Keep Calm And Take Courage

Dear Ministry Partner,

 

We often face stormy weather in life. This could be in the form of job insecurity amid a gloomy economy, battles with health issues or challenges in our relationship with others. Sometimes the unexpected happens to us or our loved ones and our faith is shaken. We ask, “Why did this happen, Lord?”

 

The storms of life can rattle our peace and cause us to feel anxious. It is so easy to lose our perspective when “the wind did not allow us to hold our course” (Acts 27:7). In the book of Acts, Paul’s journey to Rome was buffeted by fierce storms. The crew was fearful and wondered if they could make it to Rome. Paul stood up before them and said:

“Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” ­– Acts 27:23-25 (NIV)

 

When we face the storms of life, how do we keep up our courage?

 

Firstly, we must affirm our identity as a child of God. It is not who I am, but whose I am that matters most. We belong to the sovereign God who knows what we are going through. Acknowledging our birthright shifts our focus on ourselves and circumstances to God.

 

Secondly, we may feel lonely when we face life’s storms. However, we are not alone. Paul experienced the presence of God in the midst of the turbulent storm, “[God] whom I serve stood beside me”. Our external world may be falling apart, but God’s assuring presence gives us the needed courage and strength to weather any storm. The moment He shows up and says, “It is I”, our every fear will be calmed.

 

Thirdly, we must recognise that storms accomplish God’s purpose in our lives. Paul testified before Caesar and proclaimed the gospel to Rome, but not before experiencing the raging storms of doubt and fear. Storms are part of God’s necessary faith-strengthening and character-building curriculum so that we can accomplish His purpose for our lives.

 

The next time you face life’s storms, keep calm and take courage in God.

 

Blessings,
Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader


Click here for the Chinese version of the article

 

与你同行的朋友

亲爱的事工伙伴,

“两个人总比一个人好,因为二人劳碌同得美好的果效。
若是跌倒,这人可以扶起他的同伴;
若是孤身跌倒,没有别人扶起他来,这人就有祸了!”

传道书4章9-10节,和合本

如果你凌晨三点发生紧急状况,除了最亲的家人,你还会给谁打电话呢? (more…)

Friends For The Journey

Dear Ministry Partner,

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)

If you encounter a crisis at three o’clock in the morning, who, apart from your immediate family members, would you call?

In the world of Facebook and LinkedIn, we have many friends but few good friends to share our life’s journey with. Friendships take time and intentionality to cultivate.

Our personal temperaments may differ but we have the same fundamental need to be deeply connected with other human beings. We all longed to know and be known.

The Christian life flourishes in community and not in isolation. In every season of our lives, we need friends with whom we can grow and mature. We need friends who can be honest with us, fight for our hearts and hold us accountable for our Christian faith and conduct. Trusted friends are safe havens for us to share our struggles and musings without the fear of being judged.

Our lives are richer when we share them with others and learn from their experiences. We struggle alone when we are afraid to share our inner fears and problems. However, when we take the courage to share, our joys are doubled, sorrows are halved and wounds are soothed. Lies we believe in are exposed. We discover we are not alone in our struggles. Ultimately, we experience great delight in having fellow pilgrims walk with and support us in our journey.

Good friends are God’s gifts to us, just as we are God’s gifts to them. In the midst of enjoying their company, we must treasure and invest in them. Some will become lifelong friends, while others will move on when certain life seasons come to an end.

In his book “3-2-1: Following Christ in Threes”, author and speaker Tan Soo Inn gives us a simple and practical model for spiritual friendships – the “3-2-1 triad”. This involves three friends meeting for two hours once a month to share about their walk with God, work and lives. These conversations help us connect at a deeper level as we share in a safe environment. In the process, we will discover that journeying with others is life-giving and satisfies our longing for kindred friendships.

The journey ahead need not be lonely. Take the initiative to invite someone out for a meal or coffee.

 

Blessings,
Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader


Click here for the Chinese version of the article

 

夜间的诗歌

亲爱的事工伙伴,

“我要向 神发声呼求。 我向 神发声,他必留心听我。 我在患难之日寻求主。 我在夜间不住地举手祷告。 我的心不肯受安慰。 我想念 神, 就烦躁不安。 我沉吟悲伤, 心便发昏。 你叫我不能闭眼。 我烦乱不安,甚至不能说话” (more…)

Song in the night

Dear Ministry Partner,

“I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak.”

