power. But if we take responsibility for our own actions, we will be able to control our lives and grow our character for the better! Because taking responsibility is the beginning of change, which will lead to progress.

Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” – Genesis 3:12-13

Of course, it is not easy to take the blame. As seen in the scripture above, it is our human nature to blame. So we got to go against the human nature to be a man of character. That’s one way we can identify a person of character, when we observe him/her when they go through failures and mistakes.


#2 How we respond to success

“Don’t let success get to your head; don’t let failure get to your heart.”

You know, failure isn’t the only way that the devil can get to you. If the devil can’t get to you through failure, he will try to get to you by success. Success is a great thing, but we must guard our hearts and our minds when we are at the mountain tops. Because the danger of success is complacency and pride.

For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” – Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)

For us Christians, we must always remember to give glory back to God. Staying humble is so important because our talents, abilities, opportunities and education can get us to the top, but only our character keeps us at the top. So to see if a person has character, just look at him/her when they attain success!


#3 How we respond to temptation

Put it simply, if we cannot resist ice cream, we cannot resist the devil. 😄 Haha, I know it sounds funny but it’s true! If we can’t resist the everyday temptations of our lives, we will not be able to do great things. Ice cream is mostly just a harmless and relatable example that Pastor How is giving us, but it gives us a good illustration about character.

Because we need to have a characteristic of delayed gratification – the ability to resist what you want now in order to have what you want most. So for example, if you want to lose weight, you have to resist the temptation of eating your favorite ice cream! Or if you want to be successful one day, you got to resist having fun all the time and instead spend more time on studying and acquiring knowledge & wisdom! That is also how we can have character!


#4 Time

“In the short term, people are won over by charisma; in the mid term, people are won over by success; in the long term, people are won over by character.”

Relationships (like marriages) are supposed to be for the long term. Love at first sight usually never lasts. Because to know the character of a person takes time, and that is especially important when it comes to our future spouses. It takes time to know them, it takes time to reveal character. Beauty & charisma might catch attention, but it’s character that catches the heart.

For the potential husbands & wives, dating is the best time to watch the other person when he/she fails, succeeds or are tempted. Unfortunately, character is not revealed when everything is rosy and perfect. Real character is about consistency, which can only be revealed through time.

The difference between amateurs and professionals is consistency. Just like how we would want our favorite soccer team, hairstylist and local restaurant to be consistent, we should want to have character consistently.

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And that is all for part 1 of The Character Test series! If you enjoyed reading this post, you will enjoy Part 2 even more hearing it in person. Come visit our church if you’re in Singapore! We’ll love having you with us, and you’ll definitely have a great experience too. Hope to see you soon! 😉

p.s. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.

The Fool’s Bench

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Hi readers! Today marks the 7th month of Fool’s Bench existence! If you still remember, it was on 22nd of September last year that this site was launched. Ever since then, many people have visited and shown a lot of love and encouragement, and today if you’re one of them, I want to thank you for your support.

But today is not about celebrating another month of Fool’s Bench! Today is about going back to its origins. Because today is also the birthday of a woman who a year ago, preached a message that inspired the name of Fool’s Bench. If you’ve been here long enough, you would know that I am talking about my spiritual mother – Pastor Lia.

So as I was thinking over the past few days what I could write about today, I thought there could be nothing more appropriate than to share with all of you my notes that I took down for The Fool’s Bench message more than a year ago; since you know, today’s about Fool’s Bench and Pastor Lia (who preached about The Fool’s Bench). 😉 Haha, ready for a #throwback? I present to you, one of the most important messages I’ve ever heard – The Fool’s Bench.

“The Fool’s Bench” by Pastor Lia

The first thing I remember Pastor Lia saying was that if we want to be world-changers, there are 2 questions we need to ask ourselves.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

Am I a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

Because if we blindly follow everyone else in the world, how can we change it? There is a huge difference between a thermometer and a thermostat – a thermometer measures room temperature, whereas a thermostat controls the room temperature.

Just look up Roger Bannister as an example. He set the temperature, a new standard, a new record. He is a “thermostat”. He changed the “rules” of the mile run forever. But what about us? Are we blending into environments or are we showing others how to live? World-changers are thermostats no matter where they are! They hold on to their convictions despite peer pressure. And in fact under pressure, their convictions are strengthened.

Look up another hero named Samuel in the Bible. He lived in an environment of corruption, but kept himself pure. In a time when God was clouded out by the world, Samuel lived differently. He too was a thermostat.

Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.” – 1 Samuel 3:1

And because he was a thermostat, God noticed Samuel and called him when He wanted to change the world. Just as how Samuel was different from the people around him, we can be the same too.

that the Lord called Samuel. And he answered, “Here I am!”” – 1 Samuel 3:4

Am I Heavenly-minded or Earthly-minded?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2

My pastors always say that Christianity is not the removal of the mind, but the renewal of the mind. So we want to lift the thoughts of our minds towards the things of God. And as Christians, we got to ask ourselves what exactly is on God’s heart.

And it can be safe to say, knowing my God for a few years now, that His heart is always for others; especially those who do not yet know Him. So if we want to change the world, we got to start with the people in our world. We got to live for others, not for ourselves. Of course, it isn’t as easy as it seems. Sometimes we might even feel like fools for living for others, reaching out to them and loving them. But that is why we have to be heavenly-minded.

To many people out there, the idea of “living for others” is a foolish one. But to God and to those who are heavenly-minded, it is a beautiful thing. Because money, possessions & success on Earth cannot be kept forever. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in Heaven & Hell or not, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Jesus or not. One thing is for sure – all of us will one day depart from this world in death and all those things we have accumulated for ourselves in our time on Earth will be left behind.

Now I do not mean that success isn’t important. However, we should have both success and significance in our lives. And this can be done by being the “fools” that people may see us as. But it’s all about perspective. We aren’t just any fool on the street. We are a special kind of fools – fools for Christ. And I truthfully believe up till this day that fools for Christ are amazing. They are willing to make a difference in any way they can and see it worth their efforts – even if it means only one person getting touched.

In closing, Pastor Lia shared with us a story of a certain church in South Barrington, Illinois that has interesting benches in its lobby. Every weekend, there will always be a handful of members from the church sitting there, waiting for their friend, relative or colleague to show up. They have probably earlier in the week invited someone to come join them in church to experience all that they have experienced, which has impacted their lives in a certain way.

Fifteen minutes passes. Half an hour passes. An hour passes. A lot of these people that they are waiting for have said “Yes” to their invitations. But some of them never show up.

Thus, these church members waiting on the benches sometimes end up looking & feeling like fools. But I’m sure if you visit that church the very next weekend, they will be there again at the very same spot on the same bench, waiting. Because they are heavenly-minded and they don’t mind it. They know that what they’re doing can possibly make a difference in a person’s life that money cannot buy, and death cannot take away.

And so after awhile, these lobby benches that these people sit on every weekend became known throughout the church as “The Fool’s Bench”. That is where the name originated from. It’s so inspiring, isn’t it? I want to be able to live like these heroes, who nobody might even know about, but are the real thermostats and heavenly minds that are changing our world for good & for God. I leave you today with one last quote by missionary Jim Elliot that perfectly sums up this entire message into one sentence: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

I Believe

Today if you walk down a street and see coins scattered all over the floor, what would you think? You’d probably think the same thing as me, “Someone must have dropped it there accidentally. Finders keepers!” 😛 Haha. But let’s change the scenario a little. What if you walk down a street and don’t see a mess but instead you see two neatly stacked coins? I guess you would react very differently. You would think that it’s some kind of trap or that somebody must have placed it there on purpose! That’s exactly how I feel when I look at the world around me.

Reader, I believe the world is not an accident. When I look around and see the beauty of nature, I cannot ignore the great possibility that Someone was behind it all. I read about our universe, its solar systems, our planet, and I know that there is an intelligent design in everything. From how perfectly placed our Earth is in distance to the Sun for us to live to how it is tilted at an axis for seasons to occur to how water falls on land and goes back up to the sky in a cycle, I am so convinced that the world in which we live is not an accident. If I believe that a simple stack of coins is not an accident, it is natural for me to believe that a world which is exceedingly more sophisticated and complex than that has a Creator and a purpose. And even more so for you and I.

Because I believe that we are not an accident. I believe that we are results of something far greater than that of a cosmic explosion. When I look at our bodies, our minds and our systems, I just know in my heart that God has made us and in a way that no machine or artificial intelligence can replicate a 100%. I’ve seen accidents and know they don’t make things better. A car crash will never produce a Ferrari! Accidents make things worse and leave chaos & destruction at its wake. These things left to itself will then decay and decompose into disorder, the total opposite of what we and our world are.

I believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made as we are. When I look at the animals in the zoo, I can see our similarities. Both they and us have a body and a soul. We can feel emotionally, they can too. We can think, and albeit at a lower intellect, they can too. But there is one huge difference I see even between my friends who behave like animals and the animals themselves. Only us humans have a spirit. And only spiritual beings can worship. I’ve never seen an animal with an inclination to pray or look to a greater power even in their most helpless state. But our species has since ancient times looked in many places to find God. I believe that we are different from animals.

I believe that God wants to have a relationship with us. Christianity is not just a religion in which we attain eternal life and are able to go to Heaven. Christianity is a relationship. In fact, eternal life is about knowing God. It can begin right here, right now.

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3

I also believe that God is our Father. He is not just a divine cosmic power or a Creator. Because a creator can always create something and throw it away if he doesn’t like it. A creator can create something and give it away if he feels good about it. A creator can make something and sell it away to earn profit from it. A creator can always destroy his creations and start over again. But a father can’t do all that. You can’t father a child and just throw it away. You won’t father a child and give it away. And of course you wouldn’t father a child just to sell it away. Even if a child turns out to be rebellious, disobedient and defiant, his father will never end his life and have another one.

Similarly, I believe that our Father in Heaven is the same. Even though we as His children have turned away from Him, He can never just wipe us out from the face of this corrupted world. Instead, He wants to redeem us, change us and bring us home. It’s always been His plan. I believe that He wants to bring redemption to our lives and to our world.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23

I believe we are all sinners! We are born selfish and have to be taught at a young age to be selfless. That is why we need God. But we also need Him because only a Creator knows the purpose of His creation. Friend, I believe you and I have a purpose. Do not ever think that you are an accident because accidents don’t have a purpose. Accidents are unplanned for, accidents are unwanted. When I look around me, at this keyboard that I am typing with, at this screen that I am looking at, at this chair that I am sitting on and at this bottle that I am drinking from, I realize that everything was made with a purpose. And wouldn’t it be the saddest thing to believe that lifeless objects have a purpose, but we don’t? Your parents might have told you that you were an “accident”, but today God is saying to you that you’re definitely not His accident. Because if you are, He would not have come to die for you.

Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ came to die for you and I. I believe that He came to restore His relationship with us that was previously broken by sin – a relationship no amount of success and good works can mend. Just think about it; if today you had a row with your father and you ran away from home, would becoming a huge success or a philanthropist (though all are good things that we should be) earn back your relationship with your dad? No. Only if we were to go back to Him, apologize and ask for forgiveness, would that relationship be restored. It is the same for Jesus, just that He made the first move. Why? Because there is a penalty of death that we need to pay for our sins.

And here is why I believe that our God is both just and loving. Imagine that you got yourself into a car accident due to drunk driving.  You end up in court and to your horror, your father who is a judge is sitting right there on the bench. As a judge, he has to mete out justice & punishments and cannot be biased towards you just because you are his son or daughter. So in all fairness, he reads out all the penalties that you will get including a fine and a suspension of your license. But at the end of it all, something interesting happens. He gets down from his bench after the court session, walks towards you and puts his arm around you. He then tells you not to worry, because he will pay the fine for you and drive you around until your suspension ends.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16

I believe that is what God has done for us. God is not just a judge in Heaven who metes out punishment, but He is also our loving Father. That is why God became Man to die on the cross on our behalf to pay for the penalty of our sins. Now, if we accept that love and just believe, our sins can be washed away and we can be made clean in this relationship with Him. That is why I believe. I believe that He gave His life for me. I believe that He rose again. I believe that He is 100% Man and 100% God. I believe that He is good. I believe that I am forgiven. I believe that I have a purpose. I believe in Heaven and I believe in the name of Jesus. Do you?


If you want to believe, all you have to do is pray this prayer with sincerity:

Dear Father God, I admit that I am a sinner
And I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe that Jesus Christ died for me
On the cross and rose again.
I confess that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
Holy Spirit, help me to obey and follow God.
Change me from the inside out.
In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


p.s. If you happened to have stumbled upon this post and have just prayed the prayer above, I want to congratulate you because you have made the best decision in your life! This is only the beginning for even greater things to come and I would like to tell you more. So if you have just believed in Jesus through this post, don’t stop there! Let me know by messaging me through Facebook, and especially so if you live in Singapore! Hope to hear from you soon! 😄