Monday 4 December 2017

"The New Rules For Love, Sex and Dating" by Andy Stanley

This is another book review by my son, Jakin, on The New Rules For Love, Sex and Dating by Andy Stanley. You can also view Andy Stanley's series of four sermons on this topic online (discussion questions are available too).

Yet another book about love, sex and dating. However, this book actually focuses on the “love” more than the “sex” and “dating” combined. Stanley defines love and challenges the reader to not only look for the partner who is loving, but to become the partner who is loving. His main question is “Are you the person the person you’re looking for is looking for?”, implying that self-improvement is the first step to dating even before searching for a suitable partner. Stanley busts many myths that are woven into today’s culture, especially the “Right Person Myth”. This helps the reader acquire a new perspective of what God’s original design for marriage and love is.

There is a very unique chapter in this book, Gentleman’s Club, Chapter 6, that addresses guys specifically. It reveals the human nature that is so evident in most guys and explains why we are so susceptible to sexual sin if left to our childish thinking. Instead of following our “hit her with a club and drag her into your cave” instinct, Stanley instructs guys to develop self-control.

Overall, this book is for anyone who is thinking of dating and has not been given the gift of celibacy. Stanley offers readers a choice to do a yearlong break from dating for those who are serial daters to compose themselves and start again, focusing on developing their own character instead of finding someone else who is perfect. For those who have yet to start, they can also take a yearlong preparation time to do the same. I recommend teens of ages around 14 and up (guys can start earlier) as long as they are mature enough to handle it.

Thursday 30 November 2017

#struggles by Craig Groeschel

What follows is a book review of #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel by my son, Jakin:

The main focus of this book is on social media. It highlights the issues raised by social media in our time and explains how social media has caused many of us who use it to stray further from God. There are many ways technology has changed our lives, many of which are detrimental, especially how social media connects us to more and more people, yet hinders us from developing true and intimate relationships, replacing them with “followers” or “friends”. The book also describes how we even put these “likes” above our personal relationships (or even our God) because they make us feel good, causing it to become an addiction or an idol.

The best parts of this book are the appendices. Groeschel does not just expose all your flaws and mistakes and leave you there, but he provides suggestions and ideas that allow you to break away from addiction and restore your walk with Christ, as well as guidelines for healthy use of media to keep you safe from many online dangers.

Overall, the book offers a Christ-centred perspective of media and allows us to renew our mind and soften our hearts, while not conforming to the standards of this world. A good read for anyone who owns a smartphone or a social media account or is planning to. Especially good for parents (I wonder why…haha!)

If you would like to read excerpts from the book, check out my earlier posts:

Monday 6 November 2017

#struggles - Revealing Authenticity (Chapter 3)

Excerpts from '#3 Revealing Authenticity' in #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel:

It's no exaggeration to say we've become a selfie-obsessed culture.

You can take a picture of yourself, and if you need to touch it up a little, you can apply a filter. Most smart phones now have filter tools that let you fix those little problem areas. You can change the color saturation, brighten the image, soften it, or make it black and white. You can even get rid of red-eye and erase that second chin! You can even change the color of your eyes and raise your cheekbones.

We take picture after picture of ourselves until we can get the perfect one, and then we apply a filter, maybe use an app to edit or crop as needed until we get the image just like we want it.

Selfies seem harmless enough, but I'm starting to wonder how our selfie-obsession might be changing how we relate to one another. For example, the more filtered our lives become - the more we show others only the "me" we want them to see - the more difficulty we have being authentic. One recent study links an alarming increase in plastic surgery to patients' desire to get the "perfect selfie."

But you know what the strangest thing is? Our culture keeps telling us that all of this is perfectly acceptable. After you've filtered your picture, you have to take time to create the perfect caption. It has to be clever, but not too clever. While you have to get it just right, you have to make it look like you're not trying too hard. Then you have to choose exactly the right hashtag to achieve maximum impact. After all, you're about to put your filtered self out there so the rest of the world can affirm you.

But before long, you might find yourself wondering whether they would like the real you.

Pictures aren't the only things we're becoming used to controlling, thanks to technology and social media. We have the luxury of sending an article, text, tweet, or email to virtually anyone we want to communicate with. And we can edit and revise as much as we want before we hit send.