Psalm 77:1-4, NIV

We have all experienced those long and lonely nights when we agonise over a particular situation in our lives. It could be unmet needs in a marriage, the consequence of poor decisions, or unfulfilled expectations of important relationships. We pray and trust God earnestly, but He does not seem to answer our desperate cries for help. Like Asaph in Psalm 77, we end up with more questions than answers (Psalm 77:7-12).

The stillness of the night amplifies our silent cries as various situations troubling our hearts play back in our minds. Like Asaph, we may be emotionally drained and too troubled to speak. Our hearts long for an amicable resolution or breakthrough in the situation, but we are at our wits’ end. How then do we face tomorrow?

In those anguished moments, God puts His song in our hearts — “at night His song is with me…” (Psalm 42:8). Charles Spurgeon said, “It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but he is the skillful singer who can sing when there is not a ray of light by which to read.” The Father gave songs in the night to Jesus just before He went to the cross (Matthew 26:30), as well as to Paul and Silas when they were imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:25).

The song in the night is one of unwavering faith and steadfast trust in our Almighty God. In our darkest hour, we can hear God whispering His song to us with the assurance that He is in full control of our lives (Psalm 77:13-20). The song of the night illuminates who God is and we begin to see from His perspective. When we allow God to speak to our tormented souls, He immediately gives us hope and strength to face tomorrow.

The next time you are kept awake in the night, do not “fear the terror of the night” (Psalm 91:5) because He will “put a new song in (your) mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:3). Pour out your sorrows to Him and let His Spirit put His song in your heart.

Blessings,
Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader


This article is available in Chinese.
Featured photo by eflon

Channels, not storehouses

Giving is an expression of our worship to God and a privilege we have as believers to participate in the Lord’s work. Scriptures are replete with examples of generous giving: we have the story of the widow giving out of her poverty (Mark 12), businesswoman Lydia extending hospitality out of her wealth (Acts 16), the widow giving her last meal to Elijah despite her trepidation (1 Kings 17), and Mary anointing Jesus with a costly jar of ointment out of devotion to her Master (Mark 14).

We also have negative examples of those who hoarded: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), Elisha’s servant Gehazi who became greedy (2 Kings 5), and the rich fool who built storehouses for his own enjoyment (Luke 12).

What matters in our giving is not the amount, but our attitude. We give out of a grateful heart for all that God has blessed us with, and we give in faith as God leads us to give sacrificially. When we give to the Lord, we trust that He will provide for our needs, multiply our offering and use it for His glory.

God desires that we become channels of His blessings and not mere storehouses. God releases His abundant resources through His people and the church. As channels, our giving becomes an extension of God’s grace to those in need. Those who receive are also enabled to fulfil God’s calling and mission. On the other hand, we become storehouses when we hoard God’s resources for our own enjoyment or out of worry that our needs will not be met.

A generous heart does not reflect our economic or social standing; it reflects our desire to bless the Lord and His work through what He has given us. We give because we want to, and not because we have to. With right attitudes, our giving in faith will fill both the giver and the recipient with praise and thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:12-14). The wise man writes in Proverbs 11:24 (NLT):

“Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.”

The storehouse of all good things belongs to God (James 1:17). From that infinite source of blessing, He will replenish all that we sow, whether material or spiritual, so that we become channels of His blessings.

In this festive season, would you be a channel of God’s blessings by partnering with us to Win-Build-Train-Send multiplying disciples for the Kingdom?

My prayer for all of us in 2016 —

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; and establish the work of our hands for us.”

Psalm 90:17

Blessings,

Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader


Photograph by Bert Heymans

Watchwords for 2015

Watchwords (or mottoes) are uniquely crafted phrases that express the spirit and purpose of a community of people or organization. They rally people’s hearts towards a mission, strengthen the spirit of camaraderie and call out the best in us especially in tough times. I recently came across 3 different watchwords (two in Latin and one in the Maori language) that challenged my heart and relationship with God in 2015. I am borrowing them to help me stay anchored in Him.

