our impatience to maximise..the Kingdom no less!

We are an impatient lot.

we hate to queue. we dont want to wait to grow. we expect God to intervene – now – to change the person, adjust the situation, overtake the conflict…

an old hymn has a line that goes: “unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see…”

but no, we dont want for revelation. we grasp for understanding, insight, breakthrough, solution.. we want to mximise everything within range.

so we build, organise, evaluate, review, tear apart…such that instead of

-accountability and mutual honour, our leadership structures generate distrust

– full hearted, embodied worship we get a war of words, ideas that divide and distort what worship is truly about

– enjoying our journey with Jesus we agonise and swing from guilt to licence; one minute we are too strit with ourselves, the next we lax and drift.

– giving God and each other space to work for maturity and growth, we judge and stymie the very growth with our harsh expectations

If we can take a leaf from the environmental degradation around us… it is our desire to maximise that has distorted and destroyed the wondrous gifts God has given us. We cut rivers, chop entire forests, spew chemicals..when water, trees and growth and organic, natural processes God has designed!

What are the natural organic processes God has designed for the church to fluorish? Loving each other, using and planning according to our spiritual gifts, helping each other to be transparent, speaking the truth in love, and waiting together under the banner of God’s love for Him to act and move… the critical and foundational function that we must each cling to and receive sustenance from the Vine (and the fruit comes)..

We need organisation. We need to plan, forecast, dream, and of course envision – for God’s Kingdom requires imaginative, creative engagement. But we must not get so impatient that we plan the Life out of things and introduce death as a result.

Just as we are now discovering that we can cooperate and flow with nature; it’s about time the church discover how to flow with the Spirit, obey the Word, and stand amazed at God’s Kingdom revealing itself!

hope, hopeful or hopeless?

we are doing a series on Thessalonians in church with our elder. The reality of the Thess church is that they came to faith against odds and hung on to their faith, growing and demonstrating their genuineness of their faith in the midst of persecution. Hence Paul encourages them much about the hope they have – not a wishful sort of longing, but a solid promise of justice and peace when Christ returns. There is hope, and they can be hopeful because Jesus is coming back again. The Thessalonians may not have the hope that their trying and life threatenting circumstances may chance; not hope on this side of heaven, but they have etnral hope.

How often do we who live and serve in affluent Singapore think of the need for hope, eternal hope? Rather we hope that people treat us nicer, give us more respect, that we can find a safe place to worship (make that comfortable and near the MRT please)… what exactly do we hope for? Are our lives marked by a hopefulness that goes beyond this time-space? Or are we in fact not that different from the general mood of hopelessness in the world – where hope goes up and down according to economic and mood cycles?

How shall we learn to be hopeful, to stand on the Hope we have and to offer hope to others?

By taking a hard serious look at our false hopes and repenting of them

By facing our fears of truly hoping and acting in faith out of that..rather than playing it safe

By going out on a limb – where the fruit is – and risking…

By gazing at Jesus, the author of our hope and all our hopes.

Let us encourage each other while it is day!

sleepy in church?

Literally. yes, we dont have to nod away…there are many ways to slumber. even busy pastors, working, talking, acting…can be snoozing away. How? when we go into auto-pilot and rely less on God and more on experience, what works, and a whole hosts of ideas, programs ad nauseam.

Reliance on God is nearly impossible to see; yet it is detectable.

Some signs of it: peace, joy, perseverance, humility.

Now we dont see much of that around in our hearts, homes and churches do we? So we may be sleepy heads… then we better wake up; for who knows what is lulling us to doze!

you can also read “eating in the pews?” in Jenni’s Facebook Notes.

Easter thoughts

Easter is drawing near…it comes every year… with a mjor Gd Friday outreach at church; we can easily forget how important this season truly is.

The old church tradition has a forty day season called Lent that leads up to Holy week which of course culminates in Easter. We should bring back Lent – because –

we forget so quickly the things we meditate upon

when we are at work sometimes we even forget God and who we are in Christ

our lives get so cluttered with do-lists the good news of Easter is marred by the things we failed to do…

So bring back a long season like Lent or a forty day fast so that we can deiberately prepare ourselves for the incredible drama, power and truth of Easter. It has been said that we only appreciate the greatness of Grace when we recognise the deep darkness of sin within our hearts.

No wonder Grace today is good news is good health and weatlh. How does such a Gospel lift us out of this world to seat us in the heavenlies? It only lands us more squarely here on planet earth.

Easter is important and central to our faith because it is The Event, the V-Day, the Waterloo, the watershed… and that because of the whole larger story of our sin and God’s Love. How can we contemplate enough of it?

ending 09 well

Another year will soon come to an end. In true Singapore style, we will start to hear people moaning about how how fast time has flown and what a lot remians to be done…friends we have not caught up with, targets unmet, changes not implemented, hearts not settled…

How shall we end the year well? What herculean effort will it require from us – so that we can enter a new year with hope and look back with faith that our lives have counted?

If it’s faith and hope we want, then love is the cement, the anchor and the north start.