The problem, however, is that many of us have filtered our messages so much that we are no longer comfortable with real, unscripted, spontaneous conversation. We've become so used to the luxury of being able to edit the things we say that some of us really struggle when we have to have normal everyday conversations with and in front of real, live human beings. Technology has given us tools that are unprecedented in human history, but an entire generation is growing up uncomfortable in conversations they cannot control.

Today we have the luxury - hard to say whether it's a blessing or a curse - of being able to decide whether we want to answer a call based on factors we can control. We can see a call come in, send it directly to voice mail, wait for the person to finish leaving a message, and then immediately listen to the voice mail or wait until later.

We have even more choices about responding. We can call the person back or not call back. But what do many of us do? Respond with a text message. Why? Because a text lets us stay in control. We don't have to talk - to experience all of that unnecessary anxiety of not knowing where a conversation might go. We don't have to have a "conversation" at all if we don't want to.

We are all filtering and editing our lives, and the more we do, the more difficulty we have being authentic.


I used to think when I read this story (Exodus 34:29-35) that Moses put on the veil to protect the people from the fear-inspiring glory of God on his face. But if we look more closely at the text (2 Cor. 3:13), we see that he used the veil not to protect the people but to keep them from seeing that the glory was fading. Even Moses, after seeing the glory of God, didn't want others to know he was losing the image.

Paul then makes a comparison (2 Cor.3:14-16). When the old covenant was read, the Jewish people who didn't believe could not see the truth. Why? Because their unbelief blinded them like a veil. But anyone who turns to Christ understands the truth, because he removes this veil and reveals God's glory.

You might wonder how this passage applies to us today. Well, most of us put on a veil of some kind or another to hid the truth about ourselves. We've become skilled at filtering our lives, showing others only what we want them to see. This is similar to what Paul implies Moses did; he hid from the people the fact that God's glory was fading away.

This tendency is part of our sinful nature. When we're insecure, when we don't feel good about ourselves, and perhaps most of all when we sin, instead of confessing, which would set us free and heal us, we tend to hide, to put on a veil, to filter our lives.

So how can we find the courage to remove our veils, reveal the truth about ourselves, and experience the freedom to be ourselves? Paul tells us, "Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16-18). We can't do this by ourselves. Only Christ can take away the veil.


That sort of raises the question, "So, Craig, are you saying that we should always be only 100 percent honest and show everything we do on social media?" Yes and no. Yes, we should always try to be honest. But no, we should not show everything on social media. I like Beth Moore's perspective: "Be authentic with all. Transparent with most. And intimate with some."

Here's the bottom line: Everything you say must be true, but not everything true should be said. If I post something, it must be the truth, but we don't need to share everything on social media. Some people are oversharers. You know some, right? They say too much, and you want to tell them to "shutteth thine trap." Not everybody wants to know all of your feelings about every person you know.

So yes, we should remove our veils and tell the truth. But social media is not the place to bare all! Be yourself, but don't feel like you have to share everything you're feeling. Being authentic is not about being brutally honest and confrontational about everything on your mind. But by all means - at the right time, with the right people, and when you're face to face - drop the veil completely. If you don't, you'll always be longing for something more.

When you put on the veil and post something hoping for more Likes, hoping for affirmation, even if you receive it, you're still going to feel empty because you're not being real with people about yourself. But the place to be vulnerable is where God wants you to be vulnerable: in the context of private, life-giving, healthy, God-honoring relationship.

Notice this (2 Cor. 3:14-15): a veil that first covers the face eventually covers the heart. It begins as just a superficial covering, a temporary attempt to cover up a problem rather than addressing it head-on. But left unchecked, the hidden problem will become a serious spiritual condition.


You may be acting the part and playing the role, but in your heart of hearts, you know you're not the person you present to the world.

The danger is that we can become so used to showing our filtered self, so accustomed to the half-truths and exaggerations, that we don't even know who our real self is anymore. Until you show who you really are, until you know and are fully known, you're going to be longing for something more.

When we're always filtered, when every selfie shows only our best side, we may impress some people some of the time. But you're not connecting with them. They're not connecting with you. We want so badly to connect with others, and we think the best way to do so is by showing off our strengths. But it doesn't work that way.

We actually connect with people through our weaknesses. We may impress them with our strengths, but we connect through our weaknesses.

I can give you the solution to the problems in this entire chapter with one simple phrase: only Christ can remove the veil.

When we turn to Christ, he removes the veil.