The first is “Semper fidelis”. This is the Latin motto of the United States Marine Corps. It means “always faithful”. As an elite fighting force, the Marines are well-known for their commitment to their Commander-in-chief and mission. We must resolve to always be faithful and loyal to our Commander-in-chief. The psalmist prayed in Psalm 119:36-37,

“Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word.”

We must guard our relationship with God jealously, so that we do not become unfaithful to Him. Beware of the pursuit of worthless things for selfish gain. They turn our hearts away from our Master.

The second is “Semper paratus”, the Latin motto of the United States Coast Guard. It means, “always ready”. The mindset of the US Coast Guard is very much imbued with this spirit of readiness as it keeps watch over vast coastal areas of the country. As Christians, we must be ever ready for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ by living out our faith confidently and unashamedly. The apostle John writes in 1 John 2:28, “And now, dear children, continue in Him so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.”

Let us also be ready to do whatever is good (Titus 3:1) when it is in our power to act (Proverbs 3:27), so that we can be a blessing to those around us!

The third is “Kia Kaha”, a Maori phrase used by the people of New Zealand to mean, “stay strong”. Following the devastating earthquakes that hit the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 2010 and 2011, Kia Kaha became the iconic phrase used by family and friends to support those in need. In life, we will have our share of disappointments, crisis and pain. During such times, we can remain strong because the Lord Almighty is our God and He is with us (Zechariah 12:5 and Haggai 2:4). David writes in Psalm 18:32,

“It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”

God’s abiding presence in our lives gives us the hope and strength we need to weather the challenges ahead.

As we celebrate our nation’s jubilee year of independence, and along with it the spiritual significance and implications for the church, let us embrace the above three borrowed watchwords to re-affirm our commitment and allegiance to our Commander-in-chief.

Kia Kaha,
Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader

Closures — necessary for new beginnings

Dear Ministry Partner,

As the new year approaches in a matter of days, we will bid 2014 goodbye and welcome 2015. Amidst the merry mood accompanying the year-end festivities and atmosphere, we often carry with us the unseen but nonetheless tangible restlessness of unresolved issues from the past year.

Events from 2014 may not have seen closure. Closures are a necessary part of life. They help us to move on to the next stage of life or season. Graduation ceremonies and prom nights mark milestones in a student’s education before the journey to a new phase. Exit interviews in a company bring closure for both employer and employee. For some of us, saying goodbye, though painful, brings closure to relationships that are dear to us.

Although closures are needful, we do not always do them well. We tend to procrastinate and carry with us unsettling thoughts. We have relationships and unfinished conversations that are left hanging. There are situations where we miss the chance for closure due to an untimely and unexpected event. In such circumstances, we are unable to muster the strength or courage to bring closure to the matter. We fear the inevitable hurt that comes with revisiting the painful experience. Our inner defense mechanisms give us every reason not to face our fears. Yet our hearts crave the release that comes with proper closure.

Closures allow us to make peace with our inner self. Through closures, we seek clarity and do what is necessary to move on. We also learn to let go of our attachment to pain, disappointments, hopes, dreams, expectations, and loss, so that we can move on with life. Closures open avenues for healing and reconciliation to take place within ourselves, with people important to us, and with God. When done well, proper closures will lead to the end of pain, removal of gnawing uneasiness, and freedom to be who we are. This is where fresh beginnings start!

2015 is the Jubilee Year of our nation’s independence. The Bible says that the Year of Jubilee calls for a time of celebration, making restitution, and freedom (Leviticus 25). Through closures, we live out these aspects that epitomize the Year of Jubilee.

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, let us step forth with faith and courage. Finish 2014 well by finding the necessary closures, and start 2015 without encumbrances. Ask God for wisdom and courage to have those heart (and sometimes hard) conversations — with yourself, with affected parties, and with God! Do not procrastinate any longer. Closures are necessary for new beginnings!

May God grant us His grace as we obey His prompting to find the necessary closures in our lives.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Blessed New Year in 2015!

Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader

Photograph by Joey Gannon

How rested are you?

