Lord grant me your faith

“O you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

Why wouldn’t I doubt? If I were Peter and had to walk on churning mammoth waves with a strong wind screaming in my ears. Peter panicked and sank immediately. Even though the invitation of Jesus “Come” still rang in his heart, his mind and sensory experience shouted that he would sink. And he sank.

O you of little faith. Why doubt?

I thought it demanding of Jesus to expect Peter not to doubt. Probably to whom much was given, much was required. After all Peter had seen marvellous miracles of water turned to wine, of 5,000 men fed with five loaves and two fish, of miraculous healings of the sick, and deliverances of the demonised. Jesus had revealed himself to the disciples in ways that led him to expect much from them. He expected them to exercise a child like faith in His word.

I so identify with Peter. What I see, hear and feel conveys a lot of information to me. These often conflict with my faith in what God had said to me. I get discouraged, intimidated and despondent. I worry, panic, and become upset.

Lord, calm the whistling wind and overwhelming waves of confusion and hopelessness in me. Come Holy Spirit and grant me the kind of faith Jesus displayed: the kind that walks on water with singular poise, and dares to invite others to exercise faith and do the same.

Testing, Testing

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming towards him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’ (John 6:5-7 NIV)

When we are faced with a challenge what would be our response? Would it be one of faith, hope and love? Or would our response be one of fear, despair or indifference? What would be your internal and spontaneous response when faced with a challenge?

The company announces that your department will be affected by a restructuring exercise. The Polyclinic suddenly urges you to immediately go to the Accident and Emergency Department of a general hospital. Your daughter has sent hundreds of resumes to secure a job but all were unsuccessful.  You have been praying for a loved one to be cured of a serious illness for some months but the latest check-up showed that his condition was getting worse.

What is your response to these challenges? One of faith or fear? One of hope or despair? One of love or cold indifference? God is testing you because he has hopes that you have it in you to respond with faith, hope or love. When you respond with faith, hope or love, it pleases the Lord and puts a smile on his face. It gives him great pleasure and joy.

Philip was put to the test by the Lord. There are thousands of hungry folks here. “Philip how can we feed these people?” Philips reasoned and very rational response was, “No way we can feed them. We don’t have the finances. Why even six months’ salary could only put a mouthful in each of their mouths!”

Jesus knew he would do a miracle of multiplication. However, he always wanted his friends involved in his kingdom miracles and work. He had hoped that since Philip had seen the miracle of the supply of the wine he would say something like, “Lord you supplied wine supernaturally. Surely you can supply food supernaturally too!” But Philip did not say that, to the Lord’s disappointment. He relied on his own understanding and on what he saw and calculated. “No way Lord, we do not have the budget to take care of their needs.”

“Oh Philip, how long must I be with you guys. How many miracles must I do to show you my power and love? O you of little faith!” Did these thoughts flash through Jesus mind?

Thank you, Philip. You are not alone. We identify with you. I and many like me would respond as you have responded. We think in very human terms: by what our senses tell us. We are greatly limited by our lack of faith and imagination. We are too practical and realistic to imagine a solution that the faith of Jesus had actually grasped.

Lord increase my faith. Your ways are higher than my ways. When I am faced with challenges and limitations and impossibilities, help me to believe, to have hope, and to love. I want to bring a smile on your face, and great wonder in your eyes.

Simeon Poh: found faithful

Simeon Poh seated on extreme right
Simeon Poh seated on extreme right

Simeon Poh was a young man of 27, with a girlfriend, and a career in precision instruments with Timex. He was Spirit-filled and zealous for his Lord. On the way home from a mission trip to Simpang Rengam, Johor, where WRPF planted its first church, the car that Simeon Poh was in, crashed with a Johor lorry. He almost died. The neurosurgeon did two major operations on him in Tan Tock Seng hospital. A Swedish evangelist, who traveled and preached with David duPlessis, the famous Pentecostal statesman, prayed for his healing. The surgeon was

Simeon Poh at 65
Simeon Poh at 65

surprised at his accelerated and remarkable recovery. Though his physical co-ordination deteriorated, and his personality,  somewhat altered, he was independent, and able to go anywhere he wanted unaided. He still loved his Lord.