Maybe you're exhausted. You're weary because you've already tried everything else you can think of. You've looked everywhere you can for affirmation. You've turned to one person after another, but you still haven't found that thing you're longing for. This is the promise you have from God, straight from his Word: You don't have to remove the veil. When you turn to Christ, he does it for you!

Then you can finally drop the mask because you're not getting your approval from Likes; you're getting it from his love. You will no longer be living for the approval of people; you will be living from the approval of God. He will reveal the truth: you are acceptable to God through Jesus. You are the righteousness of God in Christ. His grace, his righteousness, is sufficient for you.

When you realise that Christ is all you have, you'll also find that he's all you need. You don't need approval from someone else because you have approval from Christ. When you turn to Jesus, you have the same Spirit that raised him from the dead living within you. Your identity is not connected how many followers you can get. Your identity comes from who you are following, and you are following Jesus.

When we all let the veils fall - because our lives are better when we're together, when we act as the body of Christ, when we allow each other to see the "real" us - we will truly see the Lord's glory.

Why? Because it's not about you and me. It's not about our selfies. The reason we exist is to give him glory. When we do, this Scripture (2 Cor. 3:17-18) says we will begin to be transformed - not into the person we think others want to be but into his image, bringing every-increasing glory.

He'll transform you into the image of Christ, not for approval of people but for the glory of God. We're not called to elevate yourselves (John 3:30); we're called to deny ourselves and follow him (Luke 9:23-24). The way to follow Jesus in a selfie-centered world is to give him glory in all that we do.

Surrender your selfies.

Let Jesus lift your veil.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 1 - Recovering Contentment
Chapter 2 - Restoring Intimacy

Monday 30 October 2017

#struggles - Restoring Intimacy (Chapter 2)

It's important to consider not just what Jesus said but even what he didn't say (John 13:34-35). Notice he said that "everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus didn't say "everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have perfect theology." Certainly good theology is important, but it's not how the world will be able to see that we follow Christ.

Jesus didn't say "everyone will know that you are my disciples if you attend church regularly." Does that mean we don't need to go to church? Of course not! We're supposed to spend time together to encourage each other in the things of God (Heb. 10:24-25). But going to church isn't what shows the world that we follow Jesus either.

The way they will know we are his disciples - according to Jesus - is how we love one another. He set the example for us himself by washing his disciples' feet, an act of absolute humility. We should treat one another in ways that show that the sacrificial love of Jesus lives inside our hearts. That's how the world will know that we are his disciples.

And that's how we will know if technology is in its proper place in our lives: by how well we love one another. It's hard to wash someone's feet with a phone in your hand.

So be honest with yourself as you listen for God's voice. Are you sending emails when phone calls would be more meaningful? Are you typing a quick text when a personal visit would deeply impact a loved one? Have you intentionally neglected to use your gifts to serve others because you are hoping others' Likes will serve your need to be noticed? When was the last time you actually snail-mailed a handwritten birthday card or thank-you note instead of simply texting because it was easier?

Jesus has something better for us. Maybe it's time to put down the device and pick up a towel to serve.


I can't speak for you, but to be really honest, I have to admit that the more I dabble on social media, the more I realize I'm delaying the personal interaction I crave. I have also never been more connected and yet felt so alone.

The author of Hebrews wrote, "And let us not neglect commenting on one another's posts." Oh, wait, wait... I'm sorry. I totally messed that up.

No! He writes, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another" (Heb. 10:25 NLT).

Really let that sink in: "Let us not neglect our meeting together."

"Let us not neglect our meeting together."

"Let us not neglect our meeting together."

Have we fallen out of this practice?


Actually get together with people. Be physically present with one another. Not digitally. Not virtually. Not just in a group text, but in the same living room. Make the time to love people face to face, not just keyboard to keyboard. If you want to get really crazy, don't set a time limit on how long you'll hang out or what you'll discuss. In other words, just be with someone (not in the biblical sense, well, not unless you're married.)

You know that device you use to text with? It might be hard to remember, but what's something else you can do with that device? That's right! You can actually talk on that thing. It's a lot harder, but maybe you could scroll through your contacts, find that person, tap their number, and call them on the phone.

As they answer, you will actually be able to listen to what they're saying. You can hear the words and listen to the tone in their voice, which will also be communicating something. You might even ask if you can pray with your friend, right there over the phone. Then based on what they tell you, you can ask them a few more questions. I can promise you that a person-to-person conversation can go to amazing places that texting back and forth will not go.

