Freedom

Based on a sermon by Pastor Lia.

“But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel.”‭‭ – Psalms‬ ‭22:3‬

God isn’t just found in our hearts, in the Bible, in church or in Heaven. He also lives in our worship to Him. Wherever His name is lifted on high, there His presence will be.

The Christ-centered songs we sing alone in our bedrooms or together with the congregation in church are not like other songs.

It is not for good vibes, fun or hype. It is neither for a performance, nor a karaoke! It is a form of praise the Bible describes as something that welcomes God to take a seat in our midst.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭16:11‬

In the presence of God, there is fullness of joy! We get to experience a true joy and sense of freedom no other thing in this world can give. Once you have experienced the pure pleasures of praising Him and being in His presence, the pleasures of this world will fade in comparison.

If you have never encountered Christ before in the way that I’ve described, believe in Him. Seek Him with all your heart and lift up His name in songs of praise and I assure you, your life will be changed from the inside out.

It really isn’t hard to worship. In fact, we have the privilege to do so anytime, anywhere. Put aside all distractions, press in and focus on God.

As we do so, especially as a church, there is great power. Remember that once we step into church, we are a part of a big family. And though God will impact individual lives, we must now think for the people around us more than just ourselves.

When we worship and lift up praises to Him, we are actually giving to build the faith atmosphere in the house of God. The Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please Him”. Instead of just receiving from the atmosphere, we are producing an atmosphere in which God can move to touch the lives of others.

“Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, So drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” – ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭68:1-2‬

Worship is powerful. Worship is warfare. A man’s worship can bring the presence of God that holds power to change lives and drive out evil. Imagine a church of thousands united in worship. We will shake the gates of Hades.

So the next time you hear a church singing passionately and loudly, don’t be taken aback. We just can’t help but praise Jesus.

Pardon the noise. It’s the sound of freedom.

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Arise

Based on a sermon by Pastor How.

“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.” – ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭14:2-3‬

Through the ages, God has always been looking for that one man or woman. He constantly searches for that one person who would rise up to make a difference in their generation. Just one is all God needs. Though not many, there are heroes throughout history who have answered His call.

Today, God continues His search. He looks at our schools, workplaces, army camps, communities, businesses, and even social media for the ones who would make a difference in this generation. It’s time for us to arise.

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” ‭‭- Ezekiel‬ ‭22:30‬ ‭

God is just looking for one! One can make a difference. However, there is a short universal supply of young men and women who will seek God and hear His call. We can be the ones to do so. Instead of thinking it’s someone else or anyone else, why not think it’s no one else… but us?

There is great need around us in these times. And only the love & power of God displayed through us can comfort and restore hope in the people around us.

“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” – Genesis 2:4-6

In the Bible, rain speaks about revival. God wants to send “rain” into our classrooms, offices, homes and lives. He wants to bring love, joy, peace, faith, miracles and reconciliation, among many other things into our midst!

However, God does not send the rain when there is no man to till the ground and do the hard work. Instead, He sends a mist. A mist is nice, but it’s nothing like rain. So the question is – do we only just want a mist in our lives? Or do we want to experience a rain too?

Don’t be satisfied with just a mist, reader. Arise! Arise to serve, lead and pray. If there is no one to take care of a harvest when it comes, it will all rot and perish! In the same way, if there is no one taking care of a revival when it comes, it will fade away.

God is waiting for us to rise up. If nobody is going to do anything, let us do something. Around us, people are hurting, dissatisfied with their lives, struggling with insecurities, trying to find a meaning for their existence; the list goes on and on.

All they need is for someone to rise up, love them and point them to Christ. Of course, it might not be easy all the time. But with God, all things are possible. He wants to change history and the world through us.

Maybe we won’t change the world as how heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. did. But we can change our world and make a difference wherever we are. It all starts with one. With one, God can multiply.

I believe the church that I belong to already existed in Heaven and in God’s imagination a long time ago. But before it became a reality, He was waiting for someone to rise up. And my pastors did. They worked hard, believed in the next generation and loved people despite their flaws. Even today, their heart for God and for others remain the same.

That’s why God sent the rain. That’s why I have a church now to call Home. That’s why I’m here writing to you today. So if you want great change, miracles and revivals to happen in your life and around you, arise. Seek God & His direction and go.

Never think that you are not good enough to do something significant. Here’s one last verse to encourage you.