Yeo Hiap Seng compassionately gave him work for many years. Then he was graciously hired to clean our church premises for the last 14 years. Friday was his last day of work. He has been thorough, diligent and faithful in his duties, often going beyond what was required of him. His example of a faith that endures setbacks and hardship will encourage many. He could have been a bitter man. He could have turned his back on Christ. Instead, he still loves and serves his Lord.

Simeon will receive due honor on that Day when Jesus comes.  May the Lord, watch over him and bless him with good health and meaningful ministry in the years to come.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 2

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

Tomorrow I fly off to lead a group of 47 pilgrims in a tour of Israel. Half the members are from our church, the other half are their friends and a group from another church. Its going to be an exciting time. We go to pray and to bless Israel, and certainly be blessed as well. Blessed to see what was once not a nation now a nation; blessed to hear Hebrew, once dead but now a living language; blessed to feel how Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled, and God’s faithfulness revealed. All this will be energizing for us. This is also the land where Jesus lived, moved and ministered. Here He was born; here He died and rose again. Here is where He will return in glory. I’m excited. Do pray for us.

Before I go off I wanted to write this reflection on the second part of Joseph Prince’s book. If you have his book and it is lying on the shelf somewhere why don’t you read this particular part and help contribute some thoughts on how the book has helped you. You can share what you like or do not like in the book, and discuss more deeply some of the ideas in this part which covers chapters 4, 5 and 6. Imagine you are in a reading club and we are all reading this stuff together to discuss it on this platform instead of face to face.

Part 2 is titled “Learn to See What God Sees” and here is my summary of each chapter in this part:

Play the Right Mental Movies (chapter 4) – The central idea is that we have a tendency to look at the negative and this creates fear in our hearts. We play the wrong kind of mental movies. And fear like a boa constrictor suffocates us to death. We cannot get rid of such fearful ideas. The best way is to replace them. Replace them with God’s truth and right belief.

See Yourself As God Sees You (chapter 5) – Here Prince introduces the doctrine of justification in its practical implications. A great exchange has taken place. Jesus took our sins. We received his gift of righteousness. When God looks at us He sees Jesus’ righteousness and not our failures, sins, weaknesses. He looks at us and He sees a child of God deserving of favor, blessing and approval.

You Are Irreversibly Blessed (chapter 6) –  Prince takes the Old Testament story of Balaam paid by Balak to curse Israel but when it came time to curse Israel he actually blessed Israel. Balaam explained that God commanded him to bless and he could not reverse that. God has “not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel”(Num23:20,21). The chapter went on to develop further the idea of justification and how God views us who are made righteous in Christ, and how therefore God loves to pour out his undeserved blessings on us.

I am beginning to notice the use of a dominant image or life story in each chapter. For instance the mental movie, the constrictor snake, or a businessman who moved from fear to faith, or an American guy who found help in knowing how God sees him. I like it that he is using both local as well as Caucasians (with an eye to connecting to American Christians) as it shows that this message can have the same fruit across national boundaries and cultures.

When I read Chapter 6, I thought, I must digest this and share this with the church. Its a beautiful “shadow”  that points us to the amazing work of justification and its implications. Traditional teaching on justification falls shy of talking about how God will bless and favor us as a fruit of justification. They will focus on the spiritual blessings as in Romans 5. Prince boldly talks about material blessings though not in this chapter but elsewhere.

Conservative interpretation of the Old Testament also does not allow for the use of typology when the event, person, object or colour is not so used in the same way in the New Testament. Thus since Balaam and the story of Israel, and the high priestly breast-piece,  used as “shadows”pointing to the real blessings of justification was never mentioned in such a connection in the New Testament, it is not permissible to interpret the OT text in this way. I am less conservative with regards to this, and there are scholars along a spectrum on this issue. To me, such typology should be permissible. However, the text must not be artificially contorted beyond recognition and reason. It should not contradict any of the major Bible doctrines that are made clear elsewhere. Lastly, it brings out the loveliness of Jesus finished work and not shed light on some insignificant subject. If it sheds light on the overall redemptive theme of the whole Bible and I give it my thumbs up.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 1

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

There are seven parts to this book and I hope to post my reflections on them a part at a time. This book was written to help people with fears, guilt, and addictions. Prince is convinced that the difference between those who were set free and those who were not, is simply right believing.