What's another way you can show love? You can actually go see them. Just sit down with your friend, face to face. Ask a few questions, and then just listen. If it seems appropriate, maybe put your hand on their shoulder. Maybe even hold hands across the table and pray with them.

Presence is powerful.


Be emotionally engaged too. Don't just be present; be all there.

Engage deeply. Go all in. Make sure that the person you're with is the most important person in the world when you're together.

We've either seen, or if we're honest, we'll admit we've been, that family in the restaurant with each member glued to their phone or tablet - texting, gaming, emailing, surfing, whatever. We're losing the ability to relate to one another in natural ways.

We've become so used to interrupting normal, healthy communication with other activities and human beings that we somehow think this is okay. We're face-to-face with someone who matters to us, but instead of being with them the entire time, we're somewhere else virtually, digitally, electronically.

We're present, but we're not there.


Don't assume that I just don't understand or appreciate our world of tech. Hey, I have a smart phone too. And I'm just like you. Every time it buzzes, whistles, chirps, beeps, or dings, something in me can't help wondering, "Oooh. What was that? I wonder if it's something important. Who sent me something? I must know this instant."

Have you heard of FOMO? It's a thing. I read recently that FOMO was added to the latest edition of a popular English-language dictionary. FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. It was coined for an entire generation of people who are constantly worried they're going to miss something.

Ask yourself this question: at the end of your life, is it really going to matter how many Likes you got? Do you honestly believe you're going to be lying on your deathbed one day thinking to yourself, "If I had gotten just three more Likes on that picture I posted of that weird tomato back in '15, I would have made an even hundred. One hundred Likes. Triple-digit Likes. Ooh, life would have been so good. #ICanDieHappy #RIPme."

Life is not about how many Likes you get. It is all about how much love you show. The only way people will know that you are a follower of Jesus is by how well you love people.

Instead of FOMO online, what you really should be afraid of is missing out on the people in front of you. You may be missing out on your children growing up. You may be missing out on enjoying an intimate marriage. You may be missing out on deep friendships filled with meaning. Is your fear that you're going to miss out on something causing you to miss out on what matters most?

Don't just pray for people. Pray with them.

Don't just Like what they post. Like who they are.

Get involved in one another's lives.

Others won't know you by your Likes.

They will know you by his love.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 1 - Recovering Contentment

Monday 23 October 2017

#struggles - Recovering Contentment (Chapter 1)

Excerpts from '#1 Recovering Contentment' in #struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World by Craig Groeschel:

Let's take a few minutes to expose any discontent - which is another way of saying envy - that you might be harboring in your heart. First, do you battle with material and financial envy? Second, do you harbor relational envy? Finally, maybe you battle with circumstantial envy. You see what other people are doing, where they're working, how they're living. Do you then look at your life, your circumstances, and wonder why you don't have the things they have or get to do the things they're doing? If you do you're probably green with envy.

I can't think of anyone in history who had a better understanding of managing his responses than the apostle Paul (Phil. 4:12-13). Paul is essentially saying, "I've gone without the things that I need before. But I've also had times when I had more than enough. Life happens in seasons. I've had good seasons when everything was going well, and I've had hard ones when nothing went my way. But in all of that living, I've learned that there's one secret to being content, no matter what my circumstances happen to be at the time. And that secret is that I can do anything and everything not by my power but through Christ. He's the one who gives me the strength to handle anything that comes my way."

Don't miss this truth. You will battle with discontent until you let Christ be all that you need. Don't believe me? Then prove me wrong. Achieve, conquer, accumulate, repeat. Sound familiar? None of it works. At the end of the day, every day, you'll still feel empty.

When Christ is all you have you'll finally realize that Christ is all you need. He's everything that matters.

If you keep searching, comparing, and envying, you'll never have enough. So let's look at three ways we can help ourselves battle the sin of envying, keeping in mind that we'll need Christ's strength to win the war.

James 3:14-16. Notice that wisdom is in quotes because James was being sarcastic; these attitudes are not wise. But also notice this: envy is demonic. Where envy is, there is disorder. Where envy is, there is every evil practice. Look at these words. Demonic? Every evil practice? This is serious. Envy is not from heaven. It's earthly. It's unspiritual. It's demonic. I don't want to participate in activities that the Bible calls demonic. I'm sure you don't either. And James doesn't say, "Probably it would be a good idea if you considered being careful about envy." He says that with envy there is evil.