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” – ‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭

Even though the apostles Peter and John were presumably uneducated and untrained, they could still make a difference! The Bible even mentioned that God impacted 5000 people through them.

What does that mean for us today? It means that it doesn’t matter whether you are young or old, you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter whether you have a diploma, a degree or a PHD, you can make a difference. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in church for a year or 5 years, or if you see yourself as trained or as a leader, it all doesn’t matter! As long as you are with Jesus, He will be with you and you can do anything.

So what are you waiting for? Arise.

Dreams

Dreams. There are so many kinds of them. There are the ones that you get while taking a nap in class and the kinds that you get when you get woken up by your teacher. What’s the word for that again? Oh, I believe it’s called a “nightmare”. 😛

Then there are those that you see in movies, you know? The kind that you struggle to understand? *cue Inception music* 😄 But what about those that you’re having right now as you’re reading this? Maybe you have a dream, and it’s not the kind that you have while sleeping. Instead, it’s the kind that keeps you from sleeping, because you’re just too excited about them.

Well, a wise man I know once said, “if you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it.” I have dreams too. And if there is something I’ve learned from the Bible, my Pastors and the history of my church, it is that dreams require patience, hard work and faith. But believe me, dreams do come true.

We just have to allow ourselves to go through a journey with our dreams! Let’s look at Joseph in the Bible as an example. From his story, we can learn that the journey of a dream goes through 5 stages – birth, delay, death, resurrection and fulfillment.

1. Birth

Joseph had a dream. He knew in his heart that one day, he will be an official, much like the Prime Ministers of our modern day. Do you have a dream? If not, get one and hold on to it.

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.” – Genesis 37:5

2. Delay

Soon after Joseph told his brothers about the dream that he had, they got jealous of him. They threw him into a pit and sold him away as a slave. Because of this, Joseph’s dream got delayed for many years. Though most of us here will not be sold as slaves or anything like that, we must not be discouraged by delays and frustrations that will come when we chase after our dreams. Dreams do not come to pass overnight!

“Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.” – Genesis 39:20

3. Death

You might think that having our dreams delayed is bad enough, but more often than we would like, our dreams get dashed too. Joseph after becoming a slave stayed a man of character and honor. However, he was thrown into jail! That must have been the lowest moment of his life. He must have felt that his dreams were no more.

We might go through seasons when we doubt ourselves, when things just don’t seem to go the way we intended it to. We might even go through a huge setback like Joseph, and feel like our dreams are dead. But you know what? God will use these times to train us and build us in our character. We will learn to fight discouragements. Dream on!

4. Resurrection

As we keep our character and our dreams, God will remember them. Don’t forget that we serve the Lord Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life. He was crucified and killed, but He didn’t stay dead. He rose again on the third day! The problem with life is that it is has a way of killing our dreams. Sometimes, we just let our dreams die and stay dead. We must know that just like the God that we serve, our dreams will also be revived as long as we keep the faith.

If you feel that your dreams are dead right now, don’t stop believing. Stay true to your character and stay true to God. Joseph, despite being left in jail, continued to keep his heart pure and even cared for others enough that he would interpret their dreams for them. I believe it is because of the way that he responded to the death of his dream, that God revived it.

5. Fulfillment

And most of you would know the story. Eventually, Joseph helped to interpret the dream of Pharaoh and was promoted to become the Prime Minister of ancient Egypt. You know what we can learn from this? It is that when we make the dreams of others come true, God will see our character & heart and make our dreams come true.

So what is your dream? If you have a dream, go tell somebody about it. Find people who will encourage you, cheer you on, and even help you fulfill that dream. If you don’t have a dream, get one! And get a big one. Dreams will change the way you think, the way you act and the way you live. Dreams will change your life. I have a dream, and it is for this dream that I wake up every morning full of joy and full of purpose; it keeps me going.

Dream on, reader! 😉

Why Do You Give?

Giving is something we do all the time. We give in the form of gifts, time, energy and finances. But today, I want to ask you (and myself), “Why do you give?”

Because while many of us give in different forms, be it to a cause we believe in, to our family and friends, or to the church, this is a very important question that we must ask ourselves so that we give with the right heart. From what I’ve observed from myself and also other people, there are usually 5 reasons why people give.

1. Insecurity

Some people give because when they look around, they see their peers doing it; and in order to sort of fit in or not appear to be selfish, they give too. And while in a way, it is good because they still gave in some way, this kind of giving gets painful in the long run. That’s not how giving is supposed to feel! I believe giving is meant to be a joyful thing.

