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.

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! 😉

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.]

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.

message

Happy Father’s Day. :)

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!

character-test

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.

character-test-2

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.