First a summary of the first part: Believe in God’s Love for You

What You Believe is Powerful (chapter 1):  Wrong beliefs keep you imprisoned but the truth sets you free. The truth that sets you free is the gospel of grace which when believed will uproot all your wrong beliefs.

The God Who Seeks the Shunned (chapter 2):  God is not after you for your mistakes and failings and sins. People will shun you like the village shunned the Samaritan woman, but Jesus would seek you out.  Uproot common misconceptions about God’s attitude towards those who fail him. Know and believe He abounds in mercy and love and your life will change.

“Jesus Loves Me This I Know” (chapter 3): God’s love for us is unconditional. He forgives us completely; He justifies the ungodly; and loves the sinner. It’s not about how much you love Him but about how much He loves you.

Joseph Prince’s book is very readable. I like the easy to read typo and spacing. The chapters are probably adaptations and edited versions of his sermons. They bear some characteristics of sermons. They speak directly to you in a conversational tone. Sometimes there is the occasional detour and the repetition of ideas in different words. It’s also inspirational and declaratory.

What resonates for me was the mention of how we often have mere head knowledge of the vastness of God’s love for us but when a crisis hits our lack of real belief and knowledge is betrayed by our great fears, anxiety and guilt. On reflection I realize these moments when we see a gap between what we believe about God and how we react or behave are opportunities for the Spirit to write on the tablets of our hearts His personal love letter. Through such experiences what we know in the head percolates to the heart.

From reviewing the first part, I can understand why he keeps preaching the rich theme of God’s grace over and over. For one there are always new people in the audience who need to hear it many times in different ways before it uproots their wrong concepts about God. Second, the whole Bible has a rich deep vein of inexhaustible grace to be mined and surfaced for the people to draw from. Third, faith is not built over a Sunday and often when we are facing a challenge we need to be reminded again and again to look to the God of grace and unconditional love.

Life expectancy and faith expectancy

He is the father of one of our church leaders.

His name is Andrew and he shared with a glint in his eye about what the Lord has been doing. He had gone on mission trips for years and had seen the Lord’s hand in miracles of healings and in salvation. He had gone with teams and other pastors and missionaries and had seen the word of the Lord spread in Pakistan. In the last few years, his attention shifted to Palawan in the Philippines. He couldn’t stop talking about the Lord. He went up the mountains to reach out to the people in the northern part of Palawan. He later went south to survey the needs there too. And he wants to go back there – alone if he has to. And he is 72 years old.

Life expectancy of Singaporeans is now about 85.

Sir Alex Ferguson, age 72, retired from managing Manchester United.

Jupp Heynckes, age 68, successfully coached Bayern Munich to the German treble, including the Champions League victory over the other finalist.

Lee Kuan Yew is nearly 90.

Andrew reminded me of Caleb of the Old Testament, who said to Joshua, ‘I am this day 85 years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me…give me that mountain…” (Joshua 14:11ff). At 85, he was still appropriating the promises of God and the challenges of faith that God laid before him.

Financial experts may say most Singaporeans do not have enough saved up for retirement. I do not want to dispute that. But  I want to remember the experts who talked about the giants in Canaan, the high and mighty walls, and the veteran warriors guarding the cities. The experts all died in the wilderness. So I will keep my eyes on Jehovah-jireh, God my provider.

I am inspired by Andrew and Caleb and I want to grow old with my eyes on a faith project.

I met a talking snake

Talking_Snake_I met a talking snake as I trekked the Bukit Timah Hill.

With shaking head and cold eyes, the snake hissed:  Aren’t you surprised?

No, why should I be? I am a pastor and the Bible has stories of a talking snake and a talking donkey.  It has a rod that turned into a snake, and a virgin that gave birth to a child. Why would I be surprised?