“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

2. Instruction

There are also people who give because someone told them to do so. Maybe it’s a parent, a senior, a leader or an elder. And while it is good that we obey all these people, we must also have our personal convictions in giving. If not, we will eventually be unwilling to give. Giving by instruction is one of the lowest levels of giving. Let’s not stop here!

3. Intention

Then, there are others who give with personal motives. They give out of their own will but there is an expectation for something in return. Some people give to their “friends” so that in the future, they will lend a helping hand when they need it. Some Christians give to the church and to God because they want to be blessed by Him.

While we will be blessed by our loving family and good friends and God will also honor our giving, we must not give with this dangerous mindset. Because there is always a possibility that we will not get anything in return! Are we going to throw a tantrum and stop giving then?

If we give with expectations to get something in return, it is NOT giving, it is buying. You go to the cinema, buy a ticket with your money and expect a great movie. You go to the restaurant, buy an expensive dish and expect a great meal. You go to the store, buy something with your salary and expect a great product. And if it turns out that any of them doesn’t meet your expectations, you’ll get upset.

But this is not how things work with giving! With hidden intentions or expectations in our hearts, we will not be giving, we will only be trying to buy people’s favor and God’s blessings. We want to be givers, not consumers.


So there are people who give out of insecurity, instruction and intention – motivations that makes the spirit of giving temporal, unpleasant and even selfish. But there are also another two groups of people whom I’ve really seen giving with the right attitude, and we want to be just like them.

4. Intimacy

The first of these two groups give because of intimacy. They give out of a heart of love and thankfulness towards someone. It is natural to give to someone whom we love or are intimate with! Have you ever seen how a loving couple would give to each other?

If you’ve ever wondered how to be a “cheerful giver” as described in the Bible verse above, this is it. When we give out of our hearts to love, we will do it cheerfully. We can give without loving, but we can never love without giving. There is a joy in giving to people we love. We are cheerful in doing so. Let’s give with a heart of intimacy towards our friends, family and God.

5. Involvement

Last but not least, there’s also a group of people who gives to be involved. They give to a disaster relief because they want to be involved in helping people. They give to a loved one because they want to be involved in their lives. They give to someone or something that once helped them and now want to be involved in doing the same for others because they are grateful. They give to a vision and a cause they believe in because they want to be involved in making a difference – in changing the world.

Today, let’s give out of intimacy. Let’s give to be involved in something greater than ourselves. Most importantly, give with a smile on your face. God loves a cheerful giver, but I believe a cheerful giver also loves God.

Heroes

As soon as the word “hero” pops up, a few individuals/characters would come to your mind. If you’re a DC fan, you would probably be thinking Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. If you’re a Marvelite, I would guess Captain America, Iron Man or Spider-Man would be some of many heroes that you will think of.

Or you could possibly be leaning towards more of Japanese manga and anime type heroes such as Goku, Naruto or One Punch Man? All the gamers here would probably mention protagonists such as Link, Master Chief or Nathan Drake. How about all the Trekkies out there? Maybe Captain Kirk and Mr Spock are your favorite heroes? Star Trek Beyond is awesome by the way; go watch it if you haven’t!

And of course for all the Star Wars fans reading this, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, or even Darth Vader would be your go-to in terms of heroic figures. Or perhaps you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, James Bond, Indiana Jones, The Hunger Games😄

The list goes on and on and on. And it seems like there is no end to the number of characters we can think of in the fictional world who all share common heroic traits! But today, these are not the heroes I want to talk about. And neither am I going to talk about famous real life people in history who have done heroic things that made the world a better place.

Because while the first heroes we are reminded of are always the ones that are strong, intelligent, charismatic, confident, has a unique look and personality, has a special set of abilities, had great adventures and fights evil, I want to look at another type of hero apart from the ones we are familiar with, a type that might possibly point towards a certain reader looking at this post right now – the unlikely hero.

For all the Christians here, we read the Bible and we see the men of God who has lived before us. And if we want to talk about heroes, you would immediately think of great men like David who slayed giants, men like Moses who parted the Red Sea, and men like Paul who spread the Gospel far and wide.