Envy isn't just unhealthy. In God's eyes, it's downright sinful (Ex. 20:17). We need to kill our comparisons, because comparing ourselves with others is not wise.

The first step in combatting evil is to consider what you can and should give up. Just choose one thing to stop doing today. For example, stop checking your Facebook feed before bed. Don't post a picture of the delicious plate of food you've been served at a restaurant. Stop reciprocating with everyone who follows you on LinkedIn, especially if you don't know them. Practice stopping that behavior over and over. Ask others around you to help you stop. Commit to yourself and to them that you will stop.

The second practical thing you can do to kill comparisons is to celebrate other people's successes. When you see someone else being blessed in a way that you hope to be blessed, celebrating with them can purify the intentions of your heart. When you see someone else get that thing you've always wanted, try thanking God instead of wallowing in jealousy: "God, thank you so much that your hand of blessing is on them. Please continue blessing them." Celebration sends a kill shot right to the heart of envy.

A third way to kill comparisons is to cultivate gratitude. I read an excellent definition of envy that went something like this: envy is resenting God's goodness in other people's lives and ignoring God's goodness in your own life. Proverbs 15:15 says, "For the despondent, every day brings trouble" (NLT). The despondent see every single day bringing more trouble. They can't see the blessings because their glass is always half-empty. But Proverbs 15:15 doesn't end there. The second half says, "For the happy heart, life is a continual feast" (NLT).

Are people who start the day miserable living in the same day as people with a happy heart? Of course they are! The difference is in what they're looking for. Despondent people are looking for trouble - and they find it. People with a happy heart are looking for God's goodness - and they find it!

You want to have a nonstop party? Enjoy what God has given you, instead of longing for what you don't have. Be thankful for what God has given you, instead of resenting other people's instagrams: "Oh, I wish I had their life!" Guess what? They're longing for your life in ways you don't even know about!

Let's worship our God not because he gives us everything we want but because he is worthy of our praise. Let's worship him because we've learned the secret of being content, whether we're living in plenty or living in want. That secret is that we can do all things through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gives us strength.

Excerpts from other chapters in the book:
Chapter 2 - Restoring Intimacy
Chapter 3 - Revealing Authenticity

Monday 4 September 2017

Gifts and Talents - 'Strong Woman Do Bong Soon' [Spoiler Alert!!!]

This must be the cutest Korean drama of the year, maybe even the cutest drama ever! Definitely poles apart from the previous series I wrote about, W - Two Worlds, which was pretty heavy-going despite being set in a webtoon world. So anyway, while laughing at all the antics and rooting for Bong Soon (Park Bo Young), I realised towards the end that the story actually speaks quite loudly about how we should treat our gifts and talents. So here goes...

Know and acknowledge them

In the beginning of the drama, we find out that Bong Soon hides her special gift of supernatural strength in order to be the sort of girl that she thinks her crush, Gook Doo (Ji Soo) would like, ie a weak and helpless girl whom he can protect. Only her family and her closest friend are in the know and they all help to protect her secret for various reasons.

Therefore, she only helps those in danger when no one else is watching. For instance, she stopped an out-of-control bus just in time and saved the passengers as well as the passers-by who would otherwise have been hit. This also happened to be the first time Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik) witnessed her superpower from the back seat of the bus, albeit without being able to see her face.

However, there are many times when she sees someone in trouble but is unable to help as there are other people around and she isn't willing for her gift to be exposed. This leads to much frustration and confusion on her part in terms of her self-identity and purpose in life. It is only when she reveals her strength to the world later on that she is finally reconciled with her own gift and can use it to help Gook Doo, who is a police detective, capture the serial kidnapper. Furthermore, she eventually realises that her true love isn't Gook Doo, the one she was hiding her gift from but Min Hyuk, the one who knew about it all along and loved and accepted her just as she is.

We also need to discover and accept our own gifts and talents. Each one of us has been uniquely made by God and bestowed with a special set of gifts and talents. There is no point in trying to hide or change them or even compare them with others' gifts and talents. We can only reach our destiny and enjoy the life and relationships we have been blessed with when we fully accept who we have been created to be, gifts and all. [Just an aside, before you commit to a serious relationship and marriage, make sure the other person loves you for who you are and not an imagined you. That also means, don't put on a mask and try to be something different from how God has made you just to impress someone!]