Snake:  But a talking snake is totally contrary to normal human experience. It is just totally unscientific and irrational. Doesn’t that bother you?

Pastor: Frankly it does unsettle me at times that there is a talking snake in the Bible. I mean, I’ve seen snakes in Penang, and in the Singapore zoo, and on TV but never a talking snake. However, this dissonance has never derailed my faith in Christ.

Snake: You should explore that dissonance and it should cause you to weigh the facts and throw the Bible with all its superstitions, scientific inaccuracies, and myths out of your life. Snakes don’t talk and trees don’t impart knowledge.

Pastor: Animals have been shown to be able to communicate among themselves. Some humans demonstrate an uncanny ability to communicate with animals, albeit at an elemental level.  Why then can’t you conceive that in a pre-Fall world, there could have been an amazing harmony and an incredibly higher level of communications among God’s creatures than is seen now. Though inconceivable now because of the Fall, couldn’t it have been different then?

Snake: Ridiculous! Utter nonsense. Sheer speculation.

Pastor: Well, it’s just a thought.  Perhaps you should be more open to seemingly impossible possibilities. After all, creation keeps us on tiptoe with strange and magical surprises in nature and in the invisible realm. That snake probably never talked again after tempting Eve. I have seen cases of evil spirits temporarily talking through its victims in a different voice and personality. You must be mocking me now!

Snake: Are you one of those Pentecostal snake-handlers or tongue-speaking charismatics who believe in all things supernatural?

Pastor: No I am not. However, I am a Pentecostal with a deep respect for snakes ….. and snake-handlers, and I do speak in tongues, certainly more than you. Yes the world of the supernatural and spiritual phenomena does not scare me. I view all these things that I do not fully understand with my finite mind, with a sense of hush and awe (and some wariness), as Moses did with the burning bush and Joseph with his dreams of angels.

Snake: You believe in all the miracles of the Bible.

Pastor: Of course, I do. Not just because I am a Pentecostal and brought up as one soaked in a tradition of belief in the supernatural gifts and in miracles, but also because the Bible speaks of these miracles and angels in a matter of fact way.  Call me naive if you will but I have heard so many modern day miracle stories myself and despite my natural tendency to doubt, I have become a believer.

Snake: Have you considered that the whole story of Adam and Eve, the talking snake and the tree that delivers knowledge is all a myth meant to teach religious truths about God? It’s just a literary device to teach readers that God is the creator, and he made humans to be like him and to be the top of the chain, and something wrong happened to cause the world to be as messed us as it is today.

Pastor: Well do you believe in the truths that the literary device seek to proclaim? Do you believe in God’s goodness and affirm that creation was good but evil came into the world and messed it all up? Do you believe that Jesus came to die and rise again to clear up the mess? If you do, you are closer to heaven than you may dare to think!  Have you heard of the 4 spiritual laws?

Snake: Don’t patronize me with your fixed formula of converting me. It won’t work. You should take a closer look at your faith – it has no substance, no factual base, insufficient evidence.

Pastor: Pardon me.  I don’t mean to be patronizing. My faith is based on the person of Jesus Christ. He lived in the Roman-occupied first century Israel. He was a carpenter-construction worker and a man whose birth, life, ministry was marked by the amazing, truth, miracles, love and remarkable perfection. He died and rose again from the dead and ascended to heaven. All these things were seen and witnessed by men close to him. My faith is based on the testimony of these witnesses. In addition, I have experienced his forgiveness and peace myself. I have a wonderful inner assurance that all this is real and true and somehow all the scientific and rational dissonance that bothers and troubles many others does not affect me at all. It just does not ruffle my faith at all. By the way, have you heard of Jesus?

The snake, weary from trying to convince me of the unreliability of the Bible, slithered away, hissing in frustration at this poor blinded Pentecostal pastor. The talking snake had to admit though, that it envied the fact that I seemed so persuaded and assured in my faith, and looked so happy for one so steeped in irrational beliefs and superstition.

The talking snake was almost persuaded to be a Christian.