And sometimes we can focus so much on their heroic deeds that we forget that actually, many of the great men chosen by God didn’t start out that great at all. David was young and inexperienced, Moses couldn’t even speak properly and Paul was anti-Christian! These men were all (less than) ordinary and were the most unlikely to be used by God for His purpose and yet God still picked them. See? Unlikely heroes.

Another unlikely hero in the Bible is a man named Gideon. And you must be thinking “who is this guy?” or “what does he have that God would choose him to be His hero?” Well I guess by now you wouldn’t be surprised, but honestly he didn’t really have much! In fact, all he had to offer when God sent an angel to him are these 4 things: worries, insecurities, doubts and fears! 😛

Haha if you don’t believe me, you can take a look at the scriptures in Judges 6:11-24. It is clearly written that Gideon asked questions in worry and doubt and didn’t even believe that God was there with him when an angel was literally standing in front of him. It is almost hilarious just reading all that.

But jokes aside, maybe some of you who are reading this are feeling the exact 4 things that Gideon was feeling. You can totally relate to him. Maybe deep down on the inside you know that the life you’re living now isn’t all there is to life. Maybe you feel that you are meant for greater things. Or maybe God Himself has even given you a great dream and a vision.

No matter what it is, you are hesitant to follow your heart, to chase after your dreams or to obey God. You ask yourself questions in worry, insecurity, doubt and fear. “What if I fail? How can it be that God has called me? Why would He choose me? Am I really strong, intelligent, charismatic, confident, good-looking, talented, experienced and holy enough to be used by God?”

Well, if you are having thoughts similar to the ones above and completely understand Gideon’s feelings, I have great news for you. You are a person with an incredibly high potential of becoming a hero for God, albeit an unlikely one. 😉

“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” – 1 Corinthians 1:27

Here’s the thing. God doesn’t see the way we do, He doesn’t see the way the world does. We might have tons of worries, but God doesn’t. We just got to learn to listen to His voice and obey it. In reference to the previous scriptures in Judges 6, God didn’t even take Gideon’s worries into account and just told him to rescue Israel from its enemies! We just have to see from God’s perspective and His word will triumph over our worries.

To us, we might think that we are not the heroic type and don’t have much to offer in terms of making a difference in the world. We might feel insecure even and disqualify ourselves from becoming the person that God has created us to be. But God sees beyond all that. He sees beyond all the insecurity – a hero within. He would rather pick a person that seems to have nothing but is humble, than another who has everything and is boastful.

It’s interesting how the angel of God addresses Gideon as a “mighty hero” even before he has done anything heroic. We might not see anything mighty or heroic about ourselves, but I believe that God is seeing a mighty hero within us just as He did in Gideon. Humans might only see problems in their lives, but God sees otherwise. We see our problems but God sees our potential.

What else? Maybe today you are doubting God. You doubt the dreams, visions and promises He has placed in you. Or maybe you doubt yourself. You doubt that you have the ability to do anything significant. It doesn’t matter, just know this. Our doubts do not deny God’s divinity.

Just like how the law of gravity, no matter how much you try to doubt it, cannot be denied, God is the same. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Our doubts cannot change the fact that He is real and has chosen us to be His unlikely heroes.

But maybe even after knowing all that, you still fear what’s to come. You know what, if you need peace, just invite God into your life and whatever situation that you’re in. Because God doesn’t just bring peace, He is peace.

“So Gideon took ten of his servants and did as the Lord had commanded. But he did it at night because he was afraid of the other members of his father’s household and the people of the town.” – Judges 6:27

So how did Gideon become a hero despite everything he was feeling and the low chances he had? He took a leap of faith. You see, faith isn’t the absence of worries, insecurities, doubts or fears. Faith is having the courage and desire to see from God’s perspective and to make a move forward despite all that. Read the verse above, it is clear that Gideon was still afraid when he obeyed God’s command! But it didn’t stop him.

Today no matter what stands against you, take the leap of faith. God is looking for more unlikely heroes in our generation. You can be one of them.

If you don’t yet know Jesus, take that first leap of faith to believe in Him. I can’t talk about heroes without mentioning the true superhero of the world – Jesus Christ. He was sent to our world to save us from our sins. He died for us and rose again to give us an abundant life, a life where anything is possible – including becoming heroes. But we got to first have faith and believe.

Truly in God, heroes can rise out of the most unlikeliest of places.

[Inspired by The Unlikely Hero, a sermon by Garrett Lee of Heart of God Church.]

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. :)