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

Develop them

Not only is Min Hyuk aware of Bong Soon's special gift, he also takes it upon himself to help her train her strength and learn to wield it skillfully. He understood that Bong Soon had to develop her gift to its full potential in order to find satisfaction in her role as the 'super heroine' of her neighbourhood. Similarly, we also have to develop our gifts and talents with appropriate training and discipline and use them to the best of our abilities in order to fulfill our calling (cf. the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.)

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you... 1 Timothy 4:14a

Use them for the right purpose

Bong Soon's gift is explained as being hereditary and passed down the female line, but only when it is used for good. Hence her mother lost the gift because she had used it for selfish ends. The gift is a responsibility to make the world a better place. Our gifts and talents are also not for us to show off nor for personal gain. Instead, God has gifted us so that we can use them to do good works.

For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

Use them with the right motivation

Initially, Bong Soon seems to have used her gifts not only reluctantly but also out of a sense of duty as she knew that it had been given to her family to better the world. But that doesn't bring her joy. Later on, when her bff had been kidnapped by the villain, she turns to anger and uses her gift not only to rescue her friend but also to seek revenge. As a result, she unintentionally kills an innocent man and loses her gift altogether.

As a weakling, she is taken captive by the villain and locked up with a ticking time bomb. Min Hyuk finds her but is unable to release her. He decides to stay with her till the end despite Bong Soon's protests. She pleads to God to restore her power so she can save her beloved and her prayer is answered. After miraculously regaining her strength, she frees herself and disposes of the bomb, thus saving Min Hyuk and herself. After experiencing Min Hyuk's self-sacrificial love, she grows in confidence in herself and her gift. Consequently, she continues her pursuit of the villain not out of vengeance but because of her love and compassion for the victims.

Our motivation to do good should also be in response to Christ's sacrificial love for us as displayed on the cross rather than serving out of duty or even worse, acting in anger or retaliation.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

Use them in the right way

Bong Soon also had trouble working with others before her aforementioned 'conversion'.  With Gook Doo, it was because she could never be authentic before him due to her feelings of infatuation. She couldn't trust Min Hyuk either as she was worried that he might get hurt and leave her. Only after she realises that she doesn't really love Gook Doo (so no need to hide her strength anymore) and that Min Hyuk isn't even afraid to die for her does she learn to trust both of them. With this level up in their understanding and trust in one another, they are able to work together as a team and tap on each person's unique gifts. (Oh yes, the men had their own gifts and talents too! After all, this isn't a feminist script where the men are all incompetent slobs!) And that is how they succeed in catching the villain once and for all. Hooray!

So it is with our gifts and talents - God distributes different kinds of gifts to each person but they are all meant to be used for the common good (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.) We are supposed to work together and complement each other's gifts just as the different parts of a body function together (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27

So let's learn from Strong Woman Do Bong Soon and go forth, unleash our God-given gifts and talents and be the salt and light that will make this world a better place to live in!

[Oops! Forgot to mention that you can watch the series here and/or read witty synopses of each episode here.]

P.S. I fell in love with PHS' acting and wrote some quick thoughts on 2 more dramas that he's in. 😉

Monday 5 June 2017

Holy God (Elohim Kedoshim)

This is the second out of two devotionals written for our church camp (8-12 Jun 2017).

Joshua 24:15b, 19, 21, 23
“... as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

Joshua and his family was committed to serving God but he questioned the people’s ability to do so. It required them to dispose of all other gods in their possession and give themselves wholly to the holy God. ‘Yielding your hearts to the Lord’ is not just the outward act of throwing away physical idols and gods, it is more importantly the cleansing and complete submission of our hearts to God. He has to be our top priority, our main focus in life. Anything else that takes His place in importance inadvertently becomes an idol, and it would need to be cast off too.

Leviticus 11:42, 44a
You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, ... it is unclean. I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.

In addition, worshipping the holy God meant that the Israelites had to keep themselves holy by avoiding any food that would make them unclean. However, it is not only the external things we consume that defile us, so can the thoughts and desires from within us.

Mark 7:21-23
For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come - sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.

So if wholehearted worship is what we want to model to our children, let us do some spiritual spring cleaning and throw out anything that has taken God’s place in our hearts or that makes us unclean. Only by keeping ourselves and our children pure would we then be able to pass on a legacy of true religion to the future generations.