Some of us are constantly rest-less because we are not getting sufficient rest. A recent survey among 43 cities ranked Singapore as the third most sleep-deprived city. The fast-paced city lifestyle, long hours at work, and family and church commitments are often reasons for late nights. Staying up-to-date with social media, checking e-mail and excessive indulgence in gadgets, electronic games and television serials can deprive our bodies of much-needed sleep. Insufficient rest over a prolonged period affects our physical health, emotional well-being, work performance, and even mental wellness.

If your body is running low on “battery”, take time to rest. Take a break by yourself, or with loved ones or friends to recharge. It may be helpful to re-evaluate your priorities and pace of life to ensure we are consistently well-rested.

Some of us are feeling restless. We find it difficult to remain at rest. We multi-task and immerse ourselves in endless projects because we are averse to quietness and rest. Those with a high level of energy and great capacity are prone to feeling restless. The restless spirit in us is constantly searching for something more to accomplish. We need to channel this excess energy towards activities that are purposeful, productive, and aligned with our priorities in life.

Another group of people who may be susceptible to restlessness are those at the crossroads of their lives, or undergoing major life transitions. The lack of a clear purpose in life often leads to an internal wrestle on our next course of action. We need to recalibrate our inner compass by taking time to pray and seek God’s purpose for our lives, and then stepping out in faith and acting upon His call.

Some of us need to find rest in God (or ‘rested-ness’). Being rest-less is due to our lack of physical rest, and restlessness because of our lack of purpose and the right priorities in life. Rested-ness can be achieved through proper alignment of our hearts with God. When we place God at the centre of our lives, we experience peace and confidence in Him even in the midst of raging storms and turmoil. On the other hand, we become anxious when we try to gain control of our lives and circumstances.

We can be rested in God because of His goodness towards us as His children. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116:7-9,

“Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!”

God’s faithfulness in the past, present and future is our anchor and strength to trust Him in all circumstances. Like a weaned child resting in the mother’s arms, our souls can be still and at rest in our heavenly Father’s presence (Psalm 131:2).

May you find the rest that you need in this season of your life.

Resting in Him,
Lam Kok Hiang
Country Director

Photograph by 2thin2swim

“How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12)

Dear Ministry Partner,

We are a blessed people. As we take time to reflect on and count our blessings, we are humbled by God’s goodness and faithfulness. While we are not shielded from life’s problems, trials, and pain, we can declare with confidence that God is good, and also our hope, in every circumstance.

Photograph by Rudy Herman

In response to all that God has done for him, the Psalmist asked,

“How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfil my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.” Psalm 116:12-14, NIV

Like the Psalmist, we too can repay the Lord for His goodness to us as an expression of our gratitude to Him.

Firstly, we proclaim His salvation. To “lift the cup of salvation” is to acknowledge that God is the Author of our salvation, and that He desires that all come to know Him. As grateful recipients of His grace, we are to proclaim His salvation to the ends of the earth. Having tasted His love and goodness, we want to testify about our God to those who do not know Him yet. Perhaps you could take some time to meet with someone and share about God’s goodness in your life.

Secondly, we worship Him by calling on His Name. To “call on the name of God” is to call to mind the character of God. We know that God is known by many names which reflect His eternal attributes and character. As we worship Him, who we profess God to be must be congruent with how we live our lives. Take some time to examine if there is any incongruence between our worship and walk with God.

Thirdly, we fulfil our vows. As part of our discipleship and growth process, we make vows and commitments to God. Are there any vows or commitments you have made to God that are yet to be fulfilled? Perhaps the busyness and distractions of life have buried those vows somewhere, but the inner wrestling between the heart and the Spirit gives no peace. Or are some of those vows ‘conditional’ in nature — and God has fulfilled His part, and is waiting for you to fulfil yours. The wise man in Ecclesiastes 5 warns us not to delay fulfilling our vows to God.

Our repayment to God must be rooted in our heartfelt gratitude to Him for all His goodness and what He has done for us. Our God does not need us to repay Him to feel good about Himself. We can, however, offer the above as an act of true worship.

Blessings,

Lam Kok Hiang
Country Leader