Love calls forth faith – to believe, to try, to risk.
Love calls out hope – to anticipate, to dream, to dare.

But of course, if we looked at our hearts or look to one another, we may more likely find doubt, disbelief and at best unsteady goodness.

So to end 09 well, make time for LOVE to visit afresh.

what a privilege

we were visiting one of the cells in church. the worship was smiple.the group was small…but there was a hunger and an opening of hearts before the LORD..and suddenly i just felt it is such an incredible, amazing, wondrous privilege to be able to say “I love you LORD”

Just think, when u say ‘i love you’ to anyone else…u often get doubted. But though we shrink from fearing to tell God we love Him, He never ever does strike out at us when we whisper with trembling, “i love you LORD”.

Imagine. Loving GOD!

when GOD is for you

we think GOD is for us when He approves of us, blesses us, protects us, and gives us a great day.

No.

GOD is for us.

In his perfect wisdom, purity and power, love, goodness and grace – that means He will never let go of who are truly deeply are.

We do not know who we are. We think we are this personality, that profile, this set of strengths and gifts, a fusion of successes and regrets. No, those are all bits of who we are – as we respond and live in a fallen world.

Perhaps this is why the ancient church fathers urge us to discipline ourselves..to be quiet, to sometimes even purposefully act against what we are naturally inclined to. It is to break the bondage of who we have carved ourselves into in our attempt to cope…that who are are may emerge; carried by God’s loving everlasting arms. Then, we are ready to truly bless our world.

stranger christians?

this term sounds oxymoron right? a fellow Chrisitan should NOT be a stranger. we share eternal bonds! Yet..

I (jenni) talk to strangers. Today, i spoke to 3 women who shared my table at the coffee shop. What struck me was how cuatious and uninteresting they were compared to some more energetic, feisty totally stranger-folks i have talked to on other occassions… of course, much can account for their general coldness..they could be introverts, sick, been cheated one too many times… i won’t know.

But i sensed they were CHristians so i asked. the reply came back with no gladness. (1 down). after a few more sentences, i shared that i was a pastor. they said i did not look like one. [no problem there]…then they talked about how we are no longer allowed to distribute tracts and how it’s okay to enter temples when u go on tours but to step out if you felt unease.

This raised major Qs for me about discipleship!

i gently suggested that they can pray for their friends on those tours and make it a mission trip!

the whole time, no warm smile, glad connection or sense of concern…hmmm… [2 down]  did i mention that when i came back to the table after my visit to the loo, my food had arrived and one of them said to me curtly, “the birds could have eaten your food”! [3 down i thought a smile and we watche your food for you would be more helpful…]

Discipleship is a huge D!! for the Determined, Dogged and Decided.

Beware!

Sometimes the Word of God – the Bible – becomes so familiar to us that its authority and its weight of truth can fade…this is the danger of knowing the Word.

God is calling us to live in and live out the Word.

Sometimes He has to let things happen to us. Or even let things happen to our nation – to show us that He exalts His Word and His Name above everything (Psalm 138). So we can once again humble ourselves and cry out, “forgive us, we will obey you afresh!”… a moment like Israel in the time of Ezra. A time to rediscover God’s Word’s power, penetrating truth and eternal stability.

What word is God bringing to light and life for you? Dwell on it and let it travel deep into the depths of your being. When the harsh winds blow and you feel caged in; it is the Word that will rasie you up as the Spirit anchors you again.

Be strong and very courageous; let not this Word depart… (Joshua  1v8f)

info overload?

We live in amazing times. Life has never been so luxurious and indulgent and so pathetically impoverished all at once. We can cheer on total strangers, write and opine, whine and beoman, campaign and complain… with the internet especially, we seem to know so much and have so much to do…

As Christians who want to see God’s Kingdom realised each day, we can about burn out just from trying to circulate those nice powerpoint emails about thanking God, living better, being stronger and so on.  We also become more aware of social, political and environmental issues….

Frankly though we remain much the same. We either get so drained by our own struggles we could nto care less what goes on in the world, or we care but feel guilty coz we dont do enough, or we care but get totally frustrated since we feel so powerless to bring change.

Singaporean Christians in general are a well-fed lot. We already know more than we can make meaningful use of. What is needed is a sense of focus, calling, destiny.

As a wife-mother-pastor, there are endless concerns and issues i can pursue. But i surely cannot impact every area to the same degree and with the same passion and energy.

So perhaps the key is to ask: what do i focus on this season? Am i willing to admit what I dont know and work hard to find out if this is the area of focus God has for me? Am I willing to pray and receive His peace for areas beyond my action for now?

Balance focus with open-ness. Being open to the Spirit’s prompting is essential to an exciting faith-life. While we have a focus, we must remain open to divine interruptions, surprises and twists! It is easy to tust our own strength and make a big deal of our actions when we are merely focused.

We are concerned for many things in our world today: poverty, the church, the gospel, our neighbours, our marriages, children, parents, governement, mass media…and the list goes on… but we can become world-weary and lose our shine if we forget that this is our Father’s world! Our Father would have us focus and at the same time be open to His winds of leading and change.