James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  1. What are the things you need to dispose of, both for yourself and your family?
    • ‘gods’ that have become more important than serving God (eg fulfilling your own or your children’s needs and wants, keeping up with societal expectations)
    • anything unclean you or your family members are consuming (eg clothes, films, social media)
    • any thoughts and desires which may defile you before God

  1. What steps do you need to take to ensure that you and your family worship God only and keep yourselves holy and pure?

O holy God, forgive me and my family for worshipping ‘idols’ and placing them above You, for the unclean things that we consume, and for our defiling thoughts and desires! Cleanse us and give us the ability to keep ourselves holy and pure. Remove the wrong thinking and temptations which lead us away from worshipping You and You alone. Please come and take Your rightful place as King and Lord over our hearts and our lives, for our generation and the generations to come!

The Lord, the God of your fathers (Jehovah Elohei Abothekem)

This is the first out of two devotionals written for our church camp (8-12 Jun 2017).

Joshua 18:2-3
But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?

God often referred to Himself as ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. He is the God of generations because He is faithful through the generations. He keeps the promises He made to one generation for generations to come! So when Joshua called Him ‘the Lord God of your fathers’, he was pointing to how God had been faithful to all the previous generations before them. Hence the Israelites could continue to trust in Him that He would surely fulfill every promise He had made to them regarding the possession of the Promised Land.

Yet the Israelites hesitated. They had ‘neglected to go and possess the land’ that God had already promised to give to them. Perhaps they were afraid of the resistance they might face from the people who were already residing in the towns and villages. That was why Joshua had to remind them of the faithfulness of the God of their fathers, the same God who had led them on the Jericho walk and made the walls fall down!

This also goes to show that not only is God faithful, He requires us to be faithful to Him too! If the Israelites had not followed His instructions and marched around Jericho faithfully for seven days, they would not have experienced the victory that God had prepared for them. Hence, Joshua was challenging them once more to go and take the land by faith so they would see the hand of God yet again. Otherwise, they would never be able to possess the land they had been promised.

Joshua 21:43‭-‬45
So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

True enough, the moment they acted in faith, God came through and every promise He had made since Abraham was fulfilled! And future generations would look back and remember how the God of their fathers had been given the Promised Land.

  1. Can you identify the spiritual fathers/mothers in your family or community? How has God been faithful to the generations of believers before you?

  1. How have your spiritual fathers/mothers been faithful to God’s calling on their lives and what impact has that made on your own spiritual journey?

  1. In what areas of your life is God calling you to respond to Him in faithfulness? How do you think your obedience to God will affect the faith of your children and future generations to come?

O Lord, the God of my spiritual fathers and mothers, thank you for Your faithfulness through the generations and thank You for the faithfulness of the past generations of believers! Please grant me the faith to trust in and obey Your every prompting. May my faithfulness inspire the faith of my children and generations to come!

Friday 19 May 2017

Talking about suicide with our kids

Recently, there's been a lot of talk about how videos and social media are influencing children and young people to attempt/commit suicide (just google '13 Reasons Why' and 'Blue Whale Challenge' and you'll see what I mean). Even more sadly, there has in fact been a string of copycat suicide attempts in the schools/social circles that our own children are in. However, most of them had been intercepted and/or their lives were spared. So we have had to chat with our children regularly on this topic and I thought I might as well share some of the tips that we've given to them with other parents, children and youth.

1. Look out for one another

Look out for friends around you who may be suicidal - they may actually say they want to die, or they may be in depression or feeling depressed especially after experiencing failure or something demoralising. Talk with them, pray with or for them, and most importantly, alert an adult who can help eg parent, teacher, counsellor, pastor.

2. Watch your thoughts

Watch out for suicidal thoughts in your own mind and replace them with 'good thoughts' cos our thoughts will influence our feelings and ultimately our actions and behaviour.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

So if we keep dwelling on worldly ways of thinking such as 'life is meaningless' and 'I'll be better off dead', then pretty soon we will start to believe them and act them out. Instead, we need to fill our minds with Godly thinking which will lead to a transformation of our lives. Here are some egs of 'good thoughts'. There are many more in the Bible, of course.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life." John 14:6a

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-3a

3. Get help!

Whenever you feel like you can't cope, go to God in prayer and worship, and read the Bible. Also, approach someone who can give wise and Godly counsel (a trusted adult eg parents, teacher, counsellor, pastor, youth leader) to talk with